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'It felt like an April Fool's at first': Tenants face illegal rent hikes or eviction as landlords sell to cover costs

2 May 2024, 17:26

Rents have increased since the cap ended, tenants are telling LBC
Rents have increased since the cap ended, tenants are telling LBC. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Rebecca Brady.

Landlords across Scotland are proposing rent increases of up to 40% after the Scottish government's rent cap ended, LBC has been told - which is more than three times the legal limit.

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The emergency Covid-19 legislation capped increases at 3% but it ended on April 1. A temporary limit of 12% has been introduced, but tenants campaign group Living Rent says many renters have been notified of much higher rent hikes.

One renter in Edinburgh - 'Kirsty' - told LBC she was handed an eviction notice after questioning the 22% increase her landlord proposed.

"My rent was £675 and then I got a notice saying that my landlord was going to propose a new rent increase to £825," Kirsty said.

"Initially it feels like an April Fool's joke because it's so unrealistic," she continued. "Especially since, where I live, the landlords haven't stepped foot into the flat since I moved in so there's been no increase into the value of the property.

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Scottish renters are facing mammoth rent increases after the cap ended

"There's a shared garden but it's full of rubbish, there's no lock on our street level door. I've also had a leak in my roof and since then my flat has been the dampest it's ever been and since then I've been more sick than I have been in my entire time living in Edinburgh."

A tenant rights campaigner and former tenant advisor has told LBC this issue is widespread, and even people scrutinising the government's new legislation don't understand their rights.

"Having first-hand experience and seeing the heart-breaking realities that tenants are facing, even discussing with other panel members it's apparent that they don't know where to go for advice," Natasha McGourt said. "Some are quite well-educated and still find the legislation very confusing."

Ms McGourt quit her job at Granton Information Centre in order to focus on her role on the Scottish Parliament's housing panel - scrutinising and making suggestions for new proposals which include permanent rent control areas.

The CEO of the Association of Scottish Landlords has warned rent control will cause more landlords to sell and result in a supply and demand crisis.

"Rent controls wherever they exist, ironically, raise rent," John Blackwood said. "The Republic of Ireland is a good example. They've operated under rent controls for many years. They have a dire housing shortage."

LBC asked Mr Blackwood about illegal rent increases of up to 40%: "Just raising it a few percentage points isn't enough because of course these rents have fallen way behind the market - this now goes back to before Covid," he said.

"So many landlords are saying 'For some years now we haven't raised the rents at all and now we've got an opportunity to be able to do that and, actually, just to break even we're going to have to raise the rents substantially.'

"We know our tenants can't afford to pay that and that's the number one reason why landlords are selling."

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “A fairer, well-managed private rented sector is in the interest of both tenants and responsible landlords.

“Our Housing Bill includes a package of important reforms to the rented sector that aim to improve affordability and strengthen tenants’ rights. This includes the introduction of an effective system of rent controls in the private rent sector, which will improve affordability for tenants while recognising the importance of landlords investing in property quality."

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