Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has unveiled proposals to control rents and limit the power of private landlords, despite concerns that it could spell disaster for tenants.
In his keynote speech to Scottish Labour’s spring conference on Saturday, he detailed his vision to reshape the rental sector in Scotland, including the introduction of a new “Mary Barbour law” to protect tenants.
The proposed ‘Mary Barbour law’ is named after the Red Clydeside political activist who played a leading role in the rent strikes of 1915.
Leonard outlined how his party aims to introduce a private members bill that would create a new points-based system to enforce fair rents, ensuring that “no one is forced to rent a home that pushes them into poverty”.
Describing a home as a “basic fundamental human right”, Leonard explained that the points system would link payments to average wages and give tenants the power to challenge unfair rents.
Aside from give tenants the power to challenge unfair rents, it would also enable “proper standards” for health and safety and energy efficiency on private rented properties to be imposed.
Leonard, of course, is not the first member of the Labour party to propose a rent-cap.
Last year, Jeremy Corbyn’s proposed rent controls, which even Shelter, the housing charity, warned could “exacerbate Britain's housing crisis”.
A lengthening of tenancies to five years and inflation-linked controls on rent rises within those agreements is established Labour policy, but Corbyn told party members in Brighton in September that Labour would go further and directly limit rent based on models adopted in other countries.
However, Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said this would result in a reduction of rental property.
Speaking on the Radio 4’s Today programme in September, she said: “What ends up happening is landlords will just sell because they can’t make any money.
“That actually exacerbates the crisis, because you end up with an even greater housing shortage.”