Agents urged to respond to Scotland rented sector reform consultation before 27 October 2023

Stakeholders have just a few weeks to add their voices to the discussion on Scottish Government plans to introduce a system of long-term rent controls for the private rented sector, strengthen tenant protections during the eviction process, enshrine the right to personalise a rented home, and make it easier for a tenant to request to keep a pet.


These proposals are part of the Scottish Government’s New Deal for Tenants, as set out in their Program for Government on 5 September 2023.

Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, states in her foreword to the draft strategy paper that the reforms are integral to delivering Housing to 2040 – the long-term housing plan published by the Scottish Government in March 2023 – which included a goal to improve accessibility, affordability and standards across the rented sector.

Rent controls


Local authorities would be required to carry out an assessment of rents in their area and make a recommendation to MSPs about whether to impose rent controls in all or part of that area.  There would be a statutory requirement to consult the local authority and representatives of landlords and tenants before a rent control area can be introduced. The final decision would be made by MSPs.

Any rent control area would be in place for a fixed time. If a local authority wanted to extend this, they would have to carry out a further assessment showing a continued need for rent control.

How controls would work

The controls would be in the form of a restriction on the amount rents could be increased – either via a rent cap based on a fixed percentage or a formula which could be used to calculate the increase.

When a rent can be set

The controls would apply both to increases during a tenancy and to the rent set for a new tenant. Currently, tenants with a private residential tenancy cannot have their rent increased more than once in a 12-month period.

The Government now propose that rent increases in areas where rent controls are in place would be limited to one increase per property in any 12-month period, even if the tenant changes within that time.

The Scottish Government acknowledges that this may result in the rent being increased early in a tenancy depending on when the earliest date of increase arises.

Safeguards and exemptions for landlords

The Scottish Government say they are considering exceptions to rent caps, for example when a landlord has invested in certain improvements to a property.

It is also proposed that ‘new to market’ tenancies would be exempt from controls under certain circumstances, including

  • The first tenancy of a property which has not been let as a principal home before.
  • The first tenancy of a property following it being purchased with vacant possession by the current landlord.
  • The first tenancy of a property which has been empty for a prolonged period.
  • The first private residential tenancy of a property where the previous tenancy was a regulated tenancy under the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984

Courts and tribunals to have power to delay evictions

This measure would apply to all types of tenancies, in both the private and social rented sectors i.e. those under The Rent (Scotland) Act 1984, The Housing (Scotland) Act 1988, The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 and The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016.

The plans would introducing a specific requirement on both the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) and the Scottish Courts, that where an eviction order/decree is granted, they should consider whether a delay to the enforcement of that eviction should occur due to the circumstances of the case.

Factors that the Tribunal and Court would consider in deciding if it is reasonable to delay enforcement could include

  • Whether any seasonal pressures apply, including but not limited to winter, or other relevant circumstances.
  • Whether enforcement taking place during a particular period would cause financial hardship or a negative impact on the health or long-term disability of a tenant or a member of the tenant's household.
  • Whether a delay to enforcement would detrimentally affect the landlords' health or long-term disability or cause financial hardship.

Greater flexibility to personalise rented homes

Proposals put forward to allow tenants more freedom to make their rented home their own would result in two categories of changes that private tenants with a PRT could make to personalise their home:

  • Category 1: No approval from landlord required - private tenants would be allowed to make certain minor modifications to the let property without prior agreement from their landlord. For example, putting pictures and posters on walls.
  • Category 2: Right to request and landlord cannot unreasonably refuse – private tenants would have a new right to request to make certain larger changes to the let property and for their request to not to be unreasonably refused, where they had lived in the let property for a set period of time. For example, painting the walls inside the property a different colour. In agreeing to a change, a landlord would be able to set conditions for approval but only where it is reasonable for them to do so.

Tenants would still be able to ask for more substantial modifications to the properties fixtures and fittings, but these would continue to be at the discretion of the landlord as is currently the case. This means the landlord could refuse modifications that did not fall into either category 1 or 2 above without any test of reasonableness.

Greater flexibility to keep pets

This change would give tenants with a private residential tenancy the right to request to keep a pet and to not be unreasonably refused.

Reasonable grounds for refusal would be:

  • The property is unsuitable for the type or number of pets requested
  • The animal is listed in the Schedule to The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.
  • The animals are being kept for commercial purposes

Landlords would be entitled to set conditions for approval, such as requiring an additional amount of deposit.

Changes to ending joint tenancies

The Private Housing (Tenancies)(Scotland)Act 2016 set out that a joint tenancy could be ended so that all joint tenants must agree to give notice. This has resulted in situations where people can be trapped in a tenancy if an agreement cannot be reached. The Scottish Government is considering altering this to allow a joint tenant to give the other joint tenants 2 months’ notice of their intention to end the tenancy. At the end of the 2-month period, if no agreement has been reached, the tenant who wants to leave could then serve the required final notice to leave (28 days) to the landlord. This would then end the tenancy for all tenants.

Unclaimed tenancy deposits

Monitoring of the three approved deposit schemes in Scotland had highlighted that there is around £4 million of unclaimed tenant deposit funds. The Government wants to ensure that a tenant can reclaim their funds wherever possible, and so they propose a requirement for deposit schemes to collect alternative contact details when a deposit is lodged, and to set out a process for funds to be safeguarded if they cannot be returned within five years, so the tenant can reclaim them later.