The Scottish government has been far more willing to intervene in the private rental market than its Westminster counterpart.
While both governments introduced eviction bans during the early days of the Covid pandemic, English tenants saw protections lapse in May 2021.
The Scottish government reintroduced a rent freeze and eviction ban in September 2022 and those protections largely remain with evictions paused and in-tenancy rent increases capped at 3% until 31 March next year. However, those measures have been subject to a legal challenge from private landlords.
Now the Scottish government wants to introduce rent controls and the move has been hailed by tenants union Living Rent, which has been campaigning for the intervention for almost a decade.
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Aditi Jehangir, Living Rent secretary, said: “The commitment to rent controls today is exactly the type of leadership we need to address the scale of the housing crisis.
“For the reforms to the private sector to work, tenants need robust legislation. We need a system of rent controls that protects all tenants, not just sitting ones, brings rents down, and forces up quality. We need better protections against evictions, clear timelines for repairs and the right to make our houses homes. And across all of these reforms, we need enforcement mechanisms that ensure that landlords respect the law.
“These reforms of our broken housing system are long overdue and it is tenants who have paid the price. The Scottish government must now seize the opportunity.”
John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said landlords would work with the Scottish government to develop the rent controls but only a long-term focus on the supply of homes will fix Scotland’s housing market.
“The biggest single issue for all parts of the housing sector in Scotland is lack of supply so the focus must be on investing in more social housing and encouraging investment in both the new build and private rented sector,” said Blackwood.
“Any proposal to introduce rent controls must be done in partnership with all parts of the housing sector along with tenant representatives to make sure the final proposals are balanced. This measure should also be viewed as something which addresses short-term concerns until the longer-term measures needed to address Scotland’s housing crisis are implemented and shown to be effective.”
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Rent controls have repeatedly been rejected in Westminster.
The Conservative government has repeatedly said rent controls would lead to declining standards in the private rented sector.
But Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called on ministers to allow him to introduce rent controls in the English capital.
Khan asked the government to reconsider just last month, citing City Hall analysis which forecasted average rents in London could reach £2,700 a month next year.
The Labour mayor used Savills’ forecast that rents would grow 5.5% in 2023 and 5% in 2024 to show Rightmove’s average monthly advertised rent of £2,480 could grow over the next 12 months.
Khan said: “These figures reveal the clearest picture yet of why rent controls are so necessary. Private renters make up nearly a third of everyone living in the capital, but they are being consistently let down by a government that refuses to listen and take urgent action to protect them from even greater financial hardship. “
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