Pauline McNeill the Scottish Labour communities and equalities spokesperson, who had campaigned for the proposal by way of a member’s bill, says she welcomes the MSP’s change of heart.
Holyrood Parliament’s local government committee had said back in June it was dropping its plans for the Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill due to a lack of time before May’s election, but it appears this will now go ahead.
The proposals put forward in the Bill would give private tenants the right to apply, at any time, to a rent officer for a “fair open market rent” to be determined; a similar process to that used for regulated tenancies under the Rent Acts in England.
If enacted the Bill will apply to residential tenancies not lodgers, and would make private landlords enter detailed information about their properties in the Scottish Landlord Register, including the monthly rent charged. Rent officers would decide what is a fair rent taking into account the local market and the condition of the property.
The change of heart from the local government committee follows pressure from Scottish Labour MSPs and Mike Dailly at Govan Law Centre.
Pauline McNeill told The Herald, Scotland:
“I was very concerned about the position of back-benchers like myself who put years of effort into a bill proposal only for it to be dropped by a committee.
“For that reason, I was very pleased that Mike Dailly, of his own accord, took a petition to the Court of Session on behalf of his client Jayne Ely.
“I am absolutely delighted that the Local Government Committee have now had a change of heart… Scotland needs more than ever an effective set of laws that give tenants the right to have their rent assessed and action to curb above inflation rate increases.
“I call on the Scottish Government to listen to renters in these difficult times and support this bill as a first step in serious law reform in the private rented sector.”
James Dornan, Convener of Holyrood’s local government and communities committee, said:
“The proportion of households in private rented housing now stands at just under 15 per cent.
“As the private rented sector in Scotland has grown over the last couple of decades there have been various reforms to tighten the regulation of landlords and give tenants more rights. But the stated ambition behind this Bill is to change the balance of power further. It would cap rent increases to one per cent plus CPI and to allow tenants more scope to challenge rents.
“We are keen to hear views about whether this further change is necessary and whether the provisions in the Bill are workable and will have the intended impact.
“We also want to find out what the financial impact of this Bill would be upon private tenants, landlords, the wider rented sector and others, and we welcome the opportunity to hear views on this proposed legislation.”
The Scottish Government has published (October 2020) updated versions of the Model Private Residential Tenancy Agreement, with supporting documentation, along with a guide to help landlords with the Rent Arrears Pre-Action Requirements (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 – https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2020/270/contents/made
Proposed Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill – Proposal & Consultation Document