Rent freeze Bill takes step forward as amendments considered

MSPs sat as a committee of the whole parliament to consider amendments to the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill.

05 October 2022

Legislation which would freeze rents and ban evictions for six months has taken another step forward on Wednesday.

The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill will face a final vote in Holyrood on Thursday after being deemed emergency legislation meant it would be subject to an expedited, three-day process.

Under the legislation, rent increases will be frozen at 0% until March 31, backdated to September 6, with ministers having powers to extend this for two further six-month periods if necessary and a moratorium will be placed on evictions in most circumstances.

However, if landlords can prove property costs have risen, they can increase rents by 3% – provided the rise is less than 50% of the jump in property costs.

MSPs – sitting as a committee of the whole parliament – tabled amendments on Wednesday, including on removing the social rented sector from the Bill and setting up a scheme where the Scottish Government pays landlords if their mortgage costs exceed rent – both of which were rejected.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton tabled a change that would compel Scottish ministers to publish a report detailing discussions between the government and the royal family relating to the Bill.

The parliament said this week that crown consent would be required for the Bill, meaning the Palace would have to clear the legislation because it would impact the royals.

Mr Cole-Hamilton’s amendment would also force the Scottish Government to detail what changes were suggested by the royal household and how ministers responded to the request.

The Scottish Lib Dem leader said that crown consent would likely be signalled “in a single sentence” by ministers during the final deliberations of the Bill, adding: “However, I believe that parliament deserves to know what specific changes, if any, have or will be made to this legislation at the request of the crown’s lawyers.”

Responding, parliamentary business minister George Adam said seeking consent has been in use since the creation of the Scottish Parliament where legislation impacts the sovereign, adding: “This is not a choice being taken by the Scottish Government.”

The minister went on to say it was “difficult to see the purpose” of the government providing a report on crown consent.

The amendment fell by 22 votes to 93.

Scottish Labour MSP Alex Rowley also attempted to include care homes in the legislation, capping rents for residents.

“Today, I’m highlighting the plight of self-funders in care homes and their families, who say to me they are being fleeced and no one seems to care,” he said.

Mr Rowley told the chamber people had told him they were “seeing all their money disappear on these rises”.

He added: “They want the same protections as all other renters have.”

Scottish Government minister Patrick Harvie, responding to the amendment, said: “There are some really key differences between people in rented housing and a care home which mean it’s not appropriate to address this issue in this Bill relating to the protection of tenants.”

Mr Harvie went on to say that care homes, as well as providing accommodation, also provide a service, meaning costs are not solely paid in order to rent a home.

His amendment was defeated by 19 votes to 96.

An amendment from Tory MSP Miles Briggs, which would allow for the eviction of tenants in the event of a property being demolished or having to undergo “substantial work”, passed after support from the Scottish Government.

MSPs will hold a final vote on the legislation on Thursday, when it is expected to be passed.

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