A draft strategy for the rented sector in Scotland has been published by the Scottish Government. This follows the Scottish Government's previously published strategy 'Housing to 2040', which sets out a long term housing vision for Scotland. 'Housing to 2040' aims for everyone living in Scotland to have access to a safe, warm, affordable, high quality and energy efficient home by 2040 and looks to improve accessibility, affordability and standards across the rented sector.

The recently published draft strategy aims to ensure all tenants, whether living in private or social rented homes, can access secure and stable tenancies with affordable choices - whilst also benefiting from good quality homes and professional levels of service and rights.

The draft strategy is the first step in a phased approach to reform which envisages:

  • putting private rented sector tenants on a more equal footing with social rented tenants by introducing a new Housing Bill in the second year of the current Parliament;
  • establishing a regulator for the private rented sector to enforce defined standards by 2025, and considering the role of the existing regulator for social rented housing - through new legislation by the end of this Parliament;
  • implementing a national system of rent controls for the private rented sector, and exploring further action to ensure rents in the social rented sector are affordable, by the end of 2025;
  • creating a new Housing Standard covering all homes; and
  • setting minimum standards for energy efficiency and zero emissions heating.

Grounds for repossession

The consultation seeks views on the existing grounds for repossession, and details proposed action to deter landlords from undertaking illegal evictions by introducing increased penalties and compensation for tenants. The review follows a commitment by the Scottish Government to review the current 18 grounds for repossession after the new Private Residential Tenancy had been in operation for 5 years. Following measures taken to prevent evictions during the pandemic, it also details proposed new restrictions to evictions during winter, and sets out ways to engage tenants, including the development of Tenants' Unions. Under the current emergency Coronavirus legislation all current grounds for repossession have been made discretionary. The Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform)(Scotland) Bill, currently before the Scottish Parliament, proposes to make that change permanent.

Rent Control

The draft strategy acknowledges that rent controls may result in Landlords selling property resulting in an overall reduction of available housing stock, but the strategy proposes a national system of rent control with the aim of making rents more affordable and secure longer term occupation by tenants through restrictions on rent increases. The strategy seeks views on the principle of rent control, with detailed proposals for such a system to be consulted upon separately.

The draft strategy sets out an ambitious set of proposals for a phased approach to introducing change, largely over the next four years. The closing date for responding to the consultation is 15 April, with a final strategy to be published by the end of 2022.

Contributor

Ryan Bowie

Partner