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Rent Controls: Now Labour jumps on the bandwagon

Labour is the latest political party to call for rent controls following similar pleas from the Green Party and the Scottish Nationalists.

Paul Sweeney, Labour’s shadow minister for public finance and employment in the Scottish Parliament - and a former Labour MP at Westminster - tweeted his demands for rent controls over the holidays.

“We need rent controls in Scotland, and we need them now. For too long, landlords have had total control: ratcheting up rents well above wages while neglecting maintenance” he wrote on Twitter.


“Together we can end the the rip off rental market in Scotland and provide good quality housing for everyone” he continued.

The suggests that Labour has now joined with the governing alliance in Scotland - consisting of the SNP and Greens in an informal ruling pact giving a majority in the Holyrood Parliament - in backing rent controls.

Just before Christmas Scotland’s controversial Green Party housing chief, Patrick Harvie - who has the title Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights - announced: “Now is the time to do more for people who rent their homes, whether they are renting privately, from the council or from a housing association. Delivering a new deal for tenants is central to our ambitions for a fairer Scotland, tackling child poverty and meeting climate change targets.

“Above all else it will significantly improve the lives of Scotland’s tenants, giving them more stability, more choice over where they live and how they decorate their homes, and the confidence that their home will be of a high quality. At the same time it will recognise the interests of good quality, responsible landlords.  

“We will be working in partnership with landlords, letting agents, tenants and others to deliver this strategy, and we want to gather the broadest range of views. I would encourage anyone with an interest to respond to our consultation.”

He was launching a 108 page consultation document explaining that Scotland already has stricter constraints on landlords increasing rents than any other part of the UK.

The Private Residential Tenancy concept - which the then SNP-only Scottish Government introduced in December 2017 - limited rent increases to once in 12 months, with a landlord required to give three months’ notice in advance of the increase; it also enabled tenants to challenge rent increases via adjudication by a Rent Officer.

Harvie’s rent control proposals for the whole of Scotland is set out in the consultation document thus:


“Vision for future rent controls: Tenants pay affordable and reasonable rent for good quality homes, helping to support efforts to reduce poverty and improve outcomes for low income tenants and their families.

“Underlying principles for national rent controls:

• They will have an appropriate mechanism to allow local authorities to introduce local measures.

• They will be evidence based.

• Their design will support and encourage the private rented sector to improve the quality of rented properties.

• Policy development on rent control legislation will seek to learn from the processes already in place for social sector tenants in relation to rent levels.

• Policy will be developed taking into consideration the views of all stakeholders but with a particular focus on giving private tenants a stronger voice.”

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  • George Dawes

    A big debate about capping rents is underway in London and other global cities like New York and Berlin – but a think-tank is warning they don’t work.

    Rent controls have been in place in Sweden since 1942, but a paper from think-tank Epicenter suggests the controversial measure only makes the rental market worse.
    Summarising the results of years of research, the think-tank came up with nine reasons London and other cities should shun rent controls:

    Waiting lists for homes are horrendous – an average wait is 11.3 years for an apartment in the capital Stockholm and up to 30 years for subsidised flats
    Controlling rents pushes up costs for tenants

    Apartments are sub-let with rents often double the price the primary tenant pays
    Rent agreements are auctioned on a black market with organised crime moving in for a share of the profits. One in five young renters confess they have bought an illegal contract, while a rash of murders related to sub-letting apartments swept the city in 2014

    The cost of renting has skewed the market, with families outpriced by single tenants who now occupy large apartments while pushing families out of town and city centres

    Companies complain they cannot recruit because rents are too high compared with wages

    Costly rents have driven a wedge between highly paid and well educated renters who can afford to live where they want, while poorer tenants on benefits must put up with unattractive homes in the suburbs

    Instead of levelling the rental market, the wealthy dominate, with any apartment in Stockholm larger than 180 square metres rented by someone in the top 1% of earners

    Rents only go up when landlords improve homes, so landlords carry out costly refurbishments that are unaffordable for average earners


    Why let the facts spoil a good strap line?

  • icon

    Rents have been driven up by unfairly by over the top Regulation’s / Licensing etc’ and Councils profiteering. I remember and still have the Tenancy Agreements for Renting out complete Houses in Ealing for £100. per week and in Croydon for £88. per week, now looks like its the box room you’ll get for £100. pw because of all the interference and imposed costs not least Licensing Schemes, rules and red tape tying LL’s to the desk endlessly dealing with all those imposed impediments instead of being out dealing with real issues running his business in a workman like work manner instead of sitting at a desk playing digital everything academic nonsense.

  • icon

    Another virtue signalling MP - who either has no idea or is wilfully ignorant as to how to make things better. While it is right to mandate the health and safety aspects of rental properties, everything else should be left to the free market and is easily steered if that is done.

    If you want plenty of properties available, of a good standard and reasonable cost then all you need to do is set the market conditions such that more landlords enter the market. Less taxes, a fair legal system which doesn’t excuse irresponsible tenants or landlords, support for modernising properties and similar measure like this would mean more landlords entering the market,which would lead to more rental stock becoming available and then naturally landlords would have to reduce rents and improve standards to be able to find tenants as they would need to outshine the competition.

    Rent controls have the opposite affect. Landlords leave the market, there is less rental stock and then there is intense competition for every available property even if it is substandard. The more you go totalitarian and try and impose rafts of new restrictive rules, the more landlords exit the market. It’s already happening and more restrictive rules and measures willl only accelerate this.


    Sweeney is well known in Scotland as hot air bag - but that doesn't mean he'll be ignored as he deserves!

  • Robert Nottingham


    Is that the death knell for the PRS that I hear ringing?

  • icon

    The Health & Safety is always used for any rule or Law because no one can say boo to a goose about that and if anything happens that’s why, sometimes not the case but we all comply anyway. I remember being stopped by health & safety officer putting in precast manhole rings weighing 4 cwt with a 20 ton machine, saying that the machine is not calibrated for that. However, no problem really we put them in by hand, they don’t know how the World was built.

  • PossessionFriendUK PossessionFriend

    Newtons 3 rd Law, For Every action, there is a Reaction. Rent controls will have consequences for tenants - and it won't be what was envisaged.

    You cannot legislate the price of anything, not the cost of a loaf of bread, utilities, fuel etc.
    Its as though the country hasn't got enough of a Housing shortage, without political point-scoring to make it worse. !

  • icon

    anyone advocating Rent Controls should take a little history lesson. They actually make mobility more difficult and reduce the quality and availability of the PRS housing stock. I have dealt, over my 40 plus year career, with many Rent Controlled (Regulated Tenancy Properties) so I have the practical experience to make these statements. You do not need to take a sledgehammer to crack a nut, what are the issues that they want to solve? If it is to provide longer-term tenancies that is already there, you can have a 10 year AST for example, it would be mainly lenders that would not be in favour, and that would further reduce lending and availability of rental stock.


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