Labour has called on the Scottish Government to back a ban on "rip-off rent rises", ahead of a debate on private sector rent reform at Holyrood. Read the full article published on 'the courier' website here -
The party says hard-pressed families could face financial crisis if rogue landlords decide to unfairly increase rents, which have already risen significantly in some parts of the country in recent years.
The Government is already consulting on a proposed new tenancy system, which aims to improve security for tenants, but Labour wants to see changes in the law to prevent unfair rent increases.
In a motion to be debated at the Scottish Parliament, Labour says official statistics show that in some areas, rents have risen by nearly 40% in four years and the average now stands at £537 a month.
Analysis released by HomeLet shows the average tenant in Edinburgh spends nearly half of their income on rent. In Aberdeenshire, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom property is £898 per month, in Lothian it is £779 per month and in Greater Glasgow it is £626 per month.
The party supports housing charity Shelter Scotland's calls for reform of the private rented sector, including supporting in principle the introduction of a cap on rent rises and the limitation of rent reviews to one per annum.
Labour housing spokeswoman Mary Fee said: "Families across Scotland are suffering from a cost of living crisis. The last thing they need is a landlord imposing an unfair, exploitative rent hike on them.
"Scottish Labour wants to ban rip-off rent rises, but when we proposed changes to the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 the SNP voted with the Tories to block them.
"The private rented sector has exploded in size in the last decade, too many families in Scotland are trapped in the private rented sector, unable to access social housing or get a foot on the property ladder. We have to reform the system so it works for people, not vested interests.
"SNP politicians seem happy to pose for photos on rent reform, but when push comes to shove they vote against it. There was nothing in their programme for government last week about private sector rent reform. It is time for the SNP to pick a side."
Letscotland, the trade body for letting agents, says the majority of tenants do not share the view that there is a problem with escalating rents.
A survey of over 7,000 private sector tenants showed 86% of tenants surveyed had never received a request for a rent increase during a lease, 90% had never experienced a rent rise that was deemed to be unreasonable, and 91% think the frequency of rent reviews on their property has been reasonable.
Malcolm Warrack, chairman of Letscotland, said: "We need to ensure current landlords remain in the sector and encourage them to provide more (properties) in future to meet rising demand. Frankly, rent controls will only further restrict the supply of properties on the market, and turn a problem into a crisis."
Housing Minister Margaret Burgess said: "The Scottish Government is committed to making the private rented sector an attractive and affordable housing option for anyone who wishes to live in it.
"In fact our recent statistics from the four-year period between 2010 to 2014 found that 16 out of the 18 rental market areas across Scotland have seen below-inflation changes in average rents for two-bedroom properties, the most common size of property in the private rented sector.
"We recognise that rising rents can be a problem in some areas and we are currently consulting and inviting views on a new tenancy for the private rented sector.
"In addition, we continue to work with the house building industry to deliver more new homes and we are funding the appointment of Homes for Scotland's Private Rented Sector Champion, Gerry More, to bring forward initiatives to boost the supply of new homes for private rent."