THIS year saw the rise of the great landlord lobby once again, throwing absolutely everything they can at undermining and sabotaging even the most minor protections for tenants in Scotland.

The landlord lobby first flexed its muscles in early spring, by launching a legal challenge against the Scottish government's emergency rent freeze.

In May, Scotland’s short-term let landlords raised an unprecedented £300,000 to challenge Edinburgh City Council’s licensing scheme. Now, they are at it again.

The latest story: new market rents are still increasing despite the Scottish Government’s rent cap. Therefore, they say, all regulation is bad and the government should just let the invisible hand of the market fix the housing crisis.

Landlords are using rising rent prices – prices that they raised! – to argue that the government’s rent cap has been a failure.

This latest attempt by landlords to protect their interests at all cost needs debunked.

The free market, and the privatisation of housing, is the cause of this crisis - not the solution.

Landlords have shown time and time again that they simply cannot be trusted to protect the interests of tenants. So let’s be clear about what is actually happening, and what tenants really need.

Across the UK, tenants are facing a rapidly-worsening housing crisis. Rents have continued to spiral, and more and more tenants are now struggling to afford their home, official statistics show.

According to a Zoopla report in June, rents have reached their highest level in a decade.

Average rents in the private sector now account for 28.3% of average pre-tax earnings.

Though the worst places for affordability are London, the South East, South West and East regions in England, Scotland’s largest cities top the charts of new market rent increases this quarter.

According to some reports, Edinburgh has seen the greatest average rent increases anywhere in the UK.

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Some nuance here is helpful, as the numbers quoted by landlords only take into account new market rents, rather than all rents. Looking at all rent levels would produce a very different picture.

Tenants across England and Wales have faced both hikes between tenancies and hikes in tenancies, with many facing increases of as much as 50%. At the very least, in Scotland we’ve been protected from rent increases within our tenancies.

Regardless of this, as tenants, our reality is one of a crisis. It's a relentless competition to pay for eye-watering rents.

It’s being blackmailed by our landlords to accept an increase or face eviction. It’s living with mould and damp. It’s being too scared to report disrepairs in case our landlord retaliates. It's therefore obscene to watch landlords using our very real daily struggles to undermine what little protections we have.

There is no avoiding the obvious here: it is not the Scottish Government that is hiking rents up – it is landlords.

They are doing this to further line their pockets, of course, but also as part of a campaign of blackmail against the government, demanding they reverse any protections we have.

Their position is effectively this: ‘If you dare touch our profits and our sacred property rights, we will make you - and tenants - pay for it.’

But this fundamentally anti-democratic attack must be resisted. The Scottish Government must step up and acknowledge that landlords are only interested in their bottom line – no matter how they sugarcoat it.

Day in, day out, we see landlords squeeze every penny out of tenants, refusing to carry out the most urgent repairs, evicting tenants, and strong-arming tenants into accepting massive rent increases with threats and abuse.

Scotland is one of the most profitable places for landlords to operate. Whatever they say in public, they admit this in private.

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The reason why rents continue to rise is rooted in the deep crisis of how our economy is structured, putting the needs of profits over people.

The last forty years have seen dogmatic free-marketism leading to the mass privatisation of our housing stock through Margaret Thatcher’s disastrous Right To Buy, the slashing of funds to build and renovate social and public housing and the throwing of eye-watering sums of public money at private landlords through the social security system.

The Government's failure to introduce commonsense regulations, the norm in countries across Europe and the rest of the world, is the reason why we tenants can’t afford our homes and landlords continue their bullish behaviour.

The obvious fact is this: these rent increases aren’t happening because of too much regulation, they’re happening because the regulation is too weak.

As the Scottish Government moves from these emergency measures to a permanent system of rent controls, that lesson must be learned. Landlords will exploit any loophole we give them: let’s not give them any.