Campaigners have cautioned that private renters in Scotland are at risk of significant rent increases and widespread evictions as temporary safeguards are set to end by the end of the upcoming month.
Ruth Gilbert, the national campaigns chair of Scotland-wide tenants’ union Living Rent, claims that the Scottish government has essentially approved rent hikes starting in April. She also criticizes the inadequate and confusing transitional measures, which have left many tenants unaware of their legal rights.
In September 2022, a temporary emergency law, proposed by the Scottish National Party and supported by their governing partners, the Scottish Greens, was implemented to address the rising cost of living. This law placed a cap of 3% on all rent increases for tenants in the private rental sector and provided protections against eviction. However, this legislation is set to expire on 31 March.
According to Living Rent, they have already observed instances where renters have received notices of rent increases ranging from 30% to 60% before the end of the rent cap, despite being legally entitled to a three-month notice period starting from April 1st.
Gilbert expressed concern about the extent of evictions, as even if they are not labeled as such, being unable to cover a rent increase still results in eviction. This issue is particularly prevalent in the central areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh, where individuals are already spending more than half of their income on rent.
The Scottish government recently suggested revisions to the rent adjudication process. This would allow tenants to challenge rent increases and aims to fill the gap between the expiration of emergency protections and the passing of the housing bill. The bill includes permanent rent control measures and additional tenant rights, and is set to be discussed before the summer break.
The modifications involve a complex equation for evaluating rent increases based on current market rates. However, Living Rent argues that tenants have already had negative experiences with the adjudication process.
The legislation concerning housing has already experienced a delay, and advocates anticipate resistance from landlords. A collective group of landlord organizations initiated a legal challenge against the initial cap on rent, which they ultimately lost.
In November of last year, Ariane Burgess, the housing spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, mentioned to the Guardian that although there has been increasing criticism about the disregard for tenants’ rights, no other region in the UK has proposed a similar limit.
According to her, Scotland is setting an example in this area. However, we are also striving to bring Scotland in line with other EU nations, where the rental market is larger and more effectively regulated.
Advocates will closely monitor the bill as it moves through Holyrood. Gilbert states that, in addition to the assured permanent regulations, there must be a retroactive system in place – similar to the one proposed by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan – that can effectively lower rental prices.
“In the past ten years, we have seen a dramatic rise in rent prices. In Glasgow, rents have increased by 80%, which is an incredibly high number. In order for rents to truly become affordable, there needs to be a way to reverse this trend. This is our goal,” she stated.