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Calls for urgent action over rent hikes as tenants left on brink of homelessness

Calls for urgent action over rent hikes as tenants left on brink of homelessness
Calls for urgent action over rent hikes as tenants left on brink of homelessness

Campaigners have called on the Scottish Government for immediate measures to address the issue of exorbitant rent increases, following a 300% surge in reports of unjustifiable hikes.

Living Rent, a union for tenants, has voiced concerns over the escalating number of Scots being subjected to ‘runaway’ rent increases since the termination of the rent cap in April. Moreover, the union confirmed worrying reports of dramatic rent rises, sometimes exceeding 50%, forcing tenants to the verge of homelessness. It further highlighted that landlords have been even resorting to eviction when the increases are challenged by tenants.

Chairperson of Living Rent, Aditi Jehangir, emphasised the urgency of implementing rent controls that are tied to the property in order to reduce rents as well as enhance the quality of housing. She pressed the need for stricter regulations to prevent rent prices from causing upheavel in cities.

Wojciech Wlazlak, a 33-year-old residing in the southside of Glasgow faced the brunt of an over 50% rent increase for his flat, stirring fears of potential homelessness. He was notified in May of a rent increase, pushing his rent from £650 to £1000 a month. After seeking help from Living Rent, the rent was reduced to £800 monthly.

The warehouse worker, now grappling with uncertainty, shares, “It’s already a challenge just covering bills. I’m feeling forced out. No family is here, so if pushed, I have no place to fall back on.”

Similarly stuck is Alaina Paterson from Edinburgh, who pays half of the £1750 monthly rent for her Stockbridge home, along with a flatmate. They were informed in April that their rent would mount to £2250 from August.

Paterson, a self-employed gardener, is distressed and feels cornered to move out due to this exorbitant increase. She contemplates, “I may end up couch surfing, managing out of boxes. It puts me in a stressful situation, especially as my work is majorly based in the city.”

Alaina’s letting agent, Cullen Property, claims a rent officer is slated to visit the home shortly for assessing the rental valuation.

Along with the distressed tenants, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie has criticised the ministers for declaring a housing crisis without offering a seasoned plan to aid struggling rent-payers.

Alison Watson, the Director of Shelter Scotland, draws attention to the criticality of the influence of the private tenants while the housing bill advances through parliament. She mentions that “runaway rents” are merely one piece of the housing crisis puzzle in Scotland, which has been enduring due to decades of inadequate investment in social housing.

Responding to the crisis, a spokesperson from the Scottish Government mentioned that their commitment to introducing a long-term system for rent controls is part of the Housing Bill. The spokesperson also highlighted that the emergency legislation, including the rent cap, concluded on 31 March 2024, but the temporary alterations to the way rents are decided during a tenant’s review are aiding in safeguarding against significant in-tenancy hikes. He reassured, “Tenants’ rights in Scotland continue to be the strongest in the UK, with stringent legal processes in place for ending a tenancy, which landlords must adhere to. Under no circumstances can tenants be forcibly ousted from their homes.”

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