Law tested

Lettings coalition seeks legal opinion on rents freeze

Landlords are angry about lack of consultation on new law (pic: Terry Murden)

A coalition of landlord and lettings bodies is seeking legal advice on the Scottish Government’s rents freeze and eviction ban legislation.

The Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL), Propertymark, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) and Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) have come together to test the validity of the new law which they say “breaches the individual rights of landlords”.

The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Scotland Bill was approved by Holyrood on 6 October by 89 to 27 votes. It is intended to be in place until at least March next year and could be effective for 18 months.

The coalition has instructed the Lord (Neil) Davidson of Glen Clova KC, Advocate at Axiom Advocates, to opine if the legislation breaches the individual rights of landlords in Scotland, including a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.   

SAL and the coalition will consider all legal options available to them if Lord Davidson’s opinion makes clear a breach of landlords’ rights has occurred. His decision is due within the next month.

The action follows a backlash across the sector, from landlords to investors. Lord Willie Haughey has suspended a plan to build £1 billion affordable homes, while housebuilder Springfield Properties last month put its affordable housing contracts and expansion into the private rented sector on hold pending the details of the legislation.

John Blackwood, SAL chief executive, said: “With a heavy heart, SAL, in partnership with SLE, the NRLA, and Propertymark is taking legal counsel about the Scottish Government’s rent freeze and eviction ban legislation.”

“Seeking a legal opinion has been our last resort because our concerns are not being listened to by the Scottish Government.”

John Blackwood
John Blackwood: heavy heart

“This emergency legislation is high-minded in spirit but lacking in the kind of detail landlords need assurance about. Uncertainty for landlords only creates ambiguity for tenants, and I do not think the government appreciates the level of confusion it has now created.”

“We have repeatedly said we are all willing to work with the Scottish Government and ministers. This is a tough time, but that does not excuse ill-designed legislation that may be the final straw for the private rented sector.”

“We are gravely concerned that in a bid to do something to help tenants, the Scottish Government have forgotten the underlying stresses in the PRS that we have been warning about for years.” 

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “Tenants across the country are already facing a supply crisis in the PRS. Far from making things better, a rent freeze will mean less choice for tenants, making it more difficult for them to access the housing they need.”

“A viable and thriving PRS is vital to a healthy housing market. Sadly, the actions of the Scottish Government damage this objective and will ultimately hurt tenants the most.”

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, which represents some of the largest providers of housing in rural Scotland, said: “Mr [Patrick] Harvie repeatedly claimed that the Bill achieves the balance between tenants’ and landlords’ rights to ensure legislative competence, but we do not share his views.”

“The acute shortage of properties available for rent in rural Scotland is stark and such legislation will only exacerbate the situation – to the detriment of the rural economy and communities.”

Nathan Emerson, Propertymark CEO, commented: “The concern we hold over this new legislation is the lack of evidence and rushed consultation before large decisions are being made that will significantly impact the use and ownership of property.” 

“Landlords and agents alike have proven their ability over the pandemic to work with tenants, many landlords have kept their rents lower in a bid to help but it must be acknowledged that their costs are rising too.

‘This legislation is huge for the sector and the impact on those providing much needed homes must not be underestimated.”

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