Most Scots back rent caps to tackle soaring costs in hotspots

Most Scots back the introduction of rent controls to cap soaring housing costs in property hotspots like Edinburgh, new research has found.

And almost half of voters would be more likely to support a candidate for election if they back limits on rents, the study by Survation for tenants’ union Living Rent finds. This compares to 11 per cent who say they would be less likely to.

High rents are a particular issue in the capital where the council is exploring the introduction caps through a Rent Pressure Zone, under new laws passed at Holyrood.

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But campaigners say these have been a “failure” with no council having yet applied them. They are now calling on the Scottish Government to follow the lead of countries across Europe by introducing a meaningful cap to protect tenants.

Calls have been made for a cap on rents in Scottish hotspots

Gordon Maloney, from Living Rent, said: “These figures should be a wake-up call to the Scottish Government. Rent controls are enormously popular, and it is no surprise – far too many tenants across the country are being forced into poverty by sky-high rents.

“Now we need urgent action. If politicians turn a blind eye to the housing crisis, voters will not forgive them.”

More than 1,000 adults living in Scotland took part in the poll. Among those who vote SNP, support was at 85 per cent for rent controls.

Living Rent argued in a recent report that new “rent pressure zone” powers have failed to protect tenants, and it said the Scottish Government must now move towards “proper, nationwide rent controls”.

Since launching the report, almost 17,000 people have signed a petition backing the demand on the 38 Degrees website.

A new private residential tenancy was introduced in December 2017, Housing minister Kevin Stewart says this provides a range of measures to help tackle high rents, including limiting rent increases to once in 12 months, with three months’ notice required, enabling tenants to challenge unfair rent increases and providing local authorities. There are also new discretionary powers to designate an area as being a Rent Pressure Zone, although has so not been enacted anywhere in Scotland.

A report for Edinburgh’s housing committee found it would take three to five years to collect all the data required for a rent pressure zone to be introduced. Over a quarter of homes in the city are private lets – almost double the national average.

The average monthly provate rent in the city stood at £1,087 in November last year – compared to a national average of £799. A estimated 10 per cent of private rented accommodation in Edinburgh is short-term lets, through sites like AirBnB, prompting concerns of the spread of so-called “party flats.”

Recent Scottish Government data showed the cost of renting one and two-bedroom properties in the Lothians was up by around 40 per cent over the same time period.

Rental costs for a two bedroom home in the region increased by 6.5 per cent from 2017 – by far the steepest increase anywhere in Scotland, and now close to an average of £1,000 a month.