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Housing

Campaigners hold fake award ceremony outside landlord’s office over £200-a-month rent hike

Single mum Jemma Mclaren is facing an eviction a week before Christmas after her rent increased from £695 to £895 a month.

Rent campaigners have held a fake award ceremony outside a landlord’s offices in protest at a single mum’s £200 rent rise.

Living Rent activists awarded Kelvin Properties the “Biggest Rent Hike of the Month” after Jemma Maclaren, 44, saw the rent for her two-bedroom flat in Partick, Glasgow, surge almost 30 per cent from £695 to £895 per month.

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Maclaren also said she was issued with a notice to quit the property after she contested the rise, insisting she was told to move out by December 17 – just over a week before Christmas.

The landlord said the increase “brings the property in line with open market rents” but Maclaren, 44, who has lived at the property with 12-year-old daughter Skye for nine years, insisted she cannot afford the rise alongside the surging cost of living.

“I am terrified,” said Maclaren, who is a member of Living Rent. “This rent increase and eviction notice means I am not able to plan anything, and with the cost of living crisis, everything is hitting me at once.

“I am trying to keep it together for my daughter so she does not get anxious and worried about having to leave her school and friends, but Christmas is cancelled this year and I am dreading it. This is not what life in your forties is meant to be like.”

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rent protest in Glasgow
Maclaren (left) says the rent hike will mean she has to leave her home of nine years. Image: Living Rent

Members of the Living Rent tenants union held a protest outside Kelvin Properties’ offices on August 18, calling on the landlord to cancel the rent increase and withdraw the notice to quit. 

Maclaren paid £70,000 in rent over the nine years of living at the property, the tenants union said, and said no work had been done on the property to justify increasing monthly  payments. The rent increase means school worker Maclaren has “no choice” but to leave her home and community.

A Kelvin Properties spokesperson told the Big Issue Maclaren did not apply for a tribunal at the Housing and Property Chamber to set the rent, which she could have done if she felt it was too high.

The lettings agent said they “followed procedure” and confirmed Maclaren has been issued an eviction notice for December 17.

“The rental increase simply brings Ms Maclaren’s rent in line with the open market rents for the location,” the spokesperson added.

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“Regrettably as a business we are not in a position to absorb the cost of the increase in management costs, factoring, insurance premiums and maintenance costs for this property without a rental increase being forthcoming.

“Ms Maclaren did not apply to the Tribunal for a determination and advised she was unable to afford the increase and indicated that she was unhappy with her neighbours. We therefore have followed procedure and issued Ms Maclaren with notice to bring her tenancy to an end.”

Living Rent is urging the Scottish government to take action on increasing rents across the country and has called for a rent freeze.

rent protest in Glasgow
Living Rent has called on the Scottish government to freeze rising rents as tenants deal with surging bills. Ministers rejected a proposed freeze in June which would have stopped rents rising ahead of the introduction of rent controls in 2024. Image: Living Rent

In June, MSPs voted against an amendment to the Coronavirus Recovery Bill which aimed to freeze rents for two years until rent controls are introduced in 2024.

“Jemma’s story shows exactly why we in Living Rent do what we do: callous landlords hiking up rents and threatening to put people on the street at Christmas,” said a Living Rent spokesperson.

“Similar situations are happening all over Scotland, and it is all the more shameful given the cost of living crisis and the fact that ordinary people are struggling to put food on the table and heat their homes. We need to resist this appalling behaviour by standing together, and we urgently need the Scottish government to do the responsible thing and freeze rents.”

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There also calls for a rent freeze in England as rents have reached record levels in recent months.

Campaigners Generation Rent reported that 45 per cent of tenants had faced a rent rise in the last year following a survey of 1,000 of its members.

“Renters are terrified, knowing they face a winter of destitution,” said Alicia Kennedy, Generation Rent director. “Ultimately that will lead to a further rise in evictions and homelessness. The government must intervene and temporarily stop landlords from raising the rent, as well as pausing evictions to keep renters in their homes.”

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