Labour proposes new rent law in Scotland

by Gary Whittaker

The Labour Party is pushing for new rules in Scotland to control the level of rents landlords and letting agents can impose.

Proposing his "Mary Barbour law", the new Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard told the party's Scottish conference in Dundee it would be part of a wider plan to "fundamentally change" the economic system, arguing that "our economy needs less market and more planning".

Mary Barbour was a famous 'Red Clydeside' activist, who led a strike over rents in Glasgow in 1915. A statue of her was unveiled last week in the Govan area of the city.

The plans Mr Leonard attached her name to are to be presented at Holyrood as a member's bill, with its provisions including a points-based 'fair rents' system, the establishment of a link between rents and average pay in an area and the imposition of "proper standards" for health and safety and energy efficiency in the private rental sector. 

According to the bill's proponents, the problem with the Private Rented (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act, which came into force in December last year, is that it contains loopholes by which landlords can evade rent-capping.  

Mr Leonard said: "The Mary Barbour law will regulate the private rented sector to ensure that no one is forced to rent a home that pushes them into poverty or falls below the standards needed to protect their physical and mental health and well-being." 

The bill is unlikely to succeed. Labour is currently the third largest party in Scotland, meaning it will lack the numbers to push it through.  

According to a recent Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) Propertymark members survey, the new law is already having an impact. It found 44 per cent of Scottish tenants saw their rents rise in January this year, compared with 19 per cent across the UK as a whole.

ARLA suggested this was clear evidence of landlords taking pre-emptive action in anticipation of the possible imposition of rent controls under the new law.

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12-March-18Legal News