The Scottish Government has published a consultation paper on a new deal for tenants which aims to deliver stronger tenants’ rights, greater protection against eviction and access to higher quality, more affordable and greener housing.
The new policies, outlined in the Draft Rented Sector Strategy, are intended to help shape a fairer rented sector that meets the needs of tenants and welcomes responsible landlords.
Focal points of the Draft Rented Sector Strategy
The proposals, which form part of the Housing to 2040 strategy published in March 2021, include:
- increasing penalties for illegal evictions and stronger enforcement
- restricting evictions during winter
- giving tenants greater flexibility to personalise their homes and keep pets
- developing a national system of rent controls for the private rented sector
- introducing a new Housing Standard, applicable to all homes
- introducing a private rented sector regulator to uphold these standards and ensure the system is fair for both landlords and tenants
- setting minimum standards for energy efficiency to make homes cheaper to heat while contributing to Scotland’s climate change targets
Tenants’ Rights Minister, Patrick Harvie, said: “Now is the time to do more for people who rent their homes, whether they are renting privately, from the council or from a housing association. Delivering a new deal for tenants is central to our ambitions for a fairer Scotland, tackling child poverty and meeting climate change targets.”
He added: “Above all else it will significantly improve the lives of Scotland’s tenants, giving them more stability, more choice over where they live and how they decorate their homes, and the confidence that their home will be of a high quality. At the same time it will recognise the interests of good quality, responsible landlords.
“We will be working in partnership with landlords, letting agents, tenants and others to deliver this strategy, and we want to gather the broadest range of views. I would encourage anyone with an interest to respond to our consultation.”
Potential unintended consequences of the new proposals
However, the plans announced by the Scottish Government could have ‘detrimental’ impact on the Scottish private rented sector, according to Propertymark.
Daryl McIntosh, Policy and Campaigns Manager for ARLA Propertymark Scotland, commented: “Whilst we support the right to an adequate home and the Scottish Government’s commitment to elevate standards and quality in the private rented sector, we fear the policies outlined in the Draft Rented Sector Strategy will have unintended consequences and ultimately be detrimental to tenants unless there is a balance with landlords’ rights.”
He continued: “We have real concerns that the proposed system of rent controls will undermine the viability of the private rented sector and do nothing to tackle the perceived affordability issues, while further regulatory burdens will inevitably continue to force landlords to exit the market.
“If the Scottish Government wants to ensure a healthy supply of good quality, affordable and secure homes, it must recognise the value and significance of the private rented sector and actively encourage more investors to provide homes. Only by increasing and sustaining investment in the sector can it achieve its aims, and the Strategy as drafted falls far short of providing the certainties and incentives that are needed.”
The public consultation closes on 15th April 2022 and its results will help in finalising the Rented Sector Strategy document (due to be published in 2022), with elements of the proposals put to the Scottish Parliament in a Housing Bill in 2023.