A controversial rental freeze in Scotland will do nothing to protect most tenants because it will expire one day before their housing costs go up, it has emerged.
Those living in real estate owned by building associations or municipalities – about two-thirds of tenants in the country – see annual rent increases come into effect from April 1, while the policy is currently slated to be revoked on March 31.
Nicola Sturgeon was celebrated in some quarters for the rental block plan, which the owners strongly opposed.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, praised the “courageous action” and said it would require powers to implement a similar plan in the capital.
However, critics have argued that those in the Scottish social rental sector were being “abandoned” by a policy apparently deliberately programmed to exclude them.
Since private landlords must give three months’ notice of any rent increase, it will protect other tenants from increases for only a few months, while they already have the right to appeal and reverse any unfair increases.
Meanwhile, Patrick Harvie, Scotland’s tenant rights minister, also declined to confirm Wednesday that the policy would protect students in university accommodation and private residences.
The waste of time of “SNP and Greens” has already cost the tenants “
Mark Griffin, Scottish Labor spokesperson for housing, said the policy’s credibility was fading just 24 hours after it was announced.
“A rent freeze is the right move as rents soar at record rates, and it’s essential that we do it right,” he said.
“The SNP and the Greens U-turn on this is better late than never, but their waste of time has already cost the tenants and they still have fundamental questions to answer.
“The news that social renters have apparently been abandoned is an immediate blow to this policy. The Tories are also consulting to limit social rent increases in the south.”
He added: “We need to see the details of this policy to make sure it is effective. The stakes are too high for the usual half measures and the Green and SNP spin.”
The landlords attacked the SNP for refusing to consult with them before introducing the freeze rental policy, which also includes a temporary ban on eviction. The changes will be introduced to Holyrood through emergency legislation.
Shona Robison, SNP’s housing secretary, suggested Wednesday that the policy had been deliberately kept secret from landlords to prevent them from raising rents before the freeze went into effect.
“We were very careful not to do anything that would inadvertently raise rents before any announcements,” he said.
“We are looking into whether there may be additional safeguards in relation to tenants who can pay the rent but simply refuse to do so.”
According to data from the Scottish Government, there are approximately 600,000 social housing or local authority rental properties in Scotland, compared with approximately 390,000 privately rented.
“Policy designed to catch the headlines”
Brian Gilmore, who manages some 200 properties through the Indigo Square rental company, said the policy was designed to “grab the headlines” rather than being a serious attempt to protect tenants.
“What about the private owner who is a retiree and this is part of their pension funds? They are not an international conglomerate that can absorb the costs,” he said.
“Yes, we have a cost of living crisis, but I can’t go to Morrisons, fill my shopping cart, go to the cashier and say ‘cost of living crisis, man’ and walk out the door.
“But I can get the keys to a £ 150,000 asset, it says ‘cost of living crisis, I’m not paying the rent’ and nobody can do anything about it.”
A spokesman for the Scottish government said: “These are exceptional measures to ensure that people can stay in their homes in the face of the worst cost crisis in living memory, as well as to ensure that tenants do not see their rents increase during autumn and winter.
“If approved by the Scottish Parliament, they will apply to both the private and social rented sector at least until March 31st. We will consider whether these need to be extended further and will work with landlord and tenant bodies as part of this.
“We are also continuing to work to develop an effective national rent control system in the private sector by the end of 2025, while exploring what further action we can take to ensure that rents in the social rental sector are affordable.”