A message from SAL chief executive John Blackwood.

During the past week emergency legislation to bring in restrictions on evictions and rent increases, entitled the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill, has been debated by parliament.

The SNP and Green Party have put political rhetoric ahead of achieving real improvements in Scotland’s housing sector. Rushed, ill-thought-out legislation such as eviction bans and a rent increase freeze plus mortgage interest rate rises are all making it harder than ever to be a landlord in Scotland. The government is causing, or at the very least exacerbating, a housing crisis.

While we do finally have details of how the rent increase freeze and eviction ban will work, we remain in disagreement with this policy and all options remain open including the potential of legal action.

During the debate, it was encouraging to see some MSPs take landlords’ concerns seriously and SAL was mentioned in the debate on a number of occasions.

In summary:

Graham Simpson MSP stated “John Blackwood, from the Scottish Association of Landlords, is a mild-mannered man who, until now, has never been party political in all the time that I have known him. He says: ‘With this Bill, the SNP and Greens have put political rhetoric ahead of measures that would achieve real results in solving Scotland’s housing crisis … They have neglected the housing sector in Scotland, leaving it to crumble.’ He calls the bill ‘irresponsible’, and he is right.”

Murdo Fraser MSP commented “I can understand that the Scottish Government, in response to the rising cost of living, thought that it was clever politics to bring in a six-month rent freeze to apply until the end of March next year, but it seems that it did not consider that that would exacerbate the difficulties that we have already seen in the private rented sector. John Blackwood, the chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said that, in response to what was announced by the Government, he had been ‘inundated by landlords saying they will be removing their vacant properties from the rental market’. The consequence of the bill will be to reduce still further the availability of properties in the private rented sector, leaving students and others in an increasingly desperate situation. It is simply unbelievable that we have a Scottish Government and a minister who are so arrogant that they cannot see what the outcome of their actions will be. At least we heard from Michelle Thomson, on the SNP benches, a recognition that there will be an impact on the supply of properties if the bill goes through.

SAL put forward amendments to the bill to reduce its scope and impact but although these were debated in parliament they were not approved by MSPs.

Disappointingly 89 MSPs voted to approve the bill and only 27 supported us in voting against the bill becoming law. The new legislation will come into force within the next few days and brings in the following changes:

  1. Evictions – landlords can still serve notice to end a tenancy on any eviction ground but enforcement of eviction orders granted by the tribunal will be delayed by up to 6 months other than in certain exempt cases. We welcome new eviction grounds being added to enable a landlord to evict tenants without being captured by the restrictions, in cases of landlords needing to sell or move in to alleviate financial hardship and for substantial rent arrears, but these safeguards don’t go far enough.
  2. Rent increases – in most cases a cap of 0% will apply to a rent increase notice served on or after 6 September 2022, effectively a rent increase freeze.

For further details on the legislation please read the SAL factsheet hereThe factsheet will be edited over the coming days once the commencement date of the legislation is known and links to new and updated forms for serving notice or applying for rent increases are made available by the government.

The Scottish Government is required to review the legislation on a three-monthly basis to ensure it is still necessary and proportionate in connection with the cost of living. We therefore encourage members affected by this legislation to write to their MSPs (as some members already have) explaining their situation and how the new legislation is affecting them. You can find contact details for your MSP here. Please copy us in to any correspondence with your MSP.

Next steps

SAL is now considering the detail of the bill that has passed and taking legal advice on whether a legal challenge to the legislation has a reasonable prospect of success. Obtaining legal opinion on a complex matter like this usually takes several weeks. As soon as that is available we will notify members of our next steps.

Not yet a member and need individual help and advice?
The very best advice I can give to you today is to join our association to add your voice, and crucially your membership fee to our campaign. As a member you will gain access to trusted information and individual assistance with your situation.

Only by working together as an industry can we fully represent you and all Scottish landlords. SAL membership information is online here – there are many other benefits to membership, some of which should more than pay you back your membership fee.

Kind regards

John Blackwood

SAL chief executive