Please Note: This Article is 4 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

With the publication of the new Housing Bill in Scotland, which includes several measures that landlords are not entirely happy with, tenants’ campaigning groups, encouraged by its contents so far, are now pushing for more to be included in the eventual legislation.

The Living Rent Campaign (LRC) says that now the Bill has been published, and several of their campaign demands have been met, either fully or in part, it should do more than introducing provisions for local rent controls in “rent pressure zones”, and the scrapping of “no-fault grounds” for eviction.

LRC see the Bill as a “huge victory” for tenant activists who have campaigned hard for these changes and “for the thousands of people and dozens of organisations who have backed the Living Rent Campaign over the last year”.

Common Weal a “think and do tank” campaigning for social and economic equality in Scotland, last week produced their Rent Plan, a new report outlining “comprehensive plans to reduce rents in the private rented sector (PRS) as a “crucial part of addressing Scotland’s housing crisis”.

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Published to coincide with the centenary of the Glasgow Rent Strike [1], which led to the first rent controls being introduced in the UK, the report argues that the current proposals to “cap rent increases” would do nothing to address already inflated costs that have a “devastating” impact on many tenants.

They are arguing for a “Living Rent” for all private tenants in Scotland and in doing so they have outlined five key policy recommendations:

  1. That initial rents be set against a points system to reflect the value of the property, similar to the system in the Netherlands.
  2. That rent increases be capped at a rent affordability index to ensure increases do not push tenants into hardship.
  3. A move towards indefinite tenancies as default, away from short-term contracts.
  4. Ensuring that all tenants are entitled to a hardship defence in relation to evictions.
  5. The creation of a Scottish Living Rent Commission, to oversee these recommendations and to serve as a centre of expertise for the Scottish Private Rental Sector.

The Common Weal report, which has been written by activist Gordon Maloney of the Living Rent Campaign, a former National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland President, cites examples of rent controls in other countries in Europe. His report claims it finds no evidence of a relationship between rent controls and reduced access to the rental market, what it says is a common objection by private property investors, developers and landlords, something which has been strongly refuted by landlord bodies and other high profile studies [2].

The Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill was announced two weeks ago by the Scottish Parliament and could be the first steps towards bringing in rent controls in Scotland since Margaret Thatcher deregulated the PRS in the 1988 Housing Act.

The report proposes a more comprehensive system that would link rents more directly to affordability and quality of housing, and the campaigners Common Weal and the LRC hope to be able to influence and amend the Bill still further as it passes through the Scottish Parliament.

The LRC were be heavily promoting their report at the SNP conference last week.

Chief economist at leading Edinburgh property agents and consultants, Dr John Boyle, has said: “…numbers quoted… highlighting rental yields across the UK might encourage those looking to introduce rent controls in Scotland, but in reality the picture is quite fragile.

“We need a continuous supply of high quality rental accommodation to meet growing student demand, and while returns are good for those who have invested in buy-to-let in our university cities, investors and lenders perceive a far higher risk here than elsewhere in the UK.

“The prospect of rent controls without any balance in the form of tax or planning regulations to encourage investment is a huge cause for concern.

“Add to this the proposed new tenancy agreement, which will make a landlord unable to repossess a property at the end of a contract, and suddenly the reason to invest becomes even less compelling.

“We have a serious housing shortage in Scotland, and a strong, modern and sustainable rental market is essential.”

[1] During WW1 as in WW2 the existing housing shortage, especially in the big industrial centres such as Glasgow, became crowded with fresh entrants into the armaments industries. The landlords in those days took advantage and tried to jack-up rents. This resulted in the 1915 Rent Strike which led to legislation to bring in “temporary” measures to control rents for the duration. These “temporary” rent controls throughout the UK effectively lasted until de-regulation in 1988, with the result that an industry which housed over three-quarters of the population in 1915 fell to less than 10 per cent in the 1980s.

[2] Why governments should not enforce long-term contracts in the UK’s private rented sector Professor Michael Ball Professor of Urban and Property Economics Henley Business School, University of Reading

[2] Rent control in the private rented sector, House of Commons Library (England) – SN/SP/6760

Please Note: This Article is 4 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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