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Everyone please take care.

The Letting Solutions’ Team

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A New Deal for Tenants – what are the Scottish Government’s plans all about?

Tue 22 Feb 2022

Plans to tackle affordability, improve accessibility, and strengthen standards for tenants across the rented sector have been launched by the Scottish Government.

The measures, dubbed A New Deal for Tenants, aims to provide renters with stronger rights, greater protections against eviction and access to greener, higher-quality, affordable homes.

Currently in its consultation stage, the proposals invite views on how the Scottish Government can work with private and social landlords and tenants to make housing more affordable – posing a major overhaul of the rented sector.

What does the new legislation involve?

Part of the Housing to 2040 plan – which sets out a vision for housing in Scotland to 2040 and a route map to get there – the draft strategy seeks to deliver a ‘fairer rented sector that meets the needs of tenants and welcomes responsible landlords’.

The plans have been introduced by Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, and the SNP’s Green Party partner Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights.

The draft strategy, which opened for public consultation in December 2021 and runs until April 15 2022, will be finalised by the end of the year.

Its key proposals include:

·       Implementing rent controls for the private rented sector.

·       Setting minimum standards for energy efficiency, making homes cheaper to heat while contributing to Scotland’s climate change targets.

·       Establishing a regulator for the private rented sector to ensure the system is fair for both landlords and tenants.

·       Restricting evictions during winter and increasing penalties for illegal evictions, and stronger enforcement.

·       Introducing a new Housing Standard to apply to all homes.

·       Giving tenants greater flexibility to personalise their homes and keep pets.

The results of the consultation will extend to the final version of the strategy to be published next year, with components of the proposals put to the Scottish Parliament in a Housing Bill in 2023.

Robison said: “This Draft Rented Sector Strategy delivers on an important early commitment and is a positive step forward in taking forward those changes needed in the rented sector to deliver a new deal for tenants.”

“Through this consultation I want to hear the views of how we deliver a strong rented sector for all. Following this wide-ranging consultation, we will develop the final strategy by the end of 2022 and bring forward housing legislation in 2023.”

A mixed response from the industry

Ahead of the announcement, the Scottish Greens pledged in their manifesto that they would introduce ‘a cross-cutting goal of ensuring that housing costs represent no more than 25% of a household’s income, including a points-based system of rent controls’.

However, letting agent trade body ARLA Propertymark said it is not nationwide rent control that Scotland needs, but ‘proper enforcement of existing rules, additional supply and more social housing’.

Daryl McIntosh, Scottish representative and policy maker for Propertymark, commented: “At a time when demand for privately rented homes is massively outstripping supply, several of the Greens’ proposals risk deterring private landlords from the market.”

“The private rented sector provides a vital service in the housing system and recently this contribution feels forgotten – surely an ill thought through policy objective.”

Meanwhile, other industry experts are in favour of the proposed new legislation.

John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said the group welcomes any move towards certainty and strategic direction for the Scottish private rented sector.

He added: “There has been a dramatic reduction in supply of private rented accommodation so we must hope this process will acknowledge the crucial role of landlords in providing safe, quality homes and encourage them to remain in the sector helping to prevent the shortages which have seen individuals, students and families alike unable to find a suitable home.”

Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, stated: “This is an ambitious strategy, and it offers the chance to mend many aspects of a housing system that is currently failing thousands. We are excited to work with the Scottish Government to develop these ideas and build a better future for housing in Scotland.”

What are the next steps?

Following the consultation, the final version of the strategy will set out the government’s updated policy position and a timeline for delivery.

According to the draft strategy, many other policy proposals included in the consultation will also require legislation; for example, establishing rent controls and a regulator for the private rented sector.

The government says it intends for legislation on these areas to be brought forward later in the parliamentary session, with rent controls implemented by the end of 2025.

It may still be a while before these measures actually come into play, but landlords must keep an eye on the news to ensure they are prepared for any changes. Until then, remaining compliant and maintaining regular upkeep of your rental properties is paramount.

Here at Letting Solutions, West Lothian’s first dedicated lettings agency, we can guide you through all aspects of the lettings journey and can help you to get the most from your rental properties as a result. 

You can find out more about our current hours of service and our current ways of working here.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us, even if you are not a current client. You can call us on 01506 496006 where our team are waiting to help. Alternatively, you can email us at: rent@letting-solutions.co.uk.

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