Today the Scottish Parliament will consider the Private Housing Bill for the first time.
Few things are as important as the home you live in. The housing market has changed drastically over a generation, and with increasing numbers of people in Scotland living in privately rented homes, it’s essential that we make sure tenants get a fair deal whilst also ensuring there are safeguards for investors and landlords who provide homes.
We’re committed to reforming the private rented sector to make it more professionally managed, function better and provide good quality homes. As part of this we have already set-up a third-party deposit protection scheme and regulated letting agents. The Private Tenancies Bill will be transformative to the sector by introducing further clear action to make sure renting works well, both for tenants and for landlords.
We are removing the “no fault” grounds for eviction, meaning tenants can no longer be asked to leave their home because their tenancy is at an end date. Landlords will have to show they have one of number of legitimate reasons – such as selling a property – before someone can be evicted. This will also mean landlords have stability knowing that their tenant will treat their property as a home, and not see the tenancy as temporary or transient. We are also introducing a tribunal system to avoid disputes between tenants and landlords having to go to court.
The Bill will also provide predictability on rent increases and help with budgeting, as rents can only rise only once in 12 months. Tenants will be given 3 month notice of changes and the power to challenge excessive rent increases through an arbitration process. Local councils will also be able to designate areas where there are excessive rent increases and will be able to apply to Scottish Ministers to introduce caps on rent rises for up to 5 years.
Ultimately the way to deal with high rents is to increase the supply of houses across all tenures, and this is a key priority for the Scottish Government. Since 2011 we’ve invested £1.7bn and exceeded our target of building 30,000 affordable homes – 20,000 of which are for social rent. If re-elected we’ll increase that target to 50,000 new affordable homes over the next parliamentary term.
The SNP Government has also helped 20,000 people into homeownership, three quarters of them under the age of 35, with our affordable shared equity schemes and our Help to Buy schemes supporting new construction and seeing a return on our investment.
But for those renting privately, they deserve security in their tenancy and protection against high rent rises – this Bill will give them that.