What are the main parties offering renters in Scotland?

May 06, 2021 12:04 PM

Today (6th May), Scotland will elect 129 members of the Scottish Parliament. We have published a manifesto here.

We want Scottish Parliament candidates to commit to: 

  • Measures to improve security of tenure with new restrictions on no-fault evictions
  • Limits on rent increases
  • Tougher penalties for landlords who break the law
  • More situations where renters can withhold rent from non-compliant landlords
  • Improvements to landlord registration to give renters more information about their home

What have the main parties said on these key issues? 

1) Security of tenure

The SNP, Labour and Greens promise to grant greater protections for tenants. The SNP have proposed a Rented Sector Strategy for 2021. They want to introduce new legislation that "strengthens peoples' housing rights and ensures public bodies have a duty to prevent homelessness". Meanwhile, Labour plan to implement a Fair Rents Bill to "rebalance the relationship between tenants and landlords." The Greens plan to transform the private rented sector, by "providing greater security for tenants, regulating rents and improving standards."

The Scottish Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Greens have all set out proposals to reduce homelessness with renting schemes. The Conservatives have promised "a Help to Rent scheme" to support people to access and sustain a tenancy in the private rented sector. The Liberal Democrats will seek to end homelessness by providing both housing and other support services to individuals in need. The Greens want to end homelessness by rolling-out the Housing First approach. This is where "people who do not have access to a safe, secure and permanent home they should be offered permanent tenancies and tailored wrap-around support services."

2) Housing standards and enforcement

All the main parties in Scotland have made proposals to improve energy efficiency ratings in homes - which can make a significant difference to the overall quality of a home. The Conservatives plan to drive the renovation of homes by spending over £2.5 billion over the next five years on energy efficiency and to create a Help to Renovate scheme, to support owners. However, they do not specifically mention rented homes in these proposals.

Labour say their Fair Rents Bill proposals will "improve quality standards in the private rented sector". The Liberal Democrats propose an Energy Efficiency and Zero Carbon Bill which will introduce the delayed energy efficiency regulations to require landlords to meet higher energy standards within five years. The Scottish Greens want to put in place a home upgrade programme ensuring that all homes reach a minimum Energy Performance Standard C or above by 2030.

Some of the main parties have committed to improving housing standards in other ways.

The SNP are proposing new standards for all housing by 2025, "including safety, space, digital connectivity, energy efficient and heating standards". The Conservatives will "encourage the future proofing of new-build housing for easier accessibility adaptations" and would follow other parts of the UK in banning the use of combustible cladding in Scotland. Labour have committed to a national strategy for housing and disabled persons. The Greens plan to review the Scottish Housing Quality Standard to ensure it is fit for purpose.

No parties have committed to harsher enforcement for landlords.

3) Registration of landlords

No parties mention changing or reforming Scotland's landlord registration system.

4) Affordability social housing and rent controls 

All the main parties have committed to affordable housing targets. 

The SNP have promised to build 70,000 more homes for social rent and council houses. Conservatives have promised that, over the long-term, they "will deliver 60,000 new affordable homes, with two thirds of these being new social housing". Labour promise to build 200,000 zero carbon social homes over ten years (so 100,000 over the period the other parties use). The Liberal Democrats are aiming for 40,000 homes for social rent in the next five years. The Greens plan to build 84,000 homes for social rent by 2032 (so 42,000 for comparison's sake). 

Most of the main parties also promise other ways of making rent more affordable.

The SNP have promised to reform existing Rent Pressure Zone legislation, to make it easier for local authorities to use them. They also promise to introduce Compulsory Sales Orders for long-term unoccupied properties in Scotland. Labour have promised to bring in rent controls on student accommodation, "encouraging new cooperative models through a student accommodation strategy." Labour also plan to install a regulatory framework for short-term lets, including the licensing provisions and taxation of Airbnb. Finally, they want to implement a long-term house building strategy, across all tenures and to bring empty homes back into use.

The Liberal Democrats want to conduct an urgent review of the reasons properties are left vacant, to take the steps needed to bring more of them into use, with the specific aim of increasing the housing supply. Finally, the Greens plan to support initiatives to allow tenants across housing tenures to have a say in setting rent levels, and introduce a points-based system of rent controls.

5) Renting/housing fairer – that could be deposits, taxation, benefits

Most of the main parties have outlined plans to reform Council Tax.

The SNP have promised to reform Council Taxes "to make them fairer".  Labour abolish the council tax and replace it with a fairer alternative based on property values and ability to pay. Lib Dems plans to replace the unfair council tax will explore if the new system can include a valuation process in common with business rates to make it more efficient and cut costs for taxpayers. Greens will seek to replace Council Tax with a new residential property tax that is related to actual value rather than outdated valuations.

The Conservatives meanwhile have said that "in the absence of cross-party support for a reform proposal we will not support any overhaul or revaluation of the council tax system".

Some of the main parties have also proposed other policies to make Scotland fairer.

The SNP have promised a First Home Fund to "help boost the deposit needed to purchase a property in Scotland". Labour plan to make it easier for tenants to challenge unfair rents. They have also committed to conducting a review of Discretionary Housing Payments, looking at how they can be used to support renters trying to meet their housing costs and prevent families affected by the benefit cap being made homeless. The Greens similarly plan to launch an independent review of the Scottish Welfare Fund and Discretionary Housing Payments, "to establish an adequate level of funding that can also respond to increased demand, and consistency of decision-making".