The new housing bill put forward by the Scottish Government would be a "huge step forward" for tenants, a campaign group has said.

The Housing (Scotland) Bill published on Wednesday will require local councils to carry out assessments on the condition of the private rental sector and make recommendations to ministers about imposing rent controls.

Rent rises would also be capped during and between tenancies, while there are also provisions for allowing tenants to have pets and redecorate.

It would further require a first-tier tribunal and sheriff court to take timing into account when considering any notice to evict, to “reduce, as far as possible, the negative impact of eviction at a time of greater stress resulting from additional pressures or individual circumstances”.

Four local authorities - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Argyll & Bute and Fife - have declared a housing emergency in recent months.

Aditi Jehangir, Secretary of Living Rent said: "In the middle of a housing crisis, where renters across the country are being pushed to the edge by unaffordable rents, this bill is a huge step forward for tenants.

"It includes key measures that we have been fighting for such as rent controls that apply between tenancy, the ability to cap increases at 0%, rights for joint tenants to leave and the right to have pets and redecorate.

The Herald: Members of Living Rent protest outside Wheatley's Glasgow HQ

"If passed, these will have a huge impact on tenants’ lives, ensuring that we have homes that we can actually call ours. But we know the landlord lobby will try to water down the bill at every step. Our representatives need to stand up for tenants and bring in robust rent controls that both improve housing quality and ensure homes in Scotland are affordable."

Tenants’ rights minister Patrick Harvie said: “A fairer, well-regulated rented sector is good for both tenants and landlords.

“Tenants benefit from improved conditions and security, while good responsible landlords will thrive when their good practice is recognised by regulation.

“Scotland has led the way across the UK in improving the experience of people who rent their homes and this reform has been at the same time as significant growth in the size of the private rented sector.

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“Progressive reform can lead to better conditions and a healthy rented sector overall. I want to keep working with both tenants and landlords to achieve that goal.”

As well as changes to the private rental sector, the Bill proposes duties on public authorities – including councils, the police and the health service – to ensure people do not become homeless.

Through what is described as an “ask and act” approach, public bodies will be required to inquire about the housing circumstances of those they interact with and provide support or refer them to their local authority, which will be required to act six months before homelessness is imminent, instead of the current two months.

The Bill would also update the definition of domestic abuse in current housing legislation and force social landlords to devise a policy to support tenants at risk of homelessness because of abuse.

Homelessness charity Crisis has welcomed the proposals, but said they should be backed by sufficient funding.

Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, said: “We strongly welcome publication of the Housing Bill, and confirmation the new legislation will include measures to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place.

“If implemented properly, these plans hold the potential to create a truly world-leading homelessness system, but to be effective they need to be properly resourced.”

However, Scottish Labour have described the proposals as "half-baked".

Housing spokesman Mark Griffin said: “This Bill exposes the fact that the SNP Government has no clear plan to tackle the housing crisis and homelessness in Scotland after 17 years of failure and decline.

“It is nothing short of a shocking failure of the most vulnerable in our society.

“The Bill does not offer enough to tackle homelessness, is slow to help renters, and has done nothing to properly encourage affordable home building.”

The Scottish Property Federation, which represents companies involved in private property ownership and investment said: "The Housing Bill published today comes just 24 hours after the Scottish Government released statistics showing a significant fall in new home starts across all tenures. Every effort must be made to address the supply crisis in Scotland by building more homes of all tenures. There is no solution to the housing crisis that does not involve greatly increasing the supply of new homes across for sale and rent.

“This Bill will be a disappointment to those seeking to build new rental homes in Scotland. Investors in the new, modern Build-to-Rent sector - which brings high standards of property management and offers greater flexibility to tenants, in line with many of the Government’s objectives - will remain uncertain of what the future rent control system will look like until potentially late 2026.

“Investors will also be greatly concerned to see rent controls extended to properties that go back onto the market after a sitting tenant has left. This could make it harder for property owners to fund major improvements, including energy efficiency measures, to their properties between tenancies.

“Should the legislation be approved by the Scottish Parliament unamended, we risk repeating the damaging effects of the emergency rent freeze legislation passed in 2022 when investment for Scottish rental housing was frozen, deterred, or diverted to projects outside of Scotland. We estimate that there is currently between £2.5bn and £3bn of investment now at risk that could deliver quality new homes for rent in Scotland.

“Our industry and members remain committed to supporting new investment into the sector and will engage with the scrutiny process of the Bill as it progresses through the Scottish Parliament.”