The Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill, proposed by Pauline McNeill MSP, is under consultation until the 6th of August.
The Bill, known as the ‘Mary Barbour Bill’ is proposing to enforce fair rents on a points-based system which links local rents to average local wages.
Mary Barbour was a socialist campaigner and political activist, a heroine of the Scottish Labour movement who was the main organiser of the women of Govan who took part in the rent strikes of 1915, and she actively opposed evictions.
Scotland appears to have set the direction of travel for the rest of the United Kingdom on many issues concerning housing tenure when it introduced the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016, in which controversially “no-fault” eviction was abolished. It also included measures to control rents in designated Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs), but Pauline McNeill wants to go much further.
The new bill aims to controls rents such that, according to Scottish Labour, would ensure that ‘no one is forced to rent a home that pushes them into poverty’.
Labour Leader, Richard Leonard, has said:
“We have seen the return of private landlordism and rents have soared whilst wages have stagnated… We think that private rent rises should be capped and controlled. So, Nicola Sturgeon has a choice, will she take the side of rogue landlords and a broken housing market? Or she can back Labour’s plans and back our Mary Barbour Bill.”
Rent controls have been rejected by Westminster, but Corbyn’s Labour in England support them and have pledged to introduce them south of the border if elected.
After the comprehensive changes to the letting laws in Scotland introduced in 2017, as predicted by landlord groups, rents in Scotland have been rising steadily, hence Labour’s response in this bill to look at ways to limit rent increases. The main proposals in the Bill include:
- enforced fair rents based on a points system
- rents linked to average wages to ensure affordability
- tenants given powers to challenge rents and seek reductions
- more effective enforcement of private rented property health and safety and energy efficiency standards
- amendment to the existing landlord registration scheme to include rents being charged by every landlord.