New Deal for Tenants

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 28 March 2024.

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Photo of Maggie Chapman Maggie Chapman Green

6. To ask the First Minister whether he will provide an update on what action the Scottish Government is taking to deliver the new deal for tenants. (S6F-02974)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I am delighted that, on Tuesday this week, the Housing (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Parliament, marking a huge milestone in our commitment to deliver the new deal for tenants, of which we are extremely proud. The bill creates new tenants’ rights, introduces powers for longer-term private sector rent controls and new duties that are aimed at the prevention of homelessness. A fairer, well-regulated private rented sector is in the interests of both tenants and responsible landlords. Our proposals will help to improve affordability for tenants in the private rented sector, while recognising the importance of landlords investing in the quality of their properties.

Photo of Maggie Chapman Maggie Chapman Green

T he publication of the housing bill is an important step in delivering the new deal for tenants. It includes key policies that the Scottish Greens consider vital, such as protections against evictions, a framework for long-term rent controls and new rights for tenants to have pets and decorate their homes. I know that many want it to go further, but vested interests say that it is already too radical. How has the Scottish Government sought to make those proposals robust against legal challenge? Will the First Minister commit to ensuring that the voices of tenants are heard as loudly as those of property investors?

The First Minister:

I am very proud of the Housing (Scotland) Bill and the additional protections that we are introducing for tenants. It is important to recognise that the vast majority of landlords are responsible and will undoubtedly have a good relationship with their tenants.

I am grateful for everybody’s engagement—tenants, landlords, the private rented sector, investors and others—over the past two years, since we first consulted on the new deal for tenants. We will continue to listen to the voices of tenants, as we have done throughout. Tenants having clear rights, which they know how to exercise and feel empowered to use, is not just good for tenants but, as I have mentioned, is good for landlords and, I suggest, good for letting agents, too.

I recognise that there are strong feelings about some of the measures that are being proposed in the bill. However, the Government believes that the rented sector reform measures continue to safeguard the reasonable and proportionate use of landlords’ property for rental purposes, seeking to deliver a fair balance between protection for tenants, which we all accept, agree on and support, and the rights of landlords. I hope that we can all agree that a fairer, well-regulated rented sector is good for both tenants and responsible landlords.

Photo of Karen Adam Karen Adam Scottish National Party

Yesterday, the national tenants union, Living Rent, described the Housing (Scotland) Bill as a huge step forward for tenants. Will the First Minister outline how the new legislation will help to prevent homelessness and build on Scotland’s already strong housing legislation?

The First Minister:

Scotland already has the strongest rights in the United Kingdom for people who are homeless, but we know that we can do more. We want to build on that record—hence, the legislation that has been introduced. The bill brings a renewed focus on prevention, so that households do not have to go through the trauma and disruption of homelessness in the first place. Relevant bodies, such as health boards, will be required to ask about and act on a person’s housing situation, and local authorities will be required to act earlier to prevent homelessness.

Matt Downie, the chief executive of Crisis, has “strongly welcomed” the bill, saying that the plans hold the potential to create a truly world-leading homelessness system. Our job, of course, is to ensure that that potential translates into reality. We are committed to working closely with stakeholders to ensure that the guidance and training to support the new prevention duties will be fit for purpose.

The Presiding Officer:

We move to constituency and general supplementary questions. Let us keep the questions and the responses concise.