Some landlords have behaved “disgracefully” during the pandemic, MSPs have heard, hiking up rents and refusing to carry out repairs on properties.
More measures are needed to tackle above-inflation rent rises which are swallowing up tenants’ income, Holyrood’s Local Government committee was told.
The committee was hearing evidence on the Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill, proposed by Labour MSP Pauline McNeill, which would prevent private landlords from increasing rents by more than the CPI measure of inflation plus 1%.
Gordon Maloney, national committee member of tenants’ organisation Living Rent, said coronavirus had exposed the lack of power tenants had in their relationships with landlords.
He said: “In the Scottish Association of Landlords’ response, they cite a handful of examples of cases where landlords have been fairly generous with their tenants.
“We could cite just as many examples of cases where landlords have frankly acted disgracefully – hiking rents, refusing to make repairs, treating tenants appallingly over the course of the last 12 months.”
He said the system of rent pressure zones introduced in 2016 had not led to substantial changes for tenants.
Any moves to curb rents should consider the fact that rents have been rising above inflation by around 40% over the last decade in places like Glasgow and Edinburgh, he said.
Mr Maloney said: “Having a cap of inflation plus 1%, there’s a very real risk that that acts as an incentive and for that reason we would support a stronger measure that imposes stricter limits in some places.
“If one of the consequences of reducing rents is that landlords choose to sell properties, perhaps to families currently renting who would much rather buy, I think that’s something we should welcome and embrace.”
John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, also gave evidence to the committee on Wednesday.
He said government needed to collect better data on rents which were actually being charged in the sector.
Mr Blackwood said: “My concern is that actually this Bill will just further exasperate that, we believe it will result in higher rent and more frequent rent increase.”
McNeill, a member of the committee, asked Mr Blackwood why private rent increases had been higher than inflation for Greater Glasgow and the Lothians over the past decade.
He said an affordable social housing sector was needed so private accommodation could become “the sector of choice rather than last resort”.
Costs of repairs could exceed inflation, he said, adding: “Any link to CPI as suggested within the Bill is almost irrelevant to actually what landlords need to invest in the property.”