Shelter has urged whoever becomes the next Prime Minister to take advantage of the “tenant vote” and get on with scrapping Section 21 eviction notices in England – using the launch of open-ended tenancies north of the border in December 2017 to highlight why.
The housing charity has analysed the first 18 months since the introduction of the private residential tenancy (PRT) in Scotland – that effectively launched open ended tenancies.
It admitted it will take until 2020 for all renters to be moved onto the new form of tenancy, but found that despite warnings of landlord exits and rent hikes, the sector has remained the same size and there have been no “unusual increases” in the cost of renting.
A poll of 752 renters by the charity found those on the new tenancy were half as likely to say they worry about becoming homeless as those on the old tenancy.
Similarly, renters on the new tenancy were half as likely to say they felt locked into their contract and couldn’t move.
The research also found that renters on the new contracts were more likely to say politicians cared about them compared with those on the old-fashioned versions.
This, Shelter said, provides evidence that the Government south of the border should pursue its commitment to consult on scrapping Section 21.
Shelter said: “Abolishing Section 21 isn’t just good for renters – it promises more trust in the elected officials who give them stronger rights.
“Our research found that renters on the old tenancy in Scotland were twice as likely to strongly believe that politicians do not care about renters than those on the new tenancy. Clearly, the introduction of stronger rights for private renters has boosted faith that politicians genuinely care about them.
“The results of the 2017 election suggest that private renters are an increasingly politically salient group.
“The turnout among private renters also jumped by 8% – more than any other tenure.
“As private renters face poor conditions, unaffordable rents and weak security of tenure, it’s unsurprising to hear that they let out their frustration at the ballot box.
“Ultimately, our research in Scotland shows that renters are feeling the benefits of increased security in the private rented sector thanks to the move to PRT.
“Whoever replaces Theresa May as PM should take note: you have the opportunity to genuinely improve renters’ lives and win the support of a group of voters who could, sooner or later, have a critical influence in the outcome of a General Election.”
However, landlords have disputed the findings.
David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Shelter fails to recognise key differences between England and Scotland.
“The only reason the Scottish model has worked is because a properly funded and staffed housing court was established to cope with the dramatic increase in repossession cases needing to be heard.
“Across England and Wales it takes an average of over five months for landlords to repossess properties through the courts. This is not good enough.
“We call on Shelter to back the RLA’s plans for a dedicated housing court that can process repossession claims in legitimate circumstances without frustrating landlords. Simply tinkering with the existing courts will not work.”