The Scottish government introduces landmark legislation

The Scottish government has published its new Housing Bill, which is set to introduce private rent controls and place homelessness prevention duties on bodies including social landlords.


The landmark legislation gives ministers the power to place limits on rent increases in ‘rent control areas’. It also places duties on councils to assess rent conditions in their area at least once every five years.

The legislation would also make councils “take reasonable steps” to act sooner to prevent homelessness, while social landlords would be required to have a policy setting out how they will support tenants at risk of homelessness due to domestic abuse.

Responding to the bill, Callum Chomczuk, national director at Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, said: “The Housing Bill, if appropriately funded, could be an opportunity to drive positive systemic change, with welcome new proposals for victims of domestic abuse and those at risk of homelessness. “

Chomczuk said CIH Scotland though has “real concerns” about the impact the rent control policy could have on the supply of privately rented homes.

He also said that the changes through the bill will “take years to come into effect” and reiterated that Scotland needs a “a housing emergency action plan and money front- loaded for a social house building programme.” CIH Scotland earlier this month declared a housing emergency.

The Scottish government cut nearly £200m from affordable housing in its most recent budget, while figures published yesterday showed starts and approvals are at their lowest in more than 10 years. Four councils, including Fife this week, have also announced housing emergencies.

>>See also:How do we respond to the devastating affordable housing funding cuts in Scotland?

David Melhuish, director at the Scottish Property Federation, said the bill will be a “disappointment to those seeking to build new rental homes”.

He said: “ Investors in the new, modern Build-to-Rent sector - which brings high standards of property management and offers greater flexibility to tenants, in line with many of the Government’s objectives - will remain uncertain of what the future rent control system will look like until potentially late 2026.

“Investors will also be greatly concerned to see rent controls extended to properties that go back onto the market after a sitting tenant has left. This could make it harder for property owners to fund major improvements, including energy efficiency measures, to their properties between tenancies.”

The Scottish government said the bill is “ambitious in responding to the need to improve the housing outcomes in Scotland for people who live mainly in rented accommodation or face homelessness.

It added: ”At the same time, it continues to safeguard the proportionate use of a landlord’s property for rental purposes, seeking to deliver a fair balance between protection for tenants and the rights of landlords.”