1.1 In November 2013, the Scottish Government commissioned Craigforth to undertake qualitative research to explore the implications for private rented sector tenants and landlords of longer term and more secure tenancy options. The primary focus of the research was on exploring tenants' and landlords' views and responses to a range of longer term and more secure tenancy options.
1.2 The research was carried out between November 2013 and January 2014, with the challenging timescale dictated by the need to provide evidence to inform the Scottish Government's review of the Private Rented Sector (PRS) tenancy regime.
1.3 The Scottish Government's strategy for the Private Rented Sector, A Place to Stay, A Place to Call Home, made a commitment to review the suitability and effectiveness of the current PRS tenancy regime, including considering legislative change where required. In September 2013 an independently chaired PRS Tenancy Review Group was set up and tasked with:
- Examining the suitability and effectiveness of the current Private Rented Sector (PRS) tenancy regime, considering legislative change where required.
- Developing recommendations to the Scottish Government on how the current regime might work better and/ or the options for taking reform forward. These were to be available by February 2014.
1.4 To inform the Review Group's discussions, an evidence review was carried out by the Housing and Regeneration Research team within the Scottish Government's Communities Analytical Services Division. Key points to emerge from the review included the strong preference for home ownership rather than renting (suggesting that demand for private renting is growing mainly due to 'push' factors rather than choice) and that, while the PRS is characterised by high levels of mobility, certain types of households (for example, older people, households with children and those in receipt of local housing allowance), tend to live within the sector for longer. The evidence review also highlighted that high levels of mobility appear to be driven by tenants rather than landlords, although it was not clear how often a tenant's decision to move was connected to the actions of their landlord. It also noted that the majority of private rented agreements in Scotland are short assured tenancies and that other options (most obviously the Assured Tenancy), are used rarely.
1.5 In addition to reviewing the existing evidence, the review also highlighted a number of areas in which the evidence base was limited. These included: our understanding of the motivating factors underlying mobility among tenants; tenant preferences for longer term and/or more secure tenancies; and how landlords might respond to longer term and/or more secure tenancies, including when selecting tenants or making decisions around investing in the sector. The current piece of qualitative research was commissioned to help build the evidence base in these areas and, by extension, to help inform the deliberations of the Review Group.
Study aims and objectives
1.6 To fulfil the overall aim of exploring the implications for private rented sector tenants and landlords of longer term and more secure tenancy options, a series of research objectives were set. The first two objectives were to:
- i. Explore tenant and landlord knowledge and understanding of the current tenancy regime, including its advantages and disadvantages.
- ii. Develop understanding of how the current tenancy regime influences key elements associated with living in the private rented sector, including:
- Tenant/landlord relationship
- Levels of mobility
- Housing aspirations.
1.7 These objectives were designed to provide background information to contextualise the findings from the third and fourth objectives, which were to:
- iii. Explore tenants' views and responses to a range of longer term and more secure tenancy options, including the perceived advantages and disadvantages of each. In particular, for each option, to explore in detail the possible implications for:
- Tenant/landlord relationship
- Levels of mobility
- Housing aspirations.
- iv. Explore landlords' responses to a range of longer term and more secure tenancy options, including the perceived advantages and disadvantages of each. In particular, for each option, to explore in detail the possible implications for:
- Tenant/landlord relationship
- Tenant selection
- Investment in the sector.
1.8 The initial expectation had been that the Review Group would be in a position to directly inform the range of options to be considered in addressing objectives 3 and 4. However, the very tight timescales to which both the Review Group and the Research Team were working meant this was not possible. In response, and to ensure the timely delivery of the research findings, the focus was shifted to exploring ideas and concepts (such as longer tenancy terms, changes to notice periods or the use of standardised tenancy documents), rather than specific options.
1.9 A further requirement was for the sample of both landlords and tenants participating in the research to reflect the diversity of the sector. For the landlord group, the main emphasis was on ensuring that scale was taken into account and that landlords with only one or two properties (including some who might categorise themselves as 'reluctant' landlords) were included, as well as those with medium or larger property portfolios.
1.10 The tenant group was to include: families with children (including lone parent and couple households); high income working age households; Local Housing Allowance (LHA) recipients; low income working age households; students (not in halls of residence or purpose-built student accommodation); and households including members with protected characteristics (including disabled households). There was also a requirement to include tenants living in rural areas.
1.11 Two key challenges needed to be considered in developing the study approach. First, the timescales were extremely tight but fixed by the requirement to present findings to the Review Group in January 2014. Second, researching the PRS comes with particular challenges, especially in terms of recruiting study participants.
