Margaret Burgess: Housing bill offers clarity

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Scotland’s private rented housing sector is growing in size and significance. Private landlords are playing a valuable role in helping a wide range of households meet their housing needs. In total about 150,000 of them provide homes to more than 700,000 people, including many families.

The Scottish Government welcomes the contribution good landlords make to the sector but also recognises tenants too often do not feel secure or stable in their home, and there is a need for security and predictability of rent for all parties. We know too that some aspects of the current system in terms of rights and responsibilities could be simpler and updated. We concluded some time ago that these problems would be solved only by fundamental change to the current tenancy system. Therefore we embarked on a lengthy consultation process with tenants and landlords. This has culminated in the Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill published yesterday. The Bill creates a simple, easy to understand, private tenancy that from 2017 will govern all new tenancies let in Scotland, providing landlords and tenants with clarity and certainty on their rights and responsibilities.

The Bill gives all tenants greater security and stability of tenure over their homes, by introducing modern protection for landlords for repossessing their property, for example if they want to sell or move in themselves. This change means tenants will get greater security in their home without the threat of eviction after the tenancy ends, while creating further reassurance for landlords that their tenants will treat their property as a long term home, and not a temporary stop-over. It also gives tenants predictability over rent increases by requiring landlords to give at least 12 weeks’ notice before a rent increase, and limiting the number of increases to no more than one a year.

The Bill also provides a mechanism that will allow local authorities to limit rent increases in areas where excessive rises are causing real hardship.

The changes we are introducing are fair, balanced, and will bring benefits to both landlords and tenants. Our Bill is much needed to provide Scotland with a private sector tenancy that reflects the needs of this growing sector and is fit for our times.

Margaret Burgess MSP is the Housing Minister