Rent freeze policy in chaos?

The First Ministers’ rent freeze policy is unravelling just days after its announcement according to a leading property firm. DJ Alexander Ltd, which is the largest lettings and estate agency in Scotland and is part of the Lomond Group, said that the controversial announcement seems to have been made without appropriate planning or even any clear understanding of how the private rented sector operates in Scotland.

Patrick Harvie MSP, the Minister in charge of this policy, met with John Blackwood of the Scottish Association of Landlords on Wednesday and was unable to provide any detail of how the policy would be implemented, how it will impact on evictions and rent rises which are already underway, or when the legislation will be put before parliament and said that the details were still being worked on by civil servants.

David Alexander, the chief executive officer of DJ Alexander Scotland Ltd, said: “That the minister in charge of this policy seems to have little or no understanding of how it is to be implemented is both damning and shocking. This all smacks of a thrown together policy to gain some publicity and deflect attention from the appointment of the new Prime Minister.”

“Furthermore, the Scottish Government does not even seem to know or understand its own legislation. Another minister explained the lack of consultation with landlords prior to the announcement was to prevent rents being increased before the policy was implemented. As all landlords know rents can only be increased in Scotland with three months’ notice and tenants can appeal against any increase. The notion that this needed to be announced with no consultation with landlords highlights just how unaware the Scottish Government is of how their existing legislation operates and also their desperate need not to consult, not to be open, and to make decisions without any understanding of the consequences.”

“The policy will not help anyone in social housing either as their rents are reviewed and changed on the 1st of April, so this is an announcement clearly designed to gain headlines without any real impact on the tenants it purports to be helping.”

David concluded: “This whole process has been one of short sighted, ill-considered opportunism with little concern for the lives of the tenants and landlords that it affects. Everyone involved in the sector has been inundated with calls as tenants and landlords are worried about how this will impact on their lives. And yet we have A Scottish Government minister stating vaguely that there will be an update at some point in the future. At a time when Scottish councils are housing the homeless in hotels hundreds of miles from their hometowns; when housing shortages are at a record high; when demand is exceeding supply by thousands; and when 132,000 people are on the social housing waiting list, the Scottish Government gives its people a soundbite.”