THE Scottish Government has hit back at claims that planned tenancy reforms will threaten the supply of homes for rent, saying that the proposals will “ensure tenants are treated fairly”.

In an open letter to Covid recovery secretary and Deputy First Minister John Swinney, the Scottish Association of Landlords, Scottish Land & Estates and NFU Scotland this week objected to tenancy proposals within the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill.

The bill would make permanent the conditions introduced early in the pandemic, whereby evictions could only be carried out under special circumstances approved by a tribunal. Under the proposed reforms, a tribunal would rule on every instance where a landlord attempted to end a tenancy.

The letter states: “Instead of safeguarding the wider interests of tenants, what is more likely to happen is that a great many properties will be withdrawn from the market and sold at a time when there is a pressing need for rental homes.”

However, the Scottish Government has responded by arguing that the bill will simply make the private rented sector abide by the same rules as other housing providers.

A Scottish Government spokesperson told The National: “All eviction grounds have been discretionary for council and housing association tenancies for 20 years – this Bill will place the private sector on a similar footing as part of our aim to develop a more unified approach across all forms of renting.

“Giving the Tribunal discretion does not prevent a landlord from taking action if that is necessary – it simply means a Tribunal can take into account all of the circumstances of both landlords and tenants relating to a case before making a decision.

“Good landlords recognise the case for keeping tenants in their homes where possible, so adding a final check from the Tribunal will support responsible management, recognise financial and other pressures that tenants can face and help prevent homelessness."

The spokesperson added: “Over the last 20 years, there have been a range of necessary changes to the private rented sector aimed at improving quality and accountability and, although stakeholders have often warned that such changes would lead to a reduction in supply of private rented homes, the private rented sector has more than doubled over that time.

“Our policies continue to seek improvements in the sector to ensure tenants are treated fairly and can access good quality properties and we will continue to seek views.”

Also commenting, Meg Bishop, secretary of the Living Rent tenants’ union, told The National: “Landlords claiming to represent the interests of their tenants is farcical. Time and time again they lobby against the interests of renters as soon as legislation comes close to harming their profits. Right now, it comes as no surprise that landlords are trying everything they can to blackmail the Scottish Government. They are making astronomic profits under the current legislation, and they don't want to see anything change. 

“But tenants and communities up and down Scotland are suffering. Recent statistics have shown eye-watering rent increases, and coupled with spiralling bills, tenants are being pushed to breaking point and beyond. Government ministers need to confront an unavoidable choice and pick a side. Either they side with landlords and developers, and damn tenants to even worse poverty and misery, or they do what is needed and bring in meaningful, strong rent controls and greater protections, notably by extending the emergency measures that were put in place during pandemic times.

“Tenants – and voters – won't forgive them if they make the wrong call."

A Stage 1 debate on the Bill is scheduled to take place at the Scottish Parliament on 12 May.