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Buy to let landlords breaking rent rise laws, claim lawyers

Landlords in Scotland’s main cities are breaking laws aimed at protecting vulnerable tenants from excessive rent rises, say lawyers.

Lothian rents spiralled by 42.3 per cent between 2010 and September 2018, according to statistics from the Scottish Government. The figures show Greater Glasgow rents rose by 31.3 per cent over the same time, while rents increased at a rate lower than cumulative inflation of 18.7 per cent everywhere else in the country except Forth Valley (19.5 per cent). 

A report from the Govan Law Centre claims landlords are failing to follow strict laws governing rent increases that were introduced in December 2017 - and as a result tenants are left homeless or struggling to pay for food.

Under the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016, landlords can only increase rents once in a year and give notice of any increase at least three months in advance. 

Law centre principal solicitor Mike Dailly said: “Our casework provides cogent evidence of unlawful rent hikes by private landlords. In practice, many tenants are meeting rent hikes by using their social security money for food and heating costs”.

“There is clearly a need for greater public awareness that rent hikes require formal written notice and must comply with certain legal procedures to be valid.

“There is always a right to appeal, although the law on market rents tends to favour private landlords. Govan Law Centre believes the private rented sector remains largely unregulated and in practice is too often a free-for-all for landlords out to squeeze as much money as they can from a tenant with limited options.”

In one case, a disabled single parent had her rent increased by 43 per cent during one month to £1,500 a month, while the local housing allowance was only £800 a month.

“Other clients already struggling to make up housing benefit shortfalls have been trying to cope with rent increases of around £100 a month,” said Dailly.