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Scotland rent data may be captured on blockchain

Letting agents hope to harness the blockchain, the technology that allows digital information to be distributed, but not copied, to underpin a new property rental database in Scotland.

The move is probably the world’s first property database locked in the technology.

The blockchain is a secure, tamper-proof database kept on peer-to-peer computers rather than a central server. Most current applications of blockchain technology involve cryptocurrency transactions, such as Bitcoin and Ether.

Property letting portal Citylets will track rents in Scotland to help councils identify rent pressure zones under new private sector letting laws.

An RPZ is a designated area in which a council can cap rent increases, providing a case for the move is provable.

The evidence required includes data showing that rent rises are excessive and proof that the council cannot provide enough housing in the neighbourhood, or that rents are subsidised.

The data will be stored in the blockchain for access by the letting industry and local councils.

Citylets managing director Thomas Ashdown sees the data sharing app as a way of managing new letting rules coming on 1 December.

“Ultimately we would hope the Scottish Government would be consumers of the data for far-reaching decisions based on the data as they seek to regulate this now large housing segment,” he said.

“Local government also has numerous planning responsibilities in respect of local housing. In short, the data needs to be accurate, trusted, authoritative and incorruptible.

“Ultimately the blockchain is just our vision of how things can be done. Having spoken with local government extensively, there doesn’t seem to be a better solution on the table.”

The December shake-up of the private rental industry in Scotland is the largest update in the country for more than 25 years. The main change is a revamp of tenancy agreements that have no fixed terms, revised notice periods and limits on rent increases.