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Landlords seek legal advice over Scottish Government rent freeze

The legislation was passed in Holyrood in just three days last week under an emergency procedure.

13 October 2022

A “coalition of landlords” is seeking legal advice over a Scottish Government move that has frozen rents and banned evictions until at least April next year.

MSPs voted to back the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill last week after an emergency procedure meant it was passed in just three days.

The legislation will cap rent rises at 0% until March 31, with Scottish ministers allowed to extend the legislation for two six-month periods, as well as placing a ban on evictions.

But a provision in the Bill will allow landlords to raise rents by up to 3% if their property costs increase, provided it is no higher than 50% of the rise in costs.

A coalition of landlords and letting agents has now announced plans to seek a legal opinion on the legislation, assessing if it breaches the human rights of landlords.

The coalition – which includes the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL), Propertymark, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) and Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) – has instructed Lord Davidson KC to deliver an opinion.

John Blackwood, chief executive of the SAL, said the action is being taken “with a heavy heart”.

He added: “Seeking a legal opinion has been our last resort because our concerns are not being listened to by the Scottish Government.

“This emergency legislation is high-minded in spirit but lacking in the kind of detail landlords need assurance about.

“Uncertainty for landlords only creates ambiguity for tenants, and I do not think the Government appreciates the level of confusion it has now created.

“We have repeatedly said we are all willing to work with the Scottish Government and ministers. This is a tough time, but that does not excuse ill-designed legislation that may be the final straw for the private rented sector.

“We are gravely concerned that in a bid to do something to help tenants, the Scottish Government have forgotten the underlying stresses in the private rental sector that we have been warning about for years.”

Ben Beadle, NRLA chief executive, warned the legislation will exacerbate a supply crisis in the private rental sector.

“A viable and thriving private rental sector is vital to a healthy housing market,” he said.

“Sadly, the actions of the Scottish Government damage this objective and will ultimately hurt tenants the most.”

SLE warned of the impact of the Bill on rural communities, while Propertymark voiced concerns over “rushed consultation” before the legislation was published.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Bill addresses the cost-of-living crisis by increasing protection for tenants, including student tenants, from eviction and rent rises.

“The measures will apply initially until March next year.

“We will keep their impact on the wider property market under review during that time.

“The legislation has been carefully designed to balance the protections that are urgently needed for tenants with important safeguards for those landlords who may also be impacted by the cost crisis and face financial hardship.”

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