THE Scottish Government has proposed temporary rent controls as a cap and eviction moratorium is due to end.

Emergency legislation passed in 2022 to limit the impact of the cost of- living crisis on renters will expire in April after a number of extensions.

In October last year, legislation was introduced to temporarily freeze rent increases for private and social tenants, and for student accommodation with the cap set at 0% from September 6 until at least March 31, 2023.

In response to the act ending on April 1, Tenants Rights’ Minister Patrick Harvie has announced plans to temporarily change the rent adjudication process until April 1, 2025.

READ MORE: Scottish rent controls to limit landlords to 3 per cent rises

How the changes affect your rent depends on your landlord and the open market value of the  property you stay in.

  • Social landlords are required to keep any rent increases below inflation in 2023-24.
  • The rent cap for student accommodation has been suspended after the Scottish Government said it had a “limited impact” on annual rent set on the basis of the academic year.
  • Private landlords will be able to increase rent 6% or less, provided the total rent is not more than market value.

What do the changes mean for my rent?

If the gap between the rent currently being paid by the tenant and its value on the open market is more than 6%, the landlord will be allowed to increase the rent by 0.33% for every percentage point it is above that level, capped at a total of 12%.

For example, if a landlord sets a new rent which is 5% higher than the current rent - this would be allowed as long as the new rent does not exceed the open market value.

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If this tenant took the case to rent adjudication and the open market rent value was confirmed at this 5% level or above, then the rent increase of 5% would be approved.

The proposals are designed to allow landlords to return their rent prices to the open market value, while also allowing tenants to apply to Rent Service Scotland or to the First-tier Tribunal if they feel the increase is unwarranted.

Landlords need to give you at least three months’ notice before the rent increase comes into effect and your landlord can only increase the rent once a year.

What can I do if my landlord increases my rent?

If your landlord wants to increase the rent, you are entitled to raise concerns with them or an agent and apply to a rent officer at Rent Service Scotland, or to the First-tier Tribunal if applicable, for a rent adjudication.

For example, if a landlord set a new rent which was to be 15% higher than the current rent and the tenant took the case to rent adjudication where it was confirmed that the open market value was 24% or higher than the current rent - then the rent increase would be set at an increase of 12% higher than existing rent.

What are the changes to rent adjudication?

From April 1 onwards, subject to parliamentary approval, the process for rent adjudication will temporarily be modified for one year.

Any tenant who wishes to dispute a rent increase notice can apply for rent adjudication. In such cases, Rent Service Scotland or the First-tier Tribunal will set rent based on the lowest of the following three figures:

  • the open market rate
  • the rent requested by the landlord
  • a comparator based on the difference between the market rate and current rent

Can I be evicted?

Previously, a moratorium on evictions was in place. From April 1, the extra eviction protections will also come to an end.

READ MORE: Scottish university town sees rents rise by up to 100 per cent

If you have been illegally evicted, you can take your landlord to the First Tier Tribunal.

You can find more on how the eviction process works on Shelter Scotland's website.

What do housing activists say?

Secretary of Living Rent Aditi Jehangir told The National: "These transitional measures away from the rent cap are unworkable. They will push tenants to the edge.

"For the Government to suggest unregulated open market rents or the landlord’s proposed increase as viable options highlights how detached the Scottish Government are from our lives.

"Rent has risen far beyond inflation over the last decade, we just can’t take on any further hikes."

LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST: Living Rent vows to fight for Scottish rent controls as prices soar

Jehangir called the formula for calculating possible rent increases "incomprehensible", and added: "The process puts the onus on the tenant to regulate their landlord. Many will be unaware of this complicated system and landlords will be able to impose any increase they like on tenants.

"Because of this, tenants will be forced to pay through the nose for astronomical increases. The Government needs to take the situation seriously and come up with new strong emergency legislation rather than these unworkable proposals."

What does the Scottish Government say?

A policy document published alongside the Scottish Government’s draft regulations said: “Any changes made to the adjudication process would be intended to smooth the transition out of the rent cap and protect tenants from steep rent increases which could be experienced if there is a sudden move to open market rent from rent levels that have been suppressed.”

The National:

Harvie said: “Our emergency legislation has led the way in the UK in capping in-tenancy rent increases, protecting tenants across Scotland from the worst impacts of the cost-of-living crisis.

“However, Parliament set a final deadline for these temporary protections to come to an end from April 1, 2024.

“From April 1 we are proposing temporary changes to the way rents are decided when tenants challenge a rent increase to provide a level of protection for private tenants which remains far greater than anywhere else in the UK.

“It will also enable landlords to react to an increase in costs and reinvest in our private rented sector.

“At the same time, we are committed to bringing in a long-term system of rent controls and creating new rights for tenants through our forthcoming Housing Bill.”

Scottish Greens housing spokesperson Ariane Burgess added: “The new rules will act as a bridge out of the emergency period and while the Scottish Government puts the finishing touches to its housing bill, which I expect soon. 

“That bill will put in place long-term rent controls and other new tenancy rights and cement Scotland’s leading role in the UK on radical renting reform.”