"Rapid rent rises are pushing tenants into poverty especially in our big cities, and we must make sure the new rent controls don't end up as mere window dressing."Patrick Harvie MSP
Patrick Harvie, MSP and co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, has today successfully pressed the Scottish Government to strengthen its proposed rent control laws.
The Scottish Government is planning to grant local authorities the ability apply temporary, local rent controls in designated 'rent pressure zones' through the Private Housing (Tenancies (Scotland) Bill. However, before they can implement rent controls, local authorities would need to apply to Scottish Ministers for permission to use the new powers.
Harvie lodged an amendment at stage 2 of the Private Housing Bill, that would give Ministers a three month deadline for responding to a council's application to designate 'rent pressure zones', and to set out any reasons for refusing permission. Under the current form of the Bill, Ministers would not be required to take a decision on a 'rent pressure zone' application in any given time period, meaning tenants could be left facing months or even years of rent increases before action was taken.
At a meeting of the Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Committee, Housing Minister Margaret Burgess welcomed Harvie's amendment, and agreed to the principle of a time limit, which will be agreed before the Bill is passed.
The Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Committee also voted in favour of Patrick Harvie's amendment, supported by Citizen's Advice, to cut the notice period a tenant has to give to leave a property.
"The Scottish Government has overcome its reluctance to pass rent control laws, which the Scottish Greens and many housing campaigners have been calling for. But there is a real worry that this new regulation will be too open-ended and complex to actually be used by local councils. Rapid rent rises are pushing tenants into poverty especially in our big cities, and we must make sure the new rent controls don't end up as mere window dressing.
"If we don't make the new law tight enough, councils may be left waiting indefinitely before they can put rent controls in place. In a situation where they desperately need to stop unreasonable rent hikes in order to protect vulnerable tenants, this would be hugely counter-productive.
"The rent control measures will only deliver for Scotland's tenants if councils are able to apply them when needed. I'm pleased that the Scottish Government has recognised the loopholes in the current bill and I look forward to working with the Housing Minister to making sure these loopholes are fixed."