The Scottish government’s rent freeze has been branded ‘meaningless’ after an industry watchdog advised landlords to increase prices the day it ends.
The government introduced a six-month ban on landlords increasing rents in September in a bid to help tenants cope with the cost-of-living crisis.
However, the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) has undermined the Scottish government’s policy by telling 32 councils and 150 housing associations to plan rent rises for the moment they are legally permitted to.
The Scottish government freeze officially ends in March 2023 – though they have powers to extend it. However, an email sent by SHR director of regulation Helen Shaw, obtained and revealed by the Sunday Mail, states: “As things stand, social landlords are able to increase rents from April 2023. Given this, we advise you to proceed with the work to determine what level of rent increase you require for 2023/24. We appreciate that this is challenging.
“However, to not proceed could leave you in a position where you are not able to increase rents on 1 April, 2023, if you are permitted to do so. To help us best understand the developing position on rent increases, please advise your Engagement Plan Lead Officer of the level of rent increase you will propose to implement.”
Housing campaigners have pointed out that councils and housing associations increase their prices in April, making the October-to-March freeze pointless.
Homeless Action Scotland told the press: “We have concerns that the Scottish government’s ‘rent freeze’, which lasts to March 2023, is meaningless.
“It is worth noting that the SHR is communicating with Registered Social Landlords to advise them to start the processes which allow them to increase rent from April 2023. Rather than more emergency policy measures which flatter to deceive, the Scottish government need to resolve this matter with a clear, concise and measured solution.”
Sean Clerkin, of the Scottish Tenants Organisation, added: “The idea that there is a genuine rent freeze is public relations spin when the rents of people in social housing increased in April 2022. It is unacceptable that tenants struggling with the cost of living should be facing a rent rise next year when they can barely afford to pay this year’s increase.”
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