THE private sector rent freeze in Scotland is set to be extended for another six months at least, tenants rights minister Patrick Harvie has said.

The emergency bill was passed in the last parliamentary term to stop landlords from raising rents during the cost-of-living crisis.

If any landlord does choose to increase private rent between April and September, this will be limited to 3% of the overall rent, Harvie said. In the initial bill, this was set at 0%. 

READ MORE: LIVE: Protesters target Edinburgh UK Government HQ over bill block

The safeguard for landlords who need to raise rents for the reasons set out in the legislation will be raised from 3% to 6% as a result.

Evictions will still be banned except in the limited circumstances under the bill, and the rent cap for student accommodation will be suspended "recognising its limited impact on annual rents set on the basis of an academic year".

The measures will be extended until September 30, with the option for a further six months extension still on the table.

The Scottish Government previously said in March that the social sector rent freeze will be replaced with agreements from landlords to keep any rent increase for 2023-24 well below inflation levels. 

MSPs will have to vote for the extension, but with support from both the SNP and Scottish Greens it is most likely to pass with ease. 

The National: Harvie told MSPs his intention to extend the rent freeze Harvie told MSPs his intention to extend the rent freeze (Image: NQ)

Harvie said: “Our emergency legislation has helped protect tenants facing the cost of living crisis. With many households still struggling with bills, it is clear that these protections are still needed to give tenants greater confidence about their housing costs and the security of a stable home. 

“While the primary purpose of the legislation is to support tenants, I recognise that costs have been rising for landlords too.

"That’s why we intend to allow those in the private sector to increase rents by up to 3%, with a continued safeguard allowing them to apply for larger increases to cover specified rising costs they might be seeing as landlords.

"By allowing increases in rent – capped well below inflation and limited to once per 12 months – we can continue protecting tenants from the minority of landlords who would impose unaffordable rent hikes. 

READ MORE: SNP president Michael Russell sees Twitter account suspended

“We will continue to carefully monitor the impacts of this legislation, working with tenants and landlords to protect them from this costs crisis.” 

Harvie confirmed the move in response to a question by SNP MSP Paul McLennan. 

In his response, the minister added: "Finally, the 2022 Programme for Government set out the intention to bring forward a new Housing Bill in 2023 and that exact timings would be kept under review, in light of our emergency work to support tenants through the costs crisis.

"Having reviewed that work and recognising the extension of our emergency legislation, the Scottish Government can confirm that it intends to introduce that Housing Bill – which will include long-term rent control measures – as soon as possible after the 2023 summer recess."

Ruth Gilbert, a spokesperson for tenant's unions Living Rent, criticised the move and said it showed the freeze was "never meant to support social tenants". 

"The government has thrown social tenants under the bus," she said. 
"The government needs to recognise that we are still in an emergency situation and tenants are facing crisis after crisis. Soaring energy bills and food bills combined with stagnant wages and now rent increases is a perfect storm for tenants. 

"The government is letting social landlords increase rent by up to 11%. Even the Tories in England are proposing to cap social rents below this.

"Tenants in social housing are among the most vulnerable to increases in costs and by the government's own admission, 63% of social households do not have the savings to cover next month's rent. Any rent increase will have a huge impact for tenants across the sector.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak apologises after removing seat belt in social media clip

"In the PRS, the government sanctioning the rent increase of 3% ignores the fundamental problem that rent was already completely unaffordable before the rent freeze. Tenants simply can not afford any rent increases, tenants need rent controls to bring rents down before the government removes the rent freeze."

Meanwhile, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) welcomed the changes and said it would allow them to keep social rents affordable.

Sally Thomas, SFHA chief executive, said: “Housing associations are supporting tenants throughout the cost of living crisis and are doing all they can to reduce poverty across Scotland.

"This legislation means our members can continue to set affordable rents in an open and transparent way, involving tenants in decisions on services, maintenance and management for the upcoming year and continuing their essential work on building much-needed new affordable homes.   

 “A rent freeze could have removed more than £200 million of investment from building new social homes, maintaining existing ones and helping people in their tenancies, while making little difference to individual tenants’ incomes.

"Investing in good quality, warm homes for social rent is crucial to tackling poverty in Scotland and protecting all tenants from the increasing cost of living.”