Residential tenancies in the cost of living crisis – an update, and a challenge

The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act 2022 is designed to look after those who rent a home in the private, social and student sectors. Since September 2022, rents have been subject to various controls, plus the usually finite grounds for evictions have been narrowed. I tried to digest this and more in a post for the Strathclyde Law Blog (which makes reference to some other output in relation to this topic).

On 19 January 2023, a news release from the Scottish Government provided an update about various matters, most notably that rent controls were to continue in a slightly modified form in the private sector, whilst they would be ending in the social and student sectors.

The emergency private sector regime provides as a starting point that a private landlord may not increase the rent payable by more than the permitted rate. That rate is currently set at 0%, but it is to increase to 3% as from 1 April 2023. Another aspect of the emergency regime is a private landlord may apply to the rent-setting body to increase the rent by more than the permitted rate to recover certain “prescribed property costs” (relating, for example, to mortgage interest). This will continue after 1 April 2023, over and above the possible baseline increase of up to 3%, meaning landlord will be able to increase rents by between 3% and 6%.

Social landlords – i.e., housing associations and local authorities – will be removed from rent controls. Although this was wrapped up in the 19 January announcement, this was already on the cards (per this earlier Scottish Government publication). Social rents will now be subject to a sector-level agreement that any rent increases will be below inflation. No doubt social landlords will be relieved to hear this, but this gives social tenants and indeed private landlords something to think about.

Student tenancies will also be removed from rent regulation, owing to the “limited impact on annual rents set on the basis of an academic year”.

Temporary reforms to eviction and damages for unlawful eviction are to remain.

Those are the headlines. Or at least they were the headlines yesterday. The headline today is that the coalition of landlords who had threatened to judicially review the measures have now done so. You can read about this on the website of Scottish Land and Estates (one of the representative bodies involved).

Will they succeed? That, dear reader, is a very good question, and one that I will shamelessly dodge for now. I did however touch on the human rights issue (in terms of the human right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions, as embodied in Article 1 of the First Protocol to the ECHR) in my earlier Juridical Review piece (and mentioned on the Strathclyde Law Blog). The differential treatment of social and private sector landlords announced yesterday might offer a new slant for any argument. This is most definitely one to watch.

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About basedrones

Bachelor of Laws. Scots academic lawyer. English law qualified. Took far too long to write this bio. Blogs on legal issues, with occasional veering into other purportedly intellectual stuff from time to time. Tweets about legal issues, education, law clinics, fitba, music, rogue cell division and not at all about politics at @MalcolmCombe.
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