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Tenants in all Scottish uni-owned halls granted rent freeze, but no guarantee for private halls

Tenants’ rights minister Patrick Harvie has said in parliament that tenants in purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) will receive the “same level of protection” from the recently announced rent freeze and eviction moratorium as private tenants.

However, it is unclear whether this means that tenants in PBSA will have their rents capped at 6 September levels, or if they will be liable to receive some level of rent increase to compensate for utilities and bills being included in PBSA tenancy agreements.

The Student has contacted the minister’s office for clarification.

Tenants’ rights minister Patrick Harvie (Green MSP, Glasgow list) explains to Parliament the Scottish Government’s stance on PBSA tenants and the rent freeze (7 September).

Meanwhile, higher education trade body Universities Scotland has said that tenants in all halls owned by higher education bodies in Scotland, including Edinburgh’s universities, have been given a rent freeze.

A spokesperson for Universities Scotland told The Student: “Our members have pledged to freeze rents in their owned accommodation for the rest of the academic year effective from the start of the year.”

The spokesperson further told The Student that the country’s higher education institutions would comply with any legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament regarding evictions.

Around 40 percent of students in halls in Edinburgh live in privately-owned PBSA buildings, while the remaining 60 percent are in university-owned halls.

In a statement to The Student, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “These are exceptional measures developed to reflect a rapidly worsening cost of living crisis.

“If approved by the Scottish Parliament they will help ensure tenants – including students in the private rented sector – can remain in their homes and that they won’t see their rents rise over the autumn and winter.

“We intend to give the same levels of protection to students in halls or other types of purpose-built accommodation.

“Tenancies in halls of residence and purpose built student accommodation are structured differently from other types of tenancies, often including energy costs, so we are working at pace to determine how best to achieve parity of protection.”

Until recently, it was unclear whether tenants in PBSA would be covered by the upcoming rent freeze and eviction moratorium at all.

The uncertainty came from PBSA and student hall tenancies being common law tenancies, which are defined by a contract between the landlord and the tenant rather than by a law.

Most common law tenancies are presently not set to be covered by the cost-of-living measures.

The rent freeze will cap rents for private residential tenancies and some common law tenancies at the level they were at on 6 September.

Rents will continue at that level until at least 31 March 2023.

Meanwhile, the eviction moratorium will ban evictions from 6 September until at least 31 March 2023.

It is unclear whether the eviction moratorium will have exceptions for antisocial or criminal behaviour as the coronavirus eviction moratorium did.

The Scottish Parliament has not yet passed the legislation necessary to implement the rent freeze and eviction ban, though this is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.

If you need advice on finding housing in Edinburgh, you can call EUSA’s Advice Place on 0131 374 4581 or by email at advice@eusa.ed.ac.uk .

Canal at Fountainbridge, Edinburgh” by allytibbitt is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

By Joe Sullivan

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