Delegates at the Scottish National Party Spring Conference have voted in favour of introducing national rent controls for all Scottish tenants.
Should the SNP win a majority in the upcoming Scottish general election this could mean landlords are unable to raise rents above a cap set by the State, even when their own mortgage costs rise.
The resolution goes much further than the local rent controls in the Private Housing Tenancies Bill which is going through final stages in the Scottish Parliament this week.
Emma Saunders, an activist with campaign group Living Rent, said the vote meant there was now a “consensus” going into the upcoming Scottish Parliamentary election that far broader rent controls were “a necessary step to resolving the housing crisis”.
She said: “For far too many private tenants in Scotland, rents are too high and the quality of housing too low. With this vote by SNP delegates, there is now a clear consensus across the board that rent controls are a sensible solution to this.
“The challenge is now to make sure that we get it right and that the model of rent controls we introduce genuinely brings rents down and protects tenants.”
The existing Bill will introduce “rent pressure zones” where rents can be capped for a period up to five years if Scottish ministers deem that rents have risen “too much”.
Within rent pressure zones rent reviews for sitting tenants will be subject to caps of CPI + 1 + n where n is determined by ministers.
However the latest move would potentially see this practice rolled out across the country.
Mortgage lenders have already aired deep concerns about the practice and suggested they will be forced to review buy-to-let lending policies north of the border.
In November last year a spokesman from the Council of Mortgage Lenders warned: “We are concerned that in setting fixed rents, some landlords may not anticipate all their costs and may therefore have problems in keeping up with their mortgage payments. There is also a risk that uncertainty over costs may lead them to set rents at too high a level, to the detriment of the tenant.”
Ian Andrew, managing director of Nationwide’s group intermediary sales, said at the time: “Any reforms that protect tenants from unfair practice are positive, but we believe that any changes should balance the needs of tenants and flexibility of landlords effectively.
“Our concern is that the current proposed changes could constrain investment in the private rented sector in Scotland and exacerbate rent inflation through a long term lack of supply. We believe more measured reform is necessary to improve the market, both for tenants and for landlords.”