LANDLORDS are seeking legal advice to overturn the rent freeze and eviction ban introduced by the Scottish Government just a week after it was introduced.

MSPs passed the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill as emergency legislation, moving through Holyrood at an accelerated pace of just three days, on Thursday October 6.

The move will cap rent rises at 0% until March 31, with Scottish ministers allowed to extend the legislation for two six-month periods, as well as placing a ban on evictions.

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But a provision in the Bill will allow landlords to raise rents by up to 3% if their property costs increase, provided it is no higher than 50% of the rise in costs.

And now, a coalition of landlords and letting agents have announced plans to seek a legal opinion on the legislation - including to see if it breaches their human rights.

A tenants union have decried the move, saying it shows landlords “can’t be trusted to do the right thing”, adding that rent controls should be introduced the moment the freeze ends to stop a hike in rent prices.

It comes after a report from CityLets revealed that rents in Scotland had gone up by 61.7% across Scotland in the past decade and by 44.8% in the past five years. The average price for a one-bedroom property is now £680, for two bedrooms £915, for three bedrooms £1292, and for four bedrooms £1931. The price of a two-bedroom rose by 9.6% in the space of a year. 

The coalition – which includes the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL), Propertymark, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), and Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) – has instructed Lord Davidson KC to deliver an opinion. The National: The rent freeze bill was passed in three daysThe rent freeze bill was passed in three days (Image: NQ)

Baron Davidson of Glen Cova served as the Advocate General for Scotland, the UK Government’s adviser on Scots law, between 2006 and 2010 under Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

John Blackwood, chief executive of the SAL, said the action is being taken “with a heavy heart”.

He added: “Seeking a legal opinion has been our last resort because our concerns are not being listened to by the Scottish Government.

“This emergency legislation is high-minded in spirit but lacking in the kind of detail landlords need assurance about.

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“Uncertainty for landlords only creates ambiguity for tenants, and I do not think the Government appreciates the level of confusion it has now created.

“We have repeatedly said we are all willing to work with the Scottish Government and ministers. This is a tough time, but that does not excuse ill-designed legislation that may be the final straw for the private rented sector.

“We are gravely concerned that in a bid to do something to help tenants, the Scottish Government has forgotten the underlying stresses in the private rental sector that we have been warning about for years.”

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of SLE, which represents some of the largest providers of housing in rural Scotland, said: “Mr [Patrick] Harvie repeatedly claimed that the Bill achieves the balance between tenants’ and landlords’ rights to ensure legislative competence, but we do not share his views.

The National: CityLets latest report showed the extent of rental increasesCityLets latest report showed the extent of rental increases (Image: CityLets)

“The acute shortage of properties available for rent in rural Scotland is stark and such legislation will only exacerbate the situation – to the detriment of the rural economy and communities.”

The NRLA claimed the legislation would “exacerbate a supply crisis”, while Propertymark voiced concerns over “rushed consultation” before the legislation was published.

Aditi Jehangir, a spokesperson for Living Rent Scotland's tenants union, said: “Seeking to overturn the rent freeze and eviction ban on the grounds of their ‘right to unchecked profit’ demonstrates the complete disregard that landlords have for the lives of tenants and our fundamental right to housing.

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“When we see landlords and letting agents throwing their toys out of the pram when they can no longer continue to profit off tenants without restraint, that confirms our belief that regulations are essential.”

Jehangir added that the move showed, “we clearly cannot trust them to do the right thing”.

She added: “As the report from CityLets yesterday demonstrates, landlord’s pursuit of profit is pushing tenants to breaking point.

“Rent controls need to be brought in the second the rent freeze ends, otherwise we have seen that landlords will simply hike up rents the moment when they cease to be regulated, driving tenants further into poverty.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said: “Improving tenants’ rights was a key part of our party’s manifesto commitments, and this Bill has been designed to do exactly that during this cost of living crisis.” 

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Bill addresses the cost-of-living crisis by increasing protection for tenants, including student tenants, from eviction and rent rises.

“The measures will apply initially until March next year.

“We will keep their impact on the wider property market under review during that time.

“The legislation has been carefully designed to balance the protections that are urgently needed for tenants with important safeguards for those landlords who may also be impacted by the cost crisis and face financial hardship.”