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Scottish Labour party’s Bill to crackdown further on rents

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Consultation is underway on Scottish Labour’s ‘Mary Barbour Bill’ in which if passed, will create further controls on rents.

Following a substantial overhaul of the private rented sector, including tax changes for landlords, Scottish rents have risen consistently in recent years. In response, MSPs are looking into new ways to limit rent increases.

The Bill and its proposals

The Proposed Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill (Mary Barbour Bill), proposed by Pauline McNeill MSP, aims to:

  • enforce fair rents by introducing a points-based system
  • link rents to average wages to ensure affordability
  • give tenants powers to challenge rents and seek reductions
  • ensure that all private rented properties meet proper standards for health and safety and energy efficiency
  • expand the landlord registration scheme, ensuring landlords update the register to include changes in what they charge for rent, building up a picture of market rates

The Fair Rents Bill is being referred to as the Mary Barbour Bill after the Scottish campaigner and socialist heroine Mary Barbour who organised rent strikes and actively opposed evictions.

Rules on restricting rent increases to once every 12 months were a key part of the Scottish Government’s Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act, which came into force in December 2017. Despite this, Scottish Labour has said the Mary Barbour law would regulate the private rented sector even further and ensure that no one is “forced to rent a home that pushes them into poverty”.

Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) were also introduced at the end of 2017 along with the Private Residential Tenancy. RPZs can cap rents for up to five years if implemented. Local authorities can apply for a designation where rents are rising too much, are causing problems for the tenants and a consequence of this is that the local authority is coming under pressure to provide housing or subsidise rents. Local authorities have faced issues with evidencing these problems, meaning as of yet none have been designated.

Speaking at First Ministers Questions, Scottish Labour Leader, Richard Leonard said: “We have seen the return of private landlordism and rents have soared whilst wages have stagnated.

“According to the Scottish Government’s own figures, over 40% of all children living in the private rented sector are now living in poverty. That is 60,000 children.

“We think that private rent rises should be capped and controlled. So, Nicola Sturgeon has a choice, will she take the side of rogue landlords and a broken housing market – or she can back Labour’s plans, and back our Mary Barbour Bill.”

In recent years, Scottish housing legislation has set a precedent for what happens in England and Wales – notably the tenancy fees ban and the abolition of ‘no fault’ eviction.

A consultation on the Bill is now open until 6 August 2019.

What Propertymark are doing

ARLA Propertymark will be monitoring the progress of the Fair Rents Bill consultation. If members have any comments, please email them through to Communications@propertymark.co.uk.

In March 2019, ARLA Propertymark submitted evidence on social security support for housing, where we called for greater support for the letting agents and landlords when letting to those in receipt of Universal Credit.

Propertymark resources

ARLA Propertymark members have access to a vast range of resources which will help and guide them through every step of the way. These include:

  • Fact Sheets (for when changes to legislation occur, we detail what impact it will have on agents and landlords)
  • Digital leaflets to send to your clients
  • GDPR bitesize guides

To access these members can login to the members area.