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Proposed member's bill would limit private rent rises

22 May 2019

A cap on private sector rent increases to 1% above annual inflation is at the core of a proposed member's bill in the Scottish Parliament, now at the public consultation stage before its possible introduction.

Labour MSP Pauline McNeill wants to bring in a Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill to limit the rises faced by private tenants, whose rents are rising significantly faster than inflation especially in the central belt – yet as benefits are capped and earnings growth remains low, "housing costs are taking up more of people’s incomes and making their lives more precarious", she states.

Ms McNeill believes that current protections against excessive increases are inadequate: although a tenant can apply to a rent officer for a rent adjudication, the process that rent officers and the First-tier Tribunal currently employ to make
adjudication decisions about market rent levels in appeal cases is "opaque", in her words, primarily because of a lack of robust data on rents. In addition, a request for a rent adjudication may result in the rent being raised, which "may be having a chilling effect on applications".

Further, the rent pressure zones introduced by the Private Tenancies (Housing) (Scotland) Act 2016, which permits a general cap in designated areas, remain unused due to difficulties in gathering enough evidence to justify a zone being introduced.

Ms McNeill therefore first intends to bring about better data gathering, by expanding the landlord registration scheme so that landlords must input the rent that they charge when they register and update the system when they change the rent.

Her proposed cap would limit annual private sector rent increases across Scotland at one percentage point above inflation, measured according to the consumer price index averaged over a 12-month period to September. There would be an exemption where a landlord had made substantial improvements to a property. And it would no longer be possible for a rent officer or tribunal to increase an appealed rent.

Click here to access the consultation, which closes on 6 August 2019.


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