Update on Rent Pressure Zones

There is a clear public consensus in favour of rent controls. The Scottish Government's own consultation showed that, and poll after poll has confirmed it. Tenants up and down the country are struggling desperately to make ends meet, while rents continue to spiral out of control. Our own survey in Edinburgh has showed that tenants spend 40% of their income on rent, which is preventing them from saving for deposits – an issue which has been highlighted across the country.

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In December 2017, the Private Tenancies (Housing) Scotland Act of March 2016 came in to place, providing tenants with a new Private Tenancy contract and councils with new powers to introduce Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs). Such powers enable councils, after undertaking a survey of rents in an area and demonstrating that rents are rising by too much and causing undue hardship for tenants, to apply to the Scottish ministers to have an area demarcated as a Rent Pressure Zone. Thereafter, rent rises within this area would be capped by a formula taking into account inflation + 1% + another number yet to be set. As Living Rent, we have welcomed this first attempt by a British government in the last 30years to tackle the problem of rent. We have outlined the limits of the PRS framework - it doesn’t take into account the possibility of rents rising in-between tenancies nor doesn’t it allow rents to be stable or even to decrease – whilst also campaigning in Edinburgh and Glasgow to get them in place. 

However, recent releases by both Shelter Scotland[1] and local councils[2] outline the difficulties faced by council in gathering the necessary data to apply to the Ministers. Given the lack of central data-base – to recall in the consultation we had proposed the creation of a Scottish Living Rent Commission to oversee these recommendations and to serve as a centre of expertise for the Scottish Private Rental Sector, councils are pressed for resources and expertise to answer the tenants’ need for rent controls.

Scotland desperately needs rent controls - proper ones, that improve quality and bring down rents now. If the Scottish Government's recently-introduced Rent Pressure Zones policy can't provide that, then it needs replaced with something that can. In the meantime, the Scottish Government must recognise that the burdens placed on councils to introduce Rent Pressure Zones are unreasonable and work with every council that is exploring the introduction of RPZs to make that process as quick and easy as possible. Tenants will not forgive the government for being left in poverty because of red tape.

 

[1] See the report by Shelter Scotland here https://scotland.shelter.org.uk/professional_resources/policy_library/policy_library_folder/rent_regulation_review

[2] And the report by the highland council here: https://highland.gov.uk/news/article/11062/more_research_required_for_rent_pressure_zone_application

 

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