As the cost of living crisis continues to grip the UK, renters in both social and private housing in Scotland have seen new laws introduced in a bid to help them get through one of the most financially difficult winters in recent times.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Holyrood earlier this month that although the Scottish Government did not have the power to freeze energy bills, they could instead introduce a rent freeze in Scotland, as well as a ban on evictions.
She said: “Given the UK Government has not as yet provided sufficient support in response to the cost of living crisis, we are looking at all action we can take within devolved powers to support people in Scotland.”
It couldn’t have come at a better time – rents in Edinburgh and Glasgow have risen by over 63% in the last decade according to Scotland’s Living Rent union, who led the Scottish freeze campaign. With the average gas and electricity bill sitting at £2,500 a year from October 1, many people in Scotland are breathing a sigh of relief with at least some guarantee of support.
But what about in other areas of the UK? Campaigners are now rallying for a similar rent freeze and eviction ban to be rolled out for renters across the country.
The situation in England and Wales is bleak – the UK Government has launched a consultation on capping rent increases for people living in social housing, but the proposals don’t include any intervention for price hikes for those renting in the private sector.
The latest figures show that an eye-watering 500,000 households are falling behind on rent – and if that’s not terrifying enough, the figure is 100,000 more than what it was in the first year of the pandemic.
London mayor Sadiq Khan Mayor says the freeze that Scotland has introduced is “exactly what Londoners need” and pressures are mounting on ministers to introduce legislation – tenants union Acorn revealed in a recent survey of private renters that since January 2021, 48% of people have been hit by a rent increase from their landlord.
Mikey, from the London Renters Union, which has 6,000 members across the capital, told HuffPost UK that every minute the UK Government fails to take action against rent hikes, those living in private rental housing are more at risk of being evicted.
“Our members are angry that landlords and estate agents are using the cost of living crisis as an excuse to increase rents by 30%, 40% or even 50%,” said Mikey, who chose not to share his surname.
“These unjustifiable rent hikes are forcing many of us out of our homes, away from our community and support networks. We know that as rents rise and the government takes no action to control them or prevent landlords from evicting renters from our homes, there will be dangerous consequences for renters. Every minute of inaction makes it easier to evict us from our homes.
“A rent freeze would relieve the pressure on millions of struggling renters this winter and help protect people from impossible choices like skipping meals or turning the heating off. All of us deserve a home where we can live and flourish, to be near friends and community and to have enough left over after we pay our rent to live good, dignified lives.”
Meanwhile, rents have risen higher in Wales than in any other UK nation, with Welsh nationalist political party Plaid Cymru calling on the Labour Government in Wales to do the same.
Generation Rent, a campaign led by – and for – renters want new Prime Minister Liz Truss to take action against England’s soaring rent prices as soon as possible.
Taking to Twitter, they warned that 9% of renters are facing rent increases worth approximately £1000 a year – on top of soaring energy bills.
They wrote: “The cost of living crisis requires action on a scale we saw during the pandemic. The Scottish Government knows this, so it is freezing rents and suspending evictions. We need the same emergency action from Westminster. Every renter deserves certainty that they won’t be hit with further costs.”
As demands for rent caps or freezes in England and Wales become louder and louder, it’s clear that without intervention soon, we could be in the clutches of a cost of renting crisis.