HOLYROOD has passed controversial legislation that will freeze rents and ban evictions for most tenants for at least six months and potentially 18, alarming many landlords.
MSPs voted by 89 to 27 in favour of the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Scotland Bill, after an intense three days of debate and amendments.
It was the first Bill led through a parliament by a Green minister anywhere in the UK, in this case tenants rights minister Patrick Harvie.
The Tories were the only party to vote against the Bill, warning it was rushed and bad law which would reduce the supply of rented accommodation and worsen homelessness.
There were also warnings that Scotland’s housing associations might cut back on building and repair programmes as their income was cut by £50million a year.
The emergency legislation will see rents frozens for private and social rented tenants until at least 31 March with a 0 per cent cap on rises backdated to September 6, the date Nicola Sturgeon announced it to MSPs as part of the annual programme for government.
Ministers will also be able to extend the measure for two more six-month periods, and vary the cap, subject to parliamentary approval.
Student accommodation will also be covered by the law, which is intended to help people cope with the cost of living crisis this winter.
However landlords will be able to apply to raise rents by up to 3 per cent if they face extra costs such as insurance and higher mortgage interest payments.
The new law also establishes a moratorium on evictions for an initial six months, with exemptions for criminal and anti-social tenants and those with excessive arrears.
Landlords will still be able to repossess properties if they need to move back in or sell up to cope with their own financial hardship.
Private landlord groups warned in advance of the legislation that many landlords would withdraw from the market rather than face uncertainty over rental income.
After the vote, Mr Harvie said: “I am pleased that Parliament has passed this Bill to support tenants through the current cost of living crisis.
“People who rent their home are more likely to live in poverty or be on low incomes than other people, and many will be anxious about keeping up payments on their homes as their everyday expenses rise.
“With this Bill now set to become law, tenants in the social or private rented sector, or in student accommodation, will have stability in their homes and housing costs.
“I’m hugely grateful to MSPs for scrutinising and agreeing this legislation this week, ensuring these protections can be brought in with the urgency that this crisis demands.”
Tory MSP Miles Briggs , who warned the changes were being rushed and were “bad law”, said: “Scotland is in the grip of a housing crisis but the SNP-Greens’ railroading of rent controls through Parliament this week will do nothing to alleviate that.
“Indeed, as charities have pointed out, it will harm the housing prospects of those who are currently homeless and on the lowest incomes.
“Rent control measures elsewhere have only resulted in properties being taken off the market meaning that the housing dreams of many will now be further away than ever thanks to SNP-Green ministers chasing good headlines.
“Homelessness is rising on their watch and the number of children who are also in temporary accommodation should be a source of shame for this government.
“Given the SNP’s repeated failures to deliver on their housebuilding targets, that is where their focus should have been – tackling the housing crisis and helping those who need supported the most.
“Instead, they’ve failed to listen to the warnings from many experts and typically pressed ahead regardless with this misguided scheme.”
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