HOLYROOD will today vote on whether to introduce an emergency rent freeze to help ease the cost-of-living burden on “hard-pressed” tenants.

MSPs have been urged to back a move to introduce temporary price controls ahead of the planned introduction of permanent measures which will come into force in 2025 if the Scottish Government follows through on plans outlined last year.

Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba, who represents the north east region, has introduced amendments to the Covid Recovery and Reform (Scotland) bill being debated on Tuesday.

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She has urged SNP and Green MSPs to back her changes which would introduce rent controls for three years until the Scottish Government implements its plans.

But the Scottish Greens have said Labour’s proposal is “unworkable” and would leave the Government open to legal challenge.

The National understands SNP members will vote against the amendment.

Waiting to act until 2025 would leave tenants “without any protection from rent increases in the months ahead”, Villalba said.

She added: “There's widespread support in Scotland, and across the political divide at Holyrood for a rent freeze, to support hard-pressed tenants facing soaring rents during the cost-of-living crisis.

"The Scottish Trades Union Congress, as well as figures from civic Scotland, the voluntary sector, and many campaigners, have voiced their support for action to prevent landlords hiking up rents for poverty-stricken tenants. 

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"I hope that a majority of MSPs, including those from the SNP and Greens, support bringing in a temporary rent freeze, while we await the introduction of the permanent system of rental controls that the Scottish Government has promised.

"With just days to go before the parliamentary summer recess, we cannot leave tenants without any protection from rent increases in the months ahead, as the cost-of-living crisis caused by the Tory government at Westminster deepens.

"That’s why the Scottish Parliament must do its bit for tenants and vote today for a rent freeze.”

A Scottish Greens spokesman said: “The Scottish Green Party is leading the way across the UK in introducing the biggest improvement in renters’ rights for decades as part of our new deal for tenants.

“Our deal will introduce a national system of rent controls, stronger protections against eviction, allow tenants to keep pets, and decorate their homes.

“The Labour amendment to the Coronavirus Recovery and Reform Bill is unworkable and would place the whole Bill, including hard-won extra protections against evictions, at risk of successful legal challenge.”

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on rent control plans and a raft of other measures to support tenants.

Patrick Harvie, the Greens co-leader and tenants’ rights minister, put forward the proposals in December last year.

They are expected to be included in a housing bill, as well as plans to introduce a private rented sector regulator and improve standards in rented home, which is thought to be introduced in 2023.

Some are worried the Government is failing to tackle rising rents quickly enough, with prices increasing on average by 8.5% on last year across the country.

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In Edinburgh, one of the UK’s most expensive cities, rents increased by 14% since 2021.

Tenants’ union Living Rent has urged the Scottish Government to introduce rent controls without delay.

It comes after landlords yesterday warned restricting their ability to evict tenants, another key element of the bill on the table in Tuesday’s debate, would limit the number of properties on the market.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a moratorium on tenant evictions, except in special circumstances approved by a tribunal.

Housing organisations said the Bill seeks to make this change permanent, with a tribunal asked to rule on every instance where a landlord has legitimate reasons for ending a tenancy, including non-payment of rent.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said while ministers "fully recognise" the impact of the cost of living crisis, Labour's amendment was not the solution. 

They added: "The ‘quick-fix’ rent freeze proposed through this amendment is unworkable and would have a high risk of being struck down by the courts.

"Bringing in an effective law to tackle rising rents means gathering detailed evidence and assembling views, rather than bringing in an amendment that hasn’t been consulted on and with little time for scrutiny.

"We are already taking forward priority work to introduce rent controls during this Parliament, but are doing so in a robust way that will give long-lasting benefits to tenants."