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Know your rights: rent Cap, joint tenancies, eviction ban

The Scottish government announced the rent freeze, which later became a rent cap, nearly a year ago. Here is a guide on what has happened to the legislation since then and what you need to know. All information is accurate as of 30 August 2023.

The rent cap

This applies to private tenants ( Private Residential Tenancies, Assured and Short Assured Tenancies). 

The rent cap is in place until 31 March 2024, subject to parliamentary approval. 

  • Rents cannot be increased by more than 3% (unless landlords prove that they are experiencing financial hardship).
  • Landlords need to give you at least three months’ notice before the rent increase comes into effect. (Two more days if the notice is by hand).
  • Landlords can increase the rent up to 6% if they can prove they are experiencing financial hardship but they need to apply to Rent Service Scotland (as only specific costs can be taken into account).
  • Your landlord can only increase the rent once a year (if you have a Private Residential Tenancy).

A notice to increase the rent MUST include the following:

  • The date the tenancy started.
  • If this is the first increase since the tenancy started (if the rent has already been increased, the date of the last increase must be included).
  • The current rent you are paying (and if rent is paid per week or per month.)
  • The amount of the increase proposed (capped at 3%)
  • The new increase and when it will start (three months from the rent increase notice).

This notice can only be delivered in the following ways: by hand, by post, by e-mail.

If your landlord has ‘told you on the phone’ or ‘texted you’ - this is not an official rent increase notice and therefore cannot be enforced.

E.g. Hey, just to say I’m thinking of increasing your rent by 10% as of next month. Let me know if you’re okay with that.

Joint Tenancies

Joint tenancies are a type of private residential tenancy (PRT) typical for those living with multiple other people. 

The rent cap does not apply to rent increases between tenancies.

  • Due to the way joint tenancies are structured, when one flatmate moves out,  a new tenancy needs to be created regardless if the majority of flatmates remain in the flat. 
  • This gives landlords the ‘legal’ right to increase the rent by whatever percentage they want. 
  • Finding a replacement tenant can fall on either the remaining tenants, or the landlord/letting agency if the swap is agreed.

More information on this is available on the Scottish government's website.

What can you do?

  • If your landlord wants to increase the rent by more than 3%: remind them that this is not legal as there’s a current cap of 3%. 
  • If your landlord claims that their costs have increased to justify a 6% rent increase, ask them for evidence from the Rent Service Scotland.
  • Do not accept your rent increase without trying to negotiate it down. Do not rely on rent officers to contest your rent (they use market rates to see if the rent increase is ‘reasonable’)
  • Though landlords are legally able to increase rents between tenancies, it does not mean that the increases cannot be challenged. Members of the union have successfully challenged rent increases due to affordability and lack of repairs, so join Living Rent and contact your local organiser or branch

Extent of issue

Since the rent cap has been brought in, substantial numbers of tenants across Glasgow are facing a rent increase that they cannot afford. Many letting agencies and landlords are taking advantage of a loophole in the rent cap, and opportunistically using a change in tenant to  drive up the price of the flat. Despite the cap sitting at 3%, people are being asked to pay increases of well over 30% - one group of flatmates was given an increase from £1,400 to £2,400! 

During a cost of living crisis, in which all of our daily essentials are becoming more and more expensive, this profit-seeking behaviour from agencies and landlords is truly detrimental to people’s lives. In many instances, a rent increase is like serving an eviction notice; pay more or get out. Landlords choose to take a risk and invest their own money into owning and letting property. In these cases,  many are being told if they do not pay the increase, the landlord will be ‘forced to sell’; framing the issue as if it is the tenants’ fault. The fault does not lie with tenants for the skyrocketing price of private lets. 

Stories

Two of our Shawlands members, Jen and Angus, were both facing unreasonable rent increases. Each had a flatmate move out, and were looking to bring a new flatmate onto the tenancy agreement. However, this was denied - and the opportunity was seized to ask the tenant to sign a new tenancy agreement updated with the rent set to match ‘market-value’. 

For each of these members, the rent increase they were asked to pay far exceeded the 3% cap: they were asked to pay an additional 22% and 33% respectively on their homes, despite a lack of improvements to the home itself. As Angus told his letting agency, most working people do not have the ability to summon an extra £200 each month, when already we’re just making ends meet. Our wages are not rising by 30% are they? So how do they expect us to pay?

In order to fight back against this, Jen and Angus both chose the union route: they took direct action, with the support of other members of the union, and had a face to face negotiation with their letting agencies. They defended themselves from a situation that would have forced them out of their homes, by using the power of solidarity from other tenants, who showed up and made it clear to the agencies that their actions were unacceptable. 

Want to find out more about how we can fight back against unfair housing  situations and improve our living conditions? Join Living Rent and get active in your nearest branch; www.livingrent.org/join 

The eviction ban

The eviction ban is set to remain in place until 31 March 2024 subject to parliamentary approval.

  • There is a temporary pause of up to six months on the enforcement of some eviction orders (some evictions can still go ahead).
  • Any eviction notice served on or after September 6th 2022 is paused
  • There are increased damages for unlawful evictions to a maximum of 36 months’ worth of rent. If you have been illegally evicted, take your landlord to the First Tier Tribunal.

Similar to a notice to increase the rent, a notice to leave/quit must include the following: 

  • The ground for eviction (the reason the landlord is using to evict you). These must be any of these eighteen grounds for eviction. 
  • How much notice you have as a tenant (this depends on how long you’ve lived in the property and the ground used for eviction).
  • Evidence to show the ground for eviction is real.

Not a valid eviction notice: "Dear NAME, I need you to leave the property next month as I’m moving back into the flat."

Understanding the eviction process:

A notice to leave IS NOT a court order

Landlords cannot evict you without first serving you with a notice to leave. Too often, tenants leave their homes after their landlord sends them a notice to leave or after being told ‘you need to leave by next month’. 

Important: The date on the eviction notice is not the date  you need to leave. It is the date your landlord is able to apply for a court order to evict you at the First Tier Tribunal. If you receive this notice to leave, do not leave. Wait until you receive a court order.

The tribunal process for eviction can take two to three months. 

Read more on how the eviction process works on Shelter Scotland's website.







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