The rental service is “designed with landlords in mind”
ALMOST 80% of tenants who challenged their landlord for raising rental costs were forced to pay more after using arbitration services, the Sunday National can reveal.
Between 2018 and 2022, Rent Service Scotland (RSS) handled 169 cases where private residents tried to fight a rise in their monthly accommodation costs. Only 34 tenants (20.1%) succeeded in their challenge and managed to maintain the same price.
Meanwhile, the other 134 cases (79.2%) brought in to hire agents saw a partial or full increase in their monthly rent. A total of 59 tenants (34.9%) had their monthly costs increased to the full amount requested by landlords, while 75 (44.3%) saw a partial increase.
In one case, rental agents increased the amount to more than the landlord requested after comparing it to similar properties in the area.
Overall, rental prices increased by an average of 9% when submitted to RSS for decision, but in some cases tenants saw increases of more than 20% and in one case 120%.
Housing campaigners say the figures show the system “isn’t designed for tenants” but rather protects landlords’ properties and investments.
It comes as the Scottish Government prepares to introduce a rent freeze, followed by rent control, as part of its bid to tackle the cost of living crisis.
The amount of the rental price increase varies by location, and arbitrators base their estimates on the current housing market, which has seen consistent rental cost increases in recent years. The majority of cases brought against landlords were in Edinburgh (57), Glasgow (49) and Dundee (10).
A spokesperson for Living Rent said the figures were not surprising, adding that their members’ experience is that the service “is not designed for renters”.
He added: ‘It’s designed with landlords in mind and to react to the market, but we know the market has never been good for tenants. Market rents have risen by 15% over the last year in Edinburgh and Glasgow – they’ve risen by more than 60% over the past decade – and our wages haven’t risen that way.
“It’s a system designed to protect the properties and interests of owners rather than recognizing what is actually affordable.”
The figures revealed a case in Aberdeen where a tenant’s rent rose from £250 to £550 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. In another, four tenants in the same block at Warriston Gate in Carntyne, Glasgow, tried to fight a £25-a-month rise in their rent, but ultimately failed as officers ruled in favor of the landlord.
In Ashgrove Road, Dalmarnock, in the east of the city, three tenants in a block contested a £30-a-month raise, and all three lost.
In Kelso, Scottish Borders, a landlord tried to raise the rent from £1,800 to £3,000 in February this year. Officers’ rent compromised at £2200 per month, or an additional £4800 per year.
The reasons for this are unclear, but Living Rent has suggested the incoming rent freeze is having an impact, particularly recently.
Their spokesperson added: “I think more and more landlords want to convert their homes to Airbnbs or raise rents because they know there is a lack of supply.
“They can afford to charge exorbitant rents and someone will be willing to pay for it. It’s leaving some tenants homeless and being forced out of their communities in what we call silent evictions, where they evict tenants in all but name.
“It’s gotten worse and worse over the past year. I think there was a recent case of a woman whose rent was increased by 30% – it’s £200.
“It’s totally unaffordable for anyone to find £200 at the best of times, but during the cost of living crisis it’s crazy.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Under current legislation, rents officers are required to make decisions based on the open market rent of the property while taking into account the rents of comparable properties in the area. .
“They must also assess the age, character, locality and state of repair of the house and the quantity and condition of any furnishings provided.”
The spokesperson added that they were “committed to reforms” in the rental sector, including rent control, and promised “progress in this area over the coming year”.
They added: “The Scottish Government is also working on emergency measures for tenants to reflect the rapidly worsening cost of living crisis.
“If approved by the Scottish Parliament, they will strengthen the protection of tenants against evictions and rent increases.
“As the First Minister has said, the Scottish Government’s intention is to plan legislation to ensure, subject to the agreement of the Scottish Parliament, that rents will be frozen from September 6.”
The Sunday National has asked the Scottish Government for more details about the rent freeze and the role of rent officers, but we’ve been told this will be published as part of emergency legislation ‘in the coming weeks’.