A “dire shortage of accommodation to rent” will worsen as landlords opt to sell due to “anti-landlord rhetoric” from the Scottish Government, an industry expert warned.

The Scottish Association of Landlords chief executive John Blackwood claimed a growing housing crisis is not being taken “seriously enough”.

He said landlords are choosing to sell their properties and “get out of the sector completely” leaving fewer properties to rent on an already stressed market.

It comes amid concerning reports of tenants being unable to secure a property and listings being filled within two hours of being advertised.

“The biggest issue that we have had over the last year in particular or slightly longer, around 18 months now, has been an anti-landlord rhetoric from the Scottish Government,” Mr Blackwood said.

“We’ve seen quite the shift there where they’re not interested in engaging in the sector or supporting landlords and letting agents to allow them to continue to invest in the sector and provide much-needed housing.

“As a result of all of that, many landlords have just decided that investing in Scotland isn’t an attractive option for them anymore and they’re opting to sell their rented accommodation and invest elsewhere.”

A spokesperson for the government insisted that “regulation to improve quality and accountability is not at odds with increased supply”.

In an effort to help those struggling with rising living costs, the Scottish Government has announced a rent freeze and eviction ban until the spring.

Read the first part of our series on the rental crisis:  Airbnb swindler scams desperate renters out of deposits amid rental market concerns

However, the rent freeze only helps those who have already secured a property, while those trying to find a new flat have found it difficult to break through the demand.

Mr Blackwood said the sector was not sufficiently consulted on the rent freeze. He said: “Our concern is, of course, the cost-of-living crisis that we’re all living through affects landlords as well as tenants.

“We have to work together as landlords with our tenants to try and mitigate the impact of rising costs.”

Landlords selling their properties means that the competitive market for prospective tenants is unlikely to get better as supply of accommodation dwindles, the industry chief said.

And it is having a knock-on effect on other businesses, chairman of a global relocation management company, Locators Scotland, revealed.

Bob Stocker previously told The Herald the housing crisis could discourage skilled workers from travelling to Scotland.

“If it is not feasible for the landlord then they are just going to pull out to the market and I know that is happening,” he said. “I know a letting agent who was in business for many years has pulled out because his landlords were just dropping off.

“That is the key to the problem, the landlords are disgruntled about the conditions they have to work under.

“They’re not unscrupulous, greedy individuals. A lot are people who are overseas for a period and all they want to do is keep their house here to come back to.”

Letting agents and landlords are being “inundated” with applications for properties as soon as they are listed.

Speaking on the staggering demand for any newly advertised long-term let, Mr Blackwood said: “What does that tell us? There’s not enough housing out there and tenants are struggling to find a home. Whether they are students are non-students, it’s across the board in the whole of Scotland.”

He stated that flats are snapped up within two hours and added: “Our members are not able to manage the volume of calls they’re getting from prospective tenants.

“They’re really struggling to cope with the demand, that’s coming across loudly and clearly from our members”

“We’ve been talking with the Scottish Government for the last few years now, stating there’s a dire shortage of accommodation to rent,” Mr Blackwood added.

“That’s in both the social rented sector as well as the private rented sector.

“Year on year we just see that problem getting worse, to the point that now we’ve got a situation where students struggle to find a home, which we warned about way back in 2017.

“Of course, with more and more landlords opting to leave the sector - that’s putting additional pressure on those fewer properties that are available to rent and tenants are struggling.

"From our point of view, we don’t believe the Scottish Government is taking it seriously enough and understanding the real extent of the housing crisis that we’re living in at the moment, and they need to take urgent action to deal with that.”

READ MORE: Warning as rent freeze law to be rushed through Holyrood in three days

The CEO said the long-term solution is investment in the sector, he added: “We need to increase supply and the Scottish Government needs to work with landlords to encourage them to stay in the sector and encourage them to invest to provide more housing so that rents overall will come down.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These are exceptional measures developed to reflect a rapidly worsening cost of living crisis. If approved by the Scottish Parliament, they will increase protection for tenants from eviction and rent rises. They are also temporary and our intention is that they will apply initially until March next year. We will keep their impact on the wider property market under review during that time. 

“Since 1999, the number of homes rented privately to households in Scotland has grown from 120,000 to 340,000, at a time when there have been a range of new regulations brought into place. Regulation to improve quality and accountability is not at odds with increased supply. We are aware of the importance of the Private Rented Sector and meet regularly with stakeholders, including landlord representatives, letting agents and tenants groups. We welcome their contribution to improving quality and access to housing in Scotland.” 

“Scotland is also ahead of the rest of the UK in providing affordable housing, having delivered almost 112,000 affordable homes since 2007, over 78,000 of which were for social rent. We have now started to deliver against our commitment to 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, of which at least 70% will be available for social rent.”