At A Glance: 5 ways Scotland is leading UK on rent protections

Scotland's Tenant's Rights minister Patrick Harvie has announced the next steps in protecting tenants in the private rented sector.  Here are five ways how having Scottish Greens in government have helped protect private renters. 

Private rents have been capped since 2022

The country has been going through a cost of living crisis made worse by the current Tory government wrecking our economy, hitting millions of households hard. 

In October 2022, led by Scottish Green ministers, the Scottish Parliament agreed to bring in new emergency laws to cap private rents and to protect private tenants from evictions - the only part of the UK to do so. 

The emergency provision has been extended twice specifically to help people cope with the cost crisis.

Rents are not allowed to rise before March 31

March 31 is as far as the law allows the protection to last. Up until then a rent cap of 3% applies to most tenancies where tenants remain in the same tenancy.  

Landlords have to wait until after that date before issuing a notice to raise rents above the level of the cap.

It is important to know that these still take three months to take effect, so tenants can decide what is the best option for them or to appeal.

If landlords try to raise rents above the cap before March 31, private tenants need to take it up with their landlord, letting agent or Rent Service Scotland.

New rights to argue against big rent increases

Although the law requires the emergency rent cap to come to an end on March 31, work is underway to use other powers to make sure tenants aren’t hit with big rent rises. Parliament needs to agree to the new rules which would come into effect on April 1. 

Unlike the last rent cap it doesn’t automatically prevent rent rises - instead it allows private tenants new rights to challenge rent hikes on a case by case basis. That will be done through Rent Service Scotland and the First Tier Tribunal

These reformed rights to challenge initially cover a year, but can be extended for further years if there is still need. The idea being it protects private tenants in a fair way.

Tenants should only need to pay a fair rise 

Ideally tenants want to get on with their landlords and vice versa, so they can agree what the rent should be between them. So, after March 31, if a landlord proposes a Rent Increase Notice without a cap and the tenant thinks it is ok, then it goes ahead.

If the tenant thinks it is unfair because it has gone up by a very large amount, they can refer it to Rent Service Scotland. They will work out what the general market is for that area, and if it is up to 6% more, then that will be allowed.

But what happens if the market value for rents has gone up by a lot more? Should tenants be expected to pay what could be a very steep jump in rent? 

No. If the market value has gone up between 7% and 24% or more, tenants will only have to pay part of that increase and never more than 12%.

That sounds complicated, but the bottom line is it stops private tenants paying unfair rises.  

Even stronger tenants rights are coming 

The Scottish Government will publish a new housing bill before summer which will set out how long-term rent controls and other new rights will be introduced.

It is only happening thanks to a deal that brought Scottish Greens into government and will mean, once it has gone through the parliamentary process, Scotland will continue to have the most robust tenants’ rights in the UK. 

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