A 'Swedish Model' for the Scottish private rented sector?
November 4th 2015 6pm Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR
Mariell Juhlin, Head of National Policy and Analysis Unit at the Swedish Union of Tenants
The state of the private rented sector in Scotland is a hot topic, largely focused around high rents. The average Scottish tenant spends 25 per cent of their income on housing costs. This compares to 18 per cent of social tenants, and 11 per cent for owner-occupiers with a mortgage.
The Scottish Government is committed to significant reform of the private rented sector this year, and it seems likely better protection against eviction and rent regulation are on the cards.
Tenants and housing charities are generally very supportive of these changes, while landlords are concerned more regulation will decrease investment and quality in the sector.
In a country where private tenants have some of the worst security of tenure in Europe, and have no safeguards against excessive rent increases, what regulation is needed? Can Scotland learn from Sweden, which has some of the best protection for tenants in Europe?
The private rented sector in Sweden is quite different from Scotland. While 14 percent of people rent privately here, it’s almost double that number in Sweden. In Scotland the sector is dominated by amateur landlords with one or two properties, whilst in Sweden the vast majority of properties are owned in large numbers by commercial landlords.
The legal relationships between landlords and tenants couldn't be more different either.
In Sweden rents, and any increases, are set through negotiations between the Tenants
Associations, the Government, and Landlords. Rents for properties are based on their size and quality, and annual rises typically limited to inflationary rise only. Tenancies are long term, and it’s far harder to evict a tenant, than in Scotland.
Could a 'Swedish Model' for private renting work here in Scotland?
The Swedish Union of Tenants has more than half a million members, in thousands of tenant associations. It has significant powers such as a statutory relationship with the Government to negotiate rents, and a long history of fighting for tenants' rights.