A member's bill on private sector rent controls is to be considered by a Holyrood committee which previously decided that it was too busy to give it proper scrutiny.

The Local Government & Communities Committee has now issued a call for views on the Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill, introduced by Glasgow Labour MSP Pauline McNeill and backed by campaigners including Govan Law Centre (GLC).

The bill would prevent a landlord of a private residential tenancy from increasing rent in any year by more than the Consumer Price Index plus 1%. Tenants would also be able to apply to a rent officer to set a "fair open market rent", and landlords would have to enter more information about their property in the Scottish Landlord Register, including the monthly rent charged.

In July the committee, by a majority in a decision in private session, decided its workload was too heavy to allow it to give the bill proper scrutiny before the parliamentary elections next May. That led to GLC alleging improper use of powers and, along with Living Rent, beginning judicial review proceedings against the decision.

The petition was under appeal after being refused at first instance, when, according to a new post on the GLC website, the committee, without notifying the petitioners, reintroduced the bill. "This is a victory for open government", GLC states. "This is unprecedented. Never has a Scottish Government [sic] committee been forced to reintroduce a bill like this. The committee has done a complete U-turn. It looks like they agree that they got it wrong."

Now the committee is inviting views on the bill, to inform its stage 1 scrutiny. It is principally asking whether there is a need to create a better balance between private landlords and tenants; whether the proposed cap on rent increases should be imposed; and whether there should be the right to apply to a rent officer to set a fair rent; but other views on the bill are also invited.

However with a closing date for submissions of 7 December 2020, and with parliamentary business needing to be concluded by March ahead of the elections, there may not be time for the bill to pass all its stages, even if MSPs decide to back it.


Click here to access the call for views.