Struggling to find a flat in Edinburgh this year? Here’s why
There’s a new system and it’s affecting everyone
After the hell that was my first year of Edinburgh flat hunting, I thought I had the whole thing down. I knew the good and bad landlords, what websites to look on, and most importantly, what a decent timeframe for finding a flat is.
That's why this year has been so confusing. The flat rush hasn't been nearly what it used to be for students. There haven't been as many hoards of students crowded around properties for a viewing, and major agencies like Southside and The Flat Company hadn't released most of their properties until a couple of weeks ago. The volcano that is flat hunting season has seemed unusually dormant.
Why? It's all thanks to a new law, the Private Housing Tenancies Act (2016).
What is the new law?
The law, which affects all tenancy agreements created after December 2017, implements a few changes to the rules you might be familiar with. It offers some good things, like more rent protection for tenants, and rent caps for more heavily affected areas. However, the major change that we're now seeing in the Edinburgh housing market is the implementation of open-ended tenancies. These new kinds of tenancies mean that landlords can no longer ask tenants to commit to a fixed term when they sign a lease. No more having to vacate your flat for the month of August so that greedy estate agents can charge three times the price to festival-goers – now, tenants can stay as long as they like, and usually don't have to tell their landlord they're leaving until 28 days beforehand.
What does this new law mean?
This is the first year that this new law affects the second semester changeover of flats. When they sign the lease, tenants are under no legal obligation to tell their landlords when they are planning on leaving – and even if they do, any agreement is entirely conditional and not legally binding. That's why companies have only just started releasing the majority of their properties, and the timeline for everything is being pushed later than it normally is.
The idea of the new law is that power lies with the tenants, which is good for people who already have a flat. However, it makes things way harder for people who are flat hunting.
What should you do?
This new law can make the whole process daunting, especially for those who have gone through it before with a different system. If you're freaking out because you don't have a flat yet, and there's nothing on the market, here are a few tips.
Think outside the box
Remember to look outside of the major websites. Going directly to companies' websites can work, but sites like Gumtree, Zoopla, and Citylets have a wider variety of properties.
Don't be a pushover
Letting companies are figuring out the new law as well. They have no idea what they're doing either, so don't let them push you around!
Beware of snakes
It's important to remember that every lease you sign will be conditional on the current tenants moving out. And they don't have to. Don't expect someone to snake you out, but understand that it could happen.
Stay calm, and don't panic. Everyone else is in the same boat as you, letting agencies included. You WILL get a flat.
Flat hunting is one of the worst parts of being a student in a city like Edinburgh – and it doesn't help when the rules change just when you think you've begun to master the system. Here's to hoping you end up with the beautiful, Marchmont three-bedroom of your dreams.