STUC urges Scottish Government to adopt Fair Rents Bill

STUC urges Scottish Government to adopt Fair Rents Bill

Rozanne Foyer

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has criticised the “inequities” in the Scottish Government’s support provided to private landlords over renters, and called for it to do more to redesign Scotland’s private rental sector.

The organisation has written to housing minister Kevin Stewart MSP in support of Pauline McNeil MSP’s Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill, legislation that the STUC said would begin to address the power imbalance between tenants and private landlords by introducing mechanisms that will allow tenants to appeal their rents.

Capping rent rises at 1% above inflation, the Bill would also require landlords to register rent levels, creating over time a comprehensive database of rents.

In the letter, general secretary Rozanne Foyer said the STUC was “extremely disappointed” that the Bill was “blocked by SNP and Tory members of Holyrood’s local government committee”.

“While short-term measures were put in place to prevent evictions during the COVID-19 crisis, there are currently no other active proposals currently proposed to support renters,” Ms Foyer said.

The letter added: “With precarious work increasing, and low pay remaining endemic, many workers are facing a triple of whammy of a fall in relative wages, increases in rent and high fuel bills.

“The coronavirus crisis has laid bare these pre-existing inequalities and the urgency to bring forward a new housing policy with fairness for renters at its core has never been greater. So far, support for renters has been woefully inadequate. During this pandemic, landlords have been able to enjoy mortgage holidays, while renters have simply been left in the dark and advised to negotiate with their landlords over missed rent.”

In addition to supporting the Bill, the STUC urged the Scottish Government to put in place an extended eviction ban until next year, something which moved a step closer following an announcement during yesterday’s FMQs.

Ms Foyer added: “Workers in Scotland have been the backbone of society during the coronavirus crisis, they do not deserve to have to worry about rent increases, evictions, and homelessness on top of their worries about their health and livelihoods.

“We have an opportunity to begin to re-address the imbalance of power between renters and landlords, squandering this opportunity would have dire consequences for Scotland’s workers and communities.”

The Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill has been lodged with the Scottish Parliament but the local government committee decided to discontinue its passage, saying it could not allocate the appropriate amount of time to provide proper scrutiny.

Govan Law Centre has said it will seek a judicial review into the committee’s closed-doors decision not to consider the bill further.

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