Mary Barbour law set for consultation

by Gary Whittaker

The Scottish government is to launch a consultation on the imposition of a 'Mary Barbour law', which would establish new mechanisms to control rents. 

Mary Barbour was a famous 'Red Clydeside' activist who led a rent strike in 1915 in a protest against increases to private rents in Glasgow. A statue of her was recently unveiled in the Govan area of the city.

The law named after her would be created as a result of a Member's Bill at Holyrood, drawn up by Pauline McNeill MSP, Scottish Labour's housing spokesperson. 

Its provisions will include a new points-based system designed to enforce 'fair' rents, a link between rent levels and local wages to ensure affordability, a right for tenants to challenge rents or seek reductions and provisions to ensure all private rental properties meet the legal standards for both health and safety and energy efficiency. 

Ms McNeil remarked: “I have framed the proposal as a Member’s Bill and I am working with the Scottish Parliament’s Non-Governmental Bill Unit to make sure Labour can bring about the transformation in the private rental sector that is so badly needed."

She argued that private sector rents are "rising way above inflation while people’s wages and household incomes are either stagnant or falling," which is creating more poverty and making renting hard to afford. 

Landlords and letting agencies may be keen to take part in the consultation, as they are already facing legal curbs on rents as a result of the Scottish government's own Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act, which came into effect on December 1st last year. Its provisions include restricting the frequency with which rents can be increased to once a year. 

Mary Barbour's strike in 1915 was successful, as munitions minister David Lloyd George, who was to become prime minister the following year, intervened to ensure the rent increases were reversed. Ms Barbour was later to be elected as a councillor in Govan.

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26-March-18General Lettings News