1.12 The non-probability sampling approach generally considered appropriate to qualitative research was adopted. More specifically, a purposive sampling approach, in which the selection of research participants and the areas in which fieldwork is conducted are selected in order to achieve a sample that has the particular features or characteristics required, was used.
1.13 The target tenant sample was 48-60 participants, and the aim was to recruit around 8-10 research participants for each of the 6 tenant household characteristic groups set out at paragraph 1.10 above. The aim was also for the tenants to be divided relatively evenly between those living in rural, small town or larger urban areas and to be drawn from a range of locations across Scotland.
1.14 As was expected, many tenant participants fell into more than one of the 6 household characteristic groups (for example, a family with children may also be a low income working household). In this case they were included within one of the 6 categories for sampling purposes, although the overall profile of the household was taken into consideration when undertaking the analysis.
1.15 The target landlord sample was 30-36 participants. The aim was for landlord participants to be divided relatively evenly between those with only 1 property and including some reluctant landlords, medium sized landlords (2-19 properties) and those with larger property portfolios (20 or more properties).
1.16 As with the tenants, landlords with properties in a range of rural, small town and urban locations and from a range of locations across Scotland were sought.
1.17 A broad range of techniques was used to recruit participants. For landlords, these included publicising the research through industry bodies, inviting landlords already attending a landlord-related meeting (such as a Scottish Association of Landlords branch meeting or a Landlord Accreditation Scotland training session) to participate, and publicising the research through a range of social media (including Facebook, Twitter and a number of community-based websites). A small number of third sector organisations or letting agents also publicised the research to their network of landlord contacts.
1.18 Social media and the extended network of contacts of the Research Team and other Craigforth staff were the principle routes used to recruit tenant participants. As with landlords, a small number of third sector organisations or letting agents also helped the Research Team make contact with people they knew to be living in the PRS.
1.19 Anyone interested in participating in the research was asked to make contact with Craigforth. The potential participant was supplied with further information about the study and arrangements were made for them to take part. The preferred approach was small group discussion, with around 3-5 participants. If the participant preferred or arranging a small group was not practical (because or timescales or location), a member of the Research Team met with an individual participant. In a small number of cases the interview was conducted by Skype or telephone (again, either because of the participant's preference or because of the practicalities of achieving the interview within the required timescales).
1.20 Given that the issues to be discussed were potentially complex, participants were supplied with outline discussion topics in advance of the session and were also asked to complete a brief information gathering pro-forma. Copies of these research materials, along with the full Discussion Schedule for both the tenant and landlord groups are included within the appendices to this report.
1.21 With the express prior agreement of the research participants, all of the discussion groups and face to face interviews were recorded. Notes were taken for the small number of telephone interviews undertaken.
1.22 The qualitative data gathered was analysed through the application of a coding framework. Emerging themes were identified through an initial analysis of a sample of the raw data. These themes were assigned codes, which were then applied across the whole of the qualitative data set. The analysis also sought to reflect any occasional or unique views expressed and the focus was very much on capturing the range of opinion on any particular issue, rather than simply the most frequently expressed views.
Focus and structure of this report
1.23 The findings of the analysis were presented to the Review Group on 21st January 2014 and are now set out within the remainder of this report, which is structured as follows:
- Chapter 2: provides an overview of the key characteristics of the tenants and landlords who took part in the research. This is followed by an examination of some of the other factors that appeared to have the potential to influence landlords or tenants views on the tenancy regime.
- Chapter 3: covers the types of tenancies being used and landlords' and tenants' understanding of the current tenancy regime. The second part of the chapter looks at tenancy documents, including the potential for introducing use of a model or standard set of tenancy documents.
- Chapter 4: covers the range of views expressed on the strengths and weaknesses of the current tenancy regime for the PRS.
- Chapter 5: explores security of tenure further, with a particular focus on landlords' and tenants' views on making changes to length of tenancy arrangements. The chapter also covers views on notice periods and grounds for repossession, with a focus on both the current arrangements and any appetite for change.
- Chapter 6: sets out a short summary of both tenant and landlord views on the current SAT regime and possible changes to it.
1.24 The analysis presented within this report reflects the qualitative nature of the study and focuses on presenting the range of views expressed along with reasons participants gave for holding these views.
1.25 The report does not set out to judge the accuracy of the comments made or indeed of participants' understanding of the current tenancy regime. Readers who would welcome further information on the current regime, including on the differences between the Short Assured and Assured tenancy regimes, may wish to refer to the Scottish Government's website at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/Housing/privaterent
Email: Elinor Findlay
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