SNP and Green co-operation agreement highly concerning for Scottish landlords

On Friday afternoon the SNP and the Scottish Greens announced their planned cooperation agreement to work together and achieve a majority political power in the Scottish Parliament. Stressing that this working relationship is not a coalition, the First Minister set out how she believes this new partnership to govern will help deliver “a bold and ambitious programme for change in Scotland”.

Members will be interested to note that the agreement plan headlines are to create more affordable homes and a “new deal” for tenants. Further details of what this new deal for tenants might entail were set out in a draft shared policy programme also published on Friday. These mirror the private rented sector proposals set out in the Scottish Greens’ manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election which SAL sent out to members prior to the election, and which include:

Summary of proposals for private renting as set out in the draft shared policy programme

“By the end of 2021, we will consult on the content of a new proposed Rented Sector Strategy, to deliver a new deal for tenants. This new deal will:
• – create a new housing regulator for the private rented sector to improve standards and enforce tenants’ rights.
• – enhance tenants’ rights, including through greater restrictions on evictions over winter, providing additional security for tenants.
• – introduce new rights for tenants, for example giving tenants greater flexibility to decorate their home and to keep pets.
• – put in place additional penalties and compensation for illegal evictions.
Following the conclusion of the Rented Sector Strategy consultation we will publish a final Rented Sector Strategy and introduce a Housing Bill in the second year of this parliamentary session, to deliver a number of the legislative changes required to implement the Strategy.

We will also implement an effective national system of rent controls, with an appropriate mechanism to allow local authorities to introduce local measures. We will consult on the options, deliver legislation and implement rent controls by the end of 2025.

We also agree:
• – to improve the availability of homes by working together to regulate short-term lets, give local authorities the ability to manage the impact of second homes and bring empty homes back into use. Where possible, empty homes will be brought into the social rented sector.
• – to progress work towards tenure-neutral standards and work to develop a new Housing Standard for all tenures that is aligned with the proposed energy efficiency and heat standards.
• – to take forward the recommendations of the Scottish Parliament working group on tenement maintenance.
• – to consult, as part of the Rented Sector Strategy, on how we will deliver a rent guarantor scheme for estranged young people.”

John Blackwood, SAL chief executive commented:

“Despite reassurances from Scottish Ministers over the last few years that they value the contribution made by private landlords in providing much needed housing, this announcement will make many members question whether they wish to continue providing housing in the private rented sector, with policy proposals like a winter ban on evictions and rent controls that are likely to affect the viability and security of their businesses”.

Last week, prior to this partnership announcement, SAL chief executive John Blackwood met with Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government who wanted to thank members for working with their tenants during Covid-19 to help sustain tenancies and avoid evictions. Ms Robison also reiterated her intention to continue to work with SAL to achieve the best outcome for the private rented sector.

SAL is a key voice in the development of policy in private renting and will continue to fight for legislation which balances tenants’ rights to a comfortable and secure home with landlords’ rights to expect a reasonable return on their investment and to evict tenants when they have a genuine need to do so.

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