Last week the Scottish Government announced a package of measures to help renters during the cost of living crisis. It claims the support will “reduce the hardship” faced by tenants and “create breathing space for those in difficulty”.
The most high-profile policies are a freeze on landlords raising rents and a ban on them evicting tenants until at least the end of March 2023.
Ferret Fact Service explains the policies announced by the government, who is impacted by the freeze, why many renters are badly affected by rising prices, and how tenants and landlords have reacted to the news.
What are the measures?
The Scottish Government laid out the extra support it was going to provide to tenants in its 2022-23 programme for government (PFG) which was published on 6 September 2022. It said this was being provided to “help people through” the UK’s cost of living crisis.
The headline policy is emergency legislation to freeze rents for both private and social renters and ban evictions until “at least” the end of March 2023. The rent freeze was effectively introduced from 6 September while the Scottish Government said that emergency legislation outlining details of the eviction ban would be published in coming weeks.
The PFG also includes a pledge to launch a campaign to ensure that tenants are aware of their rights, including their ability to challenge future rent increases once the freeze ends.
How many renters are there in Scotland?
The Scottish rental sector accounts for 38 per cent of households in the country.
The social rental sector — where people rent from their council or a housing association — makes up 24 per cent of households. A further 14 per cent of households are rented from a private landlord.
Both social and private tenants will have their rents frozen.
Why are renters badly hit by the cost of living crisis?
Rents have grown significantly for both social and private tenants in recent years.
On average across Scotland, renting a two-bedroom property privately cost 25 per cent more in 2021 than it did in 2010. In the Lothians and Greater Glasgow, the increase is even steeper, with two-bed rents increasing by over 40 per cent in that period.
Analysis by The Ferret in March 2022 found that low earners in private rental accommodation faced paying more than half of their salary on rent, while middle earners paid more than a third.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a third of Scotland’s private renters were already living in poverty in March this year before the price cap on energy was first increased in April.
While the average social rental property is considerably cheaper than a private one, tenants in the sector also saw their rents increase by 24 per cent between 2013-14 and 2020-21.
Rising rents have left many tenants vulnerable to other price increases such as those caused by the current energy crisis.
Over 35 per cent of social and private renters were already in fuel poverty in 2019, compared with just over ten per cent of people with a mortgage.
What has the reaction been by tenants and landlords?
The tenants union, Living Rent, described the freeze as a “massive win” which will support renters during “these hugely stressful times”.
But it noted that rents are “already too high” so the freeze would need to remain in place until rent controls are introduced to “push rents down”.
Living Rent also wants more clarity on whether people already issued with a rent increase, which has not yet come into effect, will still need to pay more.
The government said in the PFG that it “intends to act” to prevent immediate rent increases, but has so far not provided any further detail.
The Scottish Association of Landlords claimed that the move would impact the supply of private rental flats because landlords will remove vacant properties from the rental market. It argued that as a result the rent freeze was not a solution but would “only cause more hardship”.
The body accused the Scottish Government of “attacking landlords for political reasons” and claimed that it had failed “to grasp the reality of Scotland’s housing crisis”.
What has caused Scotland’s housing crisis?
A report this year described Scotland as having a “chronic housing shortage” of about 100,000 new homes. The industry body, Homes for Scotland, said this lack of housing was the result of “consistent undersupply” for over a decade.
The scarcity of available homes has led to increased house prices. This in turn has reduced the stock of private rental properties on the market, because many landlords have sold their properties to take advantage of high prices.
Demand for rental properties from tenants is vastly outstripping supply. This increased demand is behind the major increase in rental prices across Scotland.
Correction: This story was updated at 11.42 on 21/09/2022 to note that the rent freeze came into effect on 6 September but details of the eviction ban are still to be confirmed.
Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, and a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Go to community.theferret.scot, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our Facebook group.
Photo credit: Ross Sneddon