Almost one million households in Scotland will have their rents frozen for at least six months after emergency legislation was given the green light at Holyrood.
A Bill designed to help tenants with the cost of living over winter is due to become law after being fast-tracked through the Scottish Parliament in a matter of days.
It means that with limited exceptions, everyone renting a property in Scotland will have their rent frozen until at least the end of March, backdated to 6 September.
The legislation also hands the Scottish Government the power to extend the rent freeze for two further six-month periods, meaning the policy could last until 2024.
The only exceptions will be in cases where a landlord faces increased property costs, mortgage interest payments and some insurance costs.
The Bill will cover the private and social rented sector, as well as student accommodation.
Evictions will also be banned for at least six months, again with certain exceptions, with the aim of preventing people struggling to pay their rent from being made homeless.
According to the most recent official estimates, around 930,000 households in Scotland rent their properties, which is about 38 per cent of the total. This is made up of 590,000 households in the social rented sector and 340,000 who rent privately, according to the Scottish Household Survey, which was last updated in 2019.
Given the financial pressure facing households, MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday agreed to treat the Bill as emergency legislation, meaning it will be debated, scrutinised and passed in a matter of days rather than months.
The general principles of the Bill were later given the green light by 88 votes to 29, with further votes to follow on Wednesday and Thursday.
Tenants’ rights minister Patrick Harvie said the Bill would “help keep people in their homes and help stabilise their housing costs during this extraordinary costs crisis”.
“We believe the package of measures strikes the right balance between this aim and ensuring landlords can continue to offer properties for rent and manage tenancies sustainably,” he added.
But John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said the Bill had “spooked” his members who were already facing increased mortgage costs.
“Over the last month, landlords have been running to the hills, saying ‘rather than put my property up for rent I’m going to sell’,” he told a Holyrood committee.
Timothy Douglas, of estate and letting agent body Propertymark, also warned that the Bill would lead to more landlords selling up, resulting in even fewer and lesser quality rental homes.
But Caroline Crawley, of the tenants’ union Living Rent, urged MSPs to back the Bill to stop “insane” increases going ahead and making accommodation “truly unaffordable” for many.