The end of the emergency rent cap will not lead to an “immediate cliff edge” for private tenants, the minister responsible for the legislation has said.
Tenants’ rights minister Patrick Harvie gave evidence to the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee on Tuesday amid intentions to extend the private sector rent cap for a final time until March 31 2024.
Committee MSPs approved the regulations by four votes to two, meaning the vast majority of private sector rent increases will continue to be capped at 3%.
Landlords can currently apply for an increase of up to 6% in exception circumstances and a suspension remains on the majority of evictions.
But Harvie reassured MSPs the Scottish Government would “bridge the gap” for tenants once the emergency legislation expires.
The Scottish Government said it recognises landlords may seek to increase rents all at once following the expiration of the Cost of Living (Tenants Protection) Act, and has therefore got the power to put rent adjudication procedures in place to facilitate the transition.
The exact measures are set to be confirmed by ministers prior to the end of the legislation.
Harvie told the committee: “The idea of that is to prevent an immediate cliff edge of when the emergency legislation ultimately is switched off.
“We are still at the point of exploring the options to make the most effective use of this power.”
He added: “The end of this emergency legislation would not be the end of tenant protection, not by a long way, we would return to a position where tenants have a high level of legal rights and protections that existed prior to this legislation.”
Harvie also said evidence suggested the rent cap had not led to increased homelessness applications from private tenants, after Tory MSP Miles Briggs referenced reports which suggested soaring homelessness rates.
Figures published by freedom of information earlier this month showed a 74% increase in homelessness applications in 2022/23 because of rent arrears.
However, Harvie said the government’s bilateral homelessness statistics showed a “significant reduction” in the number of private tenants seeking homelessness applications, with 2,200 such application in October 2022 to March 2023, compared to 2,990 in the previous six months.
He said: “I think the evidence is pretty clear that this legislation has given the additional protection that has been necessary in particular to those living in the private rented sector.”
Following the committee’s approval, Mr Briggs, who opposed the extension alongside fellow Tory MSP Pam Gosal, said: “Despite clear evidence that his rent cap policy has backfired, Patrick Harvie is ploughing ahead regardless.
“That is typical of the arrogance of this SNP-Green government. Patrick Harvie insisted that this would help people most in need but the reality has been soaring rent increases for many tenants and those seeking to move.
“Major housebuilding developments have also been put on hold as a result of the Green minister being wedded to this misguided rent control policy.
“His dogmatic stance is happening at a time when the SNP-Green government are continuing to preside over a housing crisis across Scotland.
“Affordable housing approvals have hit their lowest level in a decade and the number of new homes started is the lowest since 2016. That is an appalling record at a time when homelessness is surging and a record number of kids are living in temporary accommodation.
“Patrick Harvie and the SNP-Green government must accept that the time has come to adopt a new strategy to deliver the homes Scotland needs, rather than doubling down on failed policies.”