Thousands of amateur landlords don’t understand their legal responsibilities

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Thousands of private landlords in Scotland require greater support to help give tenants a better service, according to housing and homeless charity Shelter Scotland.

Summarising the first year’s work of two Oak Foundation funded pilot projects supporting private landlords in the Highlands and Dundee with a view to raising standards for private renters in Scotland, the charity says that far too many ‘inexperienced’ landlords do not possess a full grasp of their legal responsibilities.

Over the past 12 months, Shelter’s private landlord support officers have provided information and guidance in 542 cases and found most of the landlords they helped rented out just a single property.

It also found many of them had become landlords through a change in their own circumstances such as having to move from their own home for work or inheriting a property. In the majority of cases they were keen to comply with the legislation and at times to go beyond what was required to be a good landlord.

James Battye, Shelter Scotland private renting project manager, said: “It is reasonable to believe that what we have found in Dundee and the Highlands may well be true across Scotland. That means there could be thousands of landlords who don’t have a full grasp of their legal responsibilities.

“Shelter Scotland’s Private Landlord Support project has highlighted this gap in support for inexperienced landlords and is creating a template for services that would benefit them and their tenants in the future.”

The proportion of households renting privately has almost tripled in size since 1999 and now provides homes for 350,000 Scottish households including 91,000 families with children.

Given that the PRS in Scotland is expanding, Battye believes that it is quite right that those operating in the sector are being asked to “become more professional”.

He added: “Many landlords are finding themselves ill-equipped for managing housing for people in relationship, health or financial crisis.”

“We will continue to provide the Private Landlord Support Service in the Highlands and Dundee until March 2018 with financial backing from the Oak Foundation.

“In Dundee the private landlord support officer is based within the council while in the Highlands the support officer is hosted by Lochaber Housing Association. Invaluable support is provided by both local authorities enabling the projects to reach people on the landlord register.”

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