The Scottish Labour Party Leader, Richard Leonard, has revealed plans to implement rent controls and limit the power of private landlords north of the border, despite concerns that the proposals could cause more issues for tenants.
In his keynote speech to Scottish Labour’s spring conference on Saturday, Leonard detailed his vision to reshape the private rental sector in Scotland, including the introduction of a new Mary Barbour law to protect tenants.
The proposed Mary Barbour law is named after the Red Clydeside political activist who played a leading role in the rent strikes of 1915.
Leonard outlined how his party aims to introduce a private member’s bill that would create a new points-based system to enforce fair rents, ensuring that “no one is forced to rent a home that pushes them into poverty”.
Describing a home as a “basic fundamental human right”, Leonard explained that the points system would link rents to average wages and give tenants the power to challenge unfair prices.
Aside from giving tenants the power to challenge unfair rents, it would also enable “proper standards” for health and safety and energy efficiency on private rental properties to be imposed.
Leonard is not the first member of the Labour Party to propose rent controls.
Last year, Jeremy Corbyn proposed rent controls, which even housing charity Shelter warned could “exacerbate Britain’s housing crisis”.
Longer-term tenancies of five years and inflation-linked controls on rent price rises within those agreements is established Labour policy, but Corbyn told party members in Brighton in September that Labour would go further and directly limit rent prices, based on models adopted in other countries.
However, the Chief Executive of Shelter, Polly Neate, said that this would result in a reduction of rental properties on the market.
She explained: “What ends up happening is landlords will just sell because they can’t make any money.
“That actually exacerbates the crisis, because you end up with an even greater housing shortage.”
All landlords, letting agents and tenants should be aware of new tenancy rules in Scotland, which were introduced in December 2017.