IN their tirade against the SNP for refusing to legislate for a two-year rent freeze, the Greens seem to believe that anyone renting out a flat, or possibly several, is doing so as a business and is at least wealthy enough to repay a mortgage or even buy those extra properties outright for the purpose of simply making more money. How wrong they are!
I accept that there are many who indeed fall into this category owning numerous properties on such a basis. But there is another group whose ownership and letting of a single flat is entirely different. At a time when their earnings may be reasonably stable and adequate, many parents buy a small flat for consecutive children to use while studying away from home. By the time that this use has ended, circumstances may have changed, the older generation may have altered income levels and they may see a financially difficult retirement looming. In such a case, retaining the flat and letting it allows them to make a little more provision for their own future.
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I know of cases where this has in fact been the reason for letting a single property. The income from it boosts the pension – a pittance in the UK compared with the rest of Europe – so that they can continue to live in the home which they paid mortgage at far higher rates than in recent years, and prevents them from having to apply for state assistance either for living costs or for care needs. A saving, long-term, on the public purse, as well as allowing, independence, a moderate standard of living and retention of things they worked so hard for.
Nor is it, in such a case, “money for old boots”, as Mr Wightman and his colleagues seem to think. The regulations now protecting tenants require landlord registration, considerable outlay on various certificates and inspections, and strict conditions relating to eviction and deposits. There is also regular maintenance and refurbishment and compulsory upgrading as new regulations come in. The share of costs for communal work in a block can also run from a few pounds into four-figure sums and can mean total loss of rent for a very long time.
For such landlords, letting a flat can sometimes be quite a precarious source of income, for which they must factor in the possibility of periods of loss. The fact of letting a flat may also have tax implications. For such landlords, a two-year rent freeze might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, if added to other expenses due, and leaves them impoverished in spite of their planning and foresight.
It is high time that the Greens and others who regard all landlords as wealthy, greedy businessmen took a closer look at the wide range of circumstances of those letting property. A drive for universal fairness is all very well, but must surely consider landlords as well as tenants.