A new report from the Scottish Housing Regulator’s National Panel of Tenants and Service Users has found that over a third of panel members have experienced difficulties in affording their rent. More than two thirds are concerned about the future affordability of their rent. Their concerns focused on rent increases and changes to income, particularly through changes in benefits.
The report also found that many of the Panel members have experienced difficulties with their wider finances. Nearly a third felt they are not managing their finances well and more than half have concerns for their future financial circumstances.
These findings come at a time when most landlords have increased the rent they charge tenants by levels above inflation. Every year the Regulator analyses landlords’ data from their annual returns on the Social Housing Charter. This shows that the average rent increase in 2018/19 was 3.7%. This is up on the previous year’s level of 2.4%, and is at the highest level since monitoring began in 2013. Four fifths of landlords increased rent in 2018/19 at a rate above inflation (Consumer Price Index).
The Regulator also found that more than four fifths of all landlords plan rent rises above inflation in the coming year; only four landlords plan to keep rents at the same level and none plan to cut rents.
Michael Cameron, the Regulator’s chief executive, said: “The National Panel report sends a clear message that affordability continues to be a concern for significant numbers of tenants. This year we asked Panel members about wider financial pressures, and the feedback shows that financial struggles are a very real issue.
“What is an affordable rent is a complex matter. Local context and markets, the interaction with benefits and tax credits, trade-offs with fuel costs all add to that complexity. And all landlords are not starting from the same position on rent levels, and some may be able increase rents at a higher level and keep them affordable. But the simple arithmetic is that, no matter the starting point, rents that increase above inflation are likely to become less affordable.”
“In this context, and at a time when there is rightly a renewed focus on child poverty, we will look to landlords to demonstrate that their rents will remain affordable and that they are having effective dialogue with their tenants on rent increases. And the level of rent increase will feature prominently in our assessment of the risk each landlord presents. Landlords should be asking themselves whether they are doing everything possible to be efficient and drive costs from their business before passing costs on to tenants.”
This is the third of four themed reports from the National Panel. The first looked at tenant participation and digital access; the second looked at the experiences of users of homelessness services. The fourth and final report will be published next week and will look at the views of residents on sites provided for Gypsy/Travellers.
The National Panel has around 425 members. It is open to anyone who is a social housing tenant or uses social landlords’ services. Membership is diverse and includes people from urban and rural areas, across age bands, local authority and RSL tenants.
Next week the Regulator will also publish the 2018/19 National Headline Report on landlords’ performance in achieving the standards in the Scottish Social Housing Charter, along with detailed supporting data.
Anyone interested in joining the Panel should contact Engage Scotland on 0800 433 7212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
1. The Scottish Housing Regulator was established on 1 April 2011 under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010. Its objective is to safeguard and promote the interests of tenants and others who use local authority and RSL housing services. The Regulator operates independently of Scottish Ministers and is accountable directly to the Scottish Parliament. It assumed its full regulatory responsibilities on 1 April 2012. The Regulator consists of the Chair and eight Board members. More information about the Regulator can be found on its website at www.scottishhousingregulator.gov.uk
2. SHR regulates around 160 registered social landlords and the housing activities of 32 local authorities.
3. SHR sets out its approach to regulation in its published Regulatory Framework – Regulation of Social Housing in Scotland.
4. All of the Regulator’s recent reports from the National Panel of Service Users are available on its website https://www.scottishhousingregulator.gov.uk/for-tenants/how-we-involve-tenants-and-service-users