A COALITION of landlords are pushing forward with a legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s rent freeze.

In October last year, the Scottish Parliament passed emergency legislation which capped rent rises at 0% for six months, as well as a ban on evictions.

The Scottish Government announced earlier this week that the provisions will be extended for six months, until September, with rents during that period to be capped at 3%. The changes include the ability for landlords to appeal to rental officers if they wish to raise rents higher, but this was capped at 6%.

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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.

And now, a number of landlord associations have said that they have submitted a petition to the Court of Session in Edinburgh seeking a judicial review on the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Scotland Bill.

The Scottish Government said they were not aware of any current legal challenge to the legislation. 

The Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL), Scottish Land and Estates (SLE), and Propertymark, have argued that the law is “disproportionate and unfair”.

Meanwhile, Living Rent, Scotland's tenant's union, said the legal action showed landlords were not concerned about "fair pricing" as it shows intent to put up rents above the 3% cap. 

The National: Harvie sponsored the emergency legislation last yearHarvie sponsored the emergency legislation last year

The three groups say that rent controls apply “irrespective of the financial position of both the tenant and landlord”.

They also raised issues with the removal of the rent freeze from social housing, adding that the Scottish Government “acknowledges the need for maintenance of these properties but has not given the same consideration to landlords in the private sector”.

The rent freeze is also “discriminatory” and breaches the European Convention on Human Rights, the group added.

John Blackwood, SAL chief executive, said that the result of the rent freeze was “concerning” and said landlords were selling “loss making property” and therefore reducing housing supply.

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He added: “The ministerial statement in parliament last week and yesterday’s announcement make it perfectly clear the Scottish Government plans to continue with eviction ban and rent increase restrictions in the private rented sector beyond March 31.

“Landlords have had enough.

“We must stand united to protect our property rights by challenging this unfair legislation in court.”

Sarah-Jane Laing, SLE chief executive, claimed that the Scottish Government has sought to “unfairly penalise private landlords”.

She added: “The decision to submit this petition is not one that has been taken lightly. The announcement from the Minister is too little, too late and the figure of 3% appears to be plucked from thin air.

“For too long, the Scottish Government has sought to disregard evidence provided by the sector and has been reticent in recent months to engage in any form of constructive dialogue.”

"Landlords crying to the courts about the rent freeze despite being able to increase rents by 3% from March shows all their talk of ‘fair’ rent increases to be completely false.

Aditi Jehangir, secretary for Living Rent, said that landlords had been "hiking rents to completely unaffordable levels for years".

She told The National: "As their moaning legal attempt shows, landlords have never been concerned about the shortage of housing, homelessness, repairs or high rents, their only concern is profit at the expense of our basic need to live in safe, affordable, secure homes that we are not priced out of at a moment's notice. 

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"Their whingeing legal challenge reveals their anger at no longer being able to get away with it anymore.

"Their claim that they need to increase rents for repairs falls flat when over half of tenants are living in properties that have been in some state of disrepair for years."

Jehangir pointed out that low-income tenants currently spend more than half of their income on rent.

She added: "High energy and food bills and stagnant wages and now possible 3% rent increases is only adding to that perfect storm of economic misery. 

"This legal challenge shows the power that landlords wield over tenants that they are able to use the courts to try and force rent hikes on us.

"But we say enough is enough. Join your tenants union so together we can fight back."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the role of the private rented sector in providing homes for let, and acknowledge that some costs have been rising for landlords as well as tenants.

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“The emergency legislation passed by parliament requires us to keep measures under regular review.

"So, subject to the approval of parliament, we intend to allow landlords in the private sector to increase rents by up to 3%, or alternatively to apply to Rent Service Scotland for an increase of up to 6% to help cover defined cost increases associated with their let property.

“We are not aware of a legal action being served on the Scottish Ministers challenging the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act 2022.”