UPDATE: Your guide to the rent freeze and moratorium on evictions in Scotland

19 January 2023

Emergency legislation to freeze rents and apply a moratorium on evictions in Scotland became law in 2022 - and will be extended past the original March 2023 deadline, with amendments.

Temporary emergency legislation in Scotland to freeze rents and establish a six-month moratorium on evictions for both the private rented and social sectors under the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill 2022 became law in 2022. The current measures are set to end on 31 March 2023 - and a new rent cap of 3% in most instances will be introduced for at least a further six months.

This extension will only apply to the private rented sector, as a separate agreement has been reached to keep rent increases below inflation for the next financial year in the Scottish social housing sector.

What are the current rules for the rent freeze?

The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill 2022, including a rent freeze and moratorium on evictions, has been backdated to 6 September 2022 until the end of March 2023.

Any rent increase notices issued on or after 6 September 2022 will be void - yet rent increases issued before this date are still valid.

What will change from 1 April 2023?

From 1 April 2023, landlords will be required to cap any rent increases at 3% - although private landlords will be able to apply to increase rents up to 6% to help cover certain costs.

Enforcement of evictions will also continue to be "prevented", with certain exemptions, as outlined below.

“While the primary purpose of the legislation is to support tenants, I recognise that costs have been rising for landlords too," says the Scottish Tenants Rights’ Minister, Patrick Harvie.

"That’s why we intend to allow those in the private sector to increase rents by up to 3%, with a continued safeguard allowing them to apply for larger increases to cover specified rising costs they might be seeing as landlords."

These updated measures are expected to be in place until 30 September 2023, with the option to extend a further six months if required.

What are the conditions of the current rent freeze?

The rent freeze applies to all existing private residential, assured, and short assured tenancies.

Landlords can "re-set rent levels between tenancies", yet new tenants will enter into a new agreement knowing that they are protected from any rent increase.

A "maximum permissible level of rent increase" set at 0% will last until 31 March 2023, when the new rent cap at 3% will come into play.

Are there any exemptions from the rent freeze for landlords?

There will be scope for a landlord's "prescribed costs" to be considered for those eligible to make a rent increase. These include:

  • Interest payable for the mortgage or "standard security" of the rental property
  • Insurance premiums relating to the property - for example, landlords' insurance
  • Service charges that are part of the contract with the tenant as part of the tenant's rent

Landlords would need to apply to Rent Service Scotland to increase rents, to ensure the increased rent fits within the above costs. Any increase will be limited to a maximum of 3% of the current rent, until 31 March 2023, rising to 6% until at least September 2023.

How will the rent freeze be enforced?

Tenants will be able to refer a rent increase to a Rent Officer to confirm if it's in line with the rent cap. This could be used in instances where rent includes energy costs, for example, and is therefore not straightforward. 

For any unlawful eviction, the bill will amend the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988 to assess damages based on a "multiplication of the monthly rent".

What is the moratorium on evictions?

The moratorium on evictions won't stop a landlord from taking steps to apply to the courts for an order to evict a tenant, but it prevents the enforcement of eviction actions until the restrictions end, unless an exemption applies.

Exemptions include:

  • Evictions for "antisocial behaviour, criminality, tenant abandonment and where a lender intends to sell the property
  • If a landlord intends to sell the let property to alleviate financial hardship
  • Where a landlord plans to live in the property due to financial hardship
  • Substantial rent arrears of six months’ rent

If the proceedings for an eviction order started before 6 September 2022, the restrictions don't apply.

How will this legislation affect student tenants in Scotland?

The new policy document highlights that a large number of students in Scotland live in  halls of residence and in purpose-built student accommodation - 47,500 in a typical year.

While the government has received assurances that there is "little appetite" for these accommodation providers  to increase rents mid-tenancy, it recognises that this is not a certainty.

The new measures will therefore apply to these student accommodation providers, to give more assurance to student tenants that their rent will not increase mid-tenancy.

However, a cap on student rents from April 2023 until at least September 2023 will be "suspended", taking into consideration the annual nature of student contracts based on the academic year.

Why was the bill introduced?

The new bill aims to respond to the "emergency situation caused by the impact of the cost crisis on those living in the rented sector in Scotland." The measures aim to help stabilise housing costs for tenants, reduce the impact of evictions or being made homeless on the health and wellbeing of tenants, and help avoid evictions by landlords that want to raise rents between tenancies.

Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon made the original announcement as part of a statement on the Programme for Government 2022-2023, which was focused on the cost of living crisis. Sturgeon described the soaring cost of living as a crisis that will require measures comparable with those put in place to protect people during the first years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sturgeon said that these are "temporary measures but will provide much needed security", and will be supported by the future introduction of a new housing bill, A New Deal for Tenants, which will improve affordability and strengthen tenants rights.

This article is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. please visit parliament.scot for more information. 

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