Private Tenancies Bill passed by Scottish Parliament

generation rentNew legislation that will modernise the private rented sector (PRS) was passed last night by the Scottish Parliament.

The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill will create simpler tenancies, offer stability and security to the 700,000 tenants who call the private rented sector home, and ensure predictability over rent increases.

After a lengthy debate in which a number of amendments were considered, MSPs voted for the bill by 84 to 14.

Key measures contained in the Bill include:

  • Improved security for tenants, which means they cannot be asked to leave their home simply because the tenancy agreement has reached its end date
  • Comprehensive and robust repossession grounds which will enable a landlord to regain possession of their property in reasonable circumstances
  • The opportunity for local authorities to implement rent caps in areas where there are excessive rent increases
  • Moves to a more streamlined system with no confusing pre-tenancy notices and easier-to-understand model tenancy agreement.

Housing minister Margaret Burgess said it was necessary to legislate to “rebalance” the relationship between landlords and tenants and that the bill as it stands will allow tenants to feel “more secure in their homes”.

The minister said: “This Bill ensures the end of a process in this parliamentary term that started with the publication of PRS Strategy in 2013, has included regulating letting agents and now culminates in this bill. These significant changes will transform the private rented sector, creating a more modern tenancy, bring stability to the sector and helping to meet Scotland’s housing needs.

“We are committed to achieving a sustainable, long-term solution to addressing housing need and affordability. Both landlords and tenants have told us this new law will mean a modern and fit-for-purpose sector. Its range of measures will ensure the sector is better managed, simplified and successful for all in the private rented sector. I am delighted that this bill has now passed with cross party support.”

John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said: “We are pleased that the long process of considering and passing this Bill has been completed. Landlords and letting agents can now look forward to continuing to promote the importance of the private rented sector in providing high quality housing across the country.”

Patrick Harvie, Glasgow MSP and co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, said that the legislation was “only the first step” towards rent controls and stronger rights for tenants.

During the debate, Patrick Harvie’s amendments to strengthen legislation on rent pressure zones were passed but his amendments to set a review to strengthen rent control measures in three years’ time and to allow tenants to stay in a property even if the landlord decides to sell were voted down.

Patrick Harvie said the passage of the Bill marked a “great day” for Scotland’s tenants, but highlighted that compared to other European countries, Scotland’s private rented sector still needed to catch-up on nationwide rent controls and tenants’ rights.

He said: “Until today, the private rented sector in Scotland has been practically a free for all, with few rights for tenants and rents rising to totally unaffordable levels in places like Glasgow, Aberdeen and the Highlands.”

Patrick Harvie added: “We want to see a proper system of nationwide rent controls implemented during the next parliament, and regulation that make it possible for tenants to stay in the properties they rent for as long as they need to – even when the property is sold.

“With a growing number of Scots being forced to rent privately, we have to make sure that they can find a secure, affordable home there.”

Campaigners welcomed the “progressive” Bill as a “major breakthrough in private tenant rights”.

Shelter Scotland, which has long campaigned to Make Renting Right in Scotland and has made several policy contributions to the Bill, says private tenants, landlords and letting agents across Scotland will benefit from the changes.

Shelter Scotland campaigners were joined by MSPs (from left to right) Jim Hume MSP (Liberal Democrats), Housing Minister Margaret Burgess MSP (SNP), Patrick Harvie MSP (Scottish Green Party) and Ken Macintosh MSP (Scottish Labour) to celebrate ahead of the passing of the Bill

Shelter Scotland campaigners were joined by MSPs (from left to right) Jim Hume MSP (Liberal Democrats), Housing Minister Margaret Burgess MSP (SNP), Patrick Harvie MSP (Scottish Green Party) and Ken Macintosh MSP (Scottish Labour) to celebrate ahead of the passing of the Bill

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “We have long been campaigning to Make Renting Right in Scotland and are delighted to see this progressive and important Bill passed by the Scottish Parliament.

“This Bill represents the biggest move forward in private tenancy law in the last quarter of a century and we welcome many of the changes it contains. It will significantly rebalance the relationship between tenants and landlords to modernise and strengthen the rights of the growing number of private rented sector tenants in Scotland.

“The improved security of tenure for private renters and an easy to understand, modernised new tenancy will benefit landlords and tenants alike.

“The abolition of ‘no fault’ eviction combined with a flexible and secure tenancy will help families in particular put down roots in their communities and help people to stay in their home for as long as they need.”

Shelter Scotland says the private rented sector in Scotland has doubled over the last ten years and is now home to more than 330,000 households – 85,000 with children – and this growth and change in types of people living in the sector meant the tenancy regime needed a major overhaul.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, added: “This Bill will mean private tenants can feel much more secure about creating a home for themselves, particularly with the end of so-called ‘no fault eviction’. The private rented sector is growing in Scotland and these measures mean Scotland is again taking the lead in protecting people from the devastating effects of homelessness.

“Making sure access to the tribunal is free for tenants will also help more vulnerable tenants be able to access their legal rights if and when they need to.”

Scotland’s tenants’ union Living Rent hailed the legislation as the first steps for a growing tenants’ movement in Scotland.

Activists highlighted that while the fight for rent controls and better housing was far from over, they had managed to win a significant increase in security and flexibility for tenants, as well as put rent controls firmly on the agenda, with a clear commitment from the SNP, Labour and the Scottish Greens to implement rent controls in the future.

The organisation is about to launch its first membership drive, turning it into a nation-wide tenants’ union.

Liz Ely, Living Rent activist, said: “Today marks an incredible first step towards decent housing for Scotland’s private sector tenants and a huge relief to so many of us who are living in insecure rented housing. It shows that when people come together and get organised, we can change things for the better.

“An increasing number of Scots have to turn to the private rental markets to get a roof over their heads, but until now, the sector has essentially been a free for all with next to no security for tenants and hardly any rules for landlords. This new Bill will mean that tenants can no longer be kicked out of their homes for no reason, and will introduce some restraint to rent hikes – but we are still far off from the secure and professional rental markets many other European countries have.”