Scottish Housing Market Review Q1 2023

Scottish housing market bulletins collating a range of statistics on house prices, housing market activity, cost and availability of finance and repossessions.

This document is part of a collection

4. Private Rental Sector

Private Housing Rental Prices

The ONS Private Housing Rental Price Index for Scotland increased by 4.9% annually in February 2023. Previously, nominal private rental price growth across Scotland as a whole had been relatively stable, ranging between 0% and 2% from June 2017 to November 2021. However, in recent months nominal rental prices have increased significantly, with February’s figure the highest annual growth recorded since the index began.

While the ONS index uses data drawn from the Rent Service Scotland data collection, which is largely based on advertised rents, it attempts to make an allowance for rents paid by existing tenants by assuming that a rent record remains unchanged for a period of 14 months. Therefore, when rental growth begins to accelerate, the ONS index will lag indices which are based entirely on new let rents. This explains the difference with letting agents’ reports, with Citylets reporting annual growth of 11.9% and Rightmove 9.7% in Q4 2022. Letting agencies only cover around half of the private rented sector, and each letting agent’s data will be affected by its market coverage, which will vary by geography and market segment; in contrast, Rent Service Scotland data (which is also used in the Scottish Government private rent statistics discussed below) is designed to be representative of the whole market.

Note that caution is needed in interpreting recent figures for Scotland from the ONS index, given that the methodology used in combining advertised rental data along with an assumption on average tenancy period is unlikely to fully take account of the current restrictions on rent increases for existing tenants in Scotland.

In real terms (adjusting for inflation, using CPI), the annual change in the ONS Private Rental Index in November 2022 was -5.0%, due to CPI inflation reaching 10.4% over the same period. The heightened level of CPI inflation can be partly explained by an increase in the price of Housing and Household Services, principally from electricity, gas, and other fuels.

Chart 4.1 Annual Change in Private Housing Rental Prices (Monthly): Scotland
the annual change in private housing rental prices in Scotland on a monthly basis in both nominal (not accounting for inflation) and in real terms (removing the effect of inflation) from January 2012 to February 2023.

Source: ONS Rental Price Index, Consumer Price Index (CPI)

Scottish Government statistics show that from 2010 to 2022 (years to end September), five broad market rental areas (“BRMAs”) have seen average rents for 2 bedroom properties increase, on an average annualised basis, above the average level of CPI inflation (2.4%): these are the Greater Glasgow (3.6%), Lothian (3.5%), Forth Valley (2.9%), Fife (2.8%) and East Dunbartonshire (2.5%) BRMAs. Therefore, the annualised average rate of change was equal to or below that of inflation (CPI) in 13/18 BRMAs, with the lowest annualised rate of change seen in Aberdeen and Shire of just 0.3%.

Chart 4.2 Annualised Average Rate of Change in Mean Rent (2 Bedroom Property), YTE Sept-10 to YTE Sept-22, by BRMA
the annualised average rate of change in mean rent for a 2 bedroom property. This covers the period from September 2010 to September 2022.

Source: SG/ONS CPI

* Note: Scottish Government statistics are based almost entirely on advertised rents at point of new let, whilst the ONS methodology makes an allowance for existing lets. In addition, Chart 4.2 looks solely at 2 bedroom properties, whilst Chart 4.1 looks at the entire market.

Rent Freeze and Evictions Moratorium

Tenants have increased protection from rent increases and evictions during the cost of living crisis under emergency legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament. The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Act introduced a temporary rent cap, a temporary moratorium on the enforcement of evictions (except in a number of specified circumstances), and damages for unlawful evictions have been increased to a maximum of 36 months’ worth of rent.

This cap, which applies to in-tenancy rent increases, was initially set at 0% for rent-increase notices served from 6 September 2022 until 31 March 2023. The Act has since been extended to 30 September 2023, with changes meaning that from 1 April 2023 if a private landlord serves a notice to increase a tenant’s rent mid-tenancy then the increase will be capped at 3% (previously 0%). Private landlords will alternatively be able to apply for a rent increase of up to 6% (previously 3%) to help cover certain increases in costs in defined and limited circumstances. Enforcement of evictions will continue to be paused for up to six months except in a number of specified circumstances. The rent cap for student accommodation has been suspended, recognising its limited impact on annual rents set on the basis of an academic year.

The temporary legislation balances the protections that are needed for tenants with some safeguards for those landlords who may also be impacted by the cost crisis. The measures can be extended by a further six months, subject to Parliamentary approval.



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