Housing

'The leadership we need': Humza Yousaf confirms plans for rent controls in Scotland

The Scottish First Minister promised his government would bring in measures to cap rents as part of the Programme for Government.

Humza Yousaf

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has committed to bringing in rent controls in Scotland. Image: Scottish Government / Flickr

Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf has pledged to introduce rent controls to cap record-high rents in Scotland.

Speaking at Tuesday’s (5 September) Programme for Government announcement, Yousaf pledged to intervene to tackle soaring rents.

Private rents across the UK have been running at record highs and the most recent measure from the Office for National Statistics found rents increased by 5.7% in Scotland in the year up to July 2023.

“We recognise housing costs are a key factor in determining people’s standard of living,” said Yousaf in his Holyrood address.

“During the cost of living crisis, this government took prompt action to introduce emergency rent caps for most private tenants and to introduce additional protections against eviction. 

“We’ve now laid legislation to ensure those measures will remain in place until 31 March next year. We will also introduce a housing bill to introduce long-term rent controls and new tenants’ rights and to establish new duties for the prevention of homelessness.” 

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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