The Private Housing Bill 1st Apr 2016

The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill has now completed the three stages of the parliamentary process. The Bill will likely become law in late 2017, and will not affect landlords or letting agents until then. However, landlords should be very aware of what has been agreed in the Bill as this may affect the letting of their rental property.

The argument is that the Bill will create simpler tenancies, offer stability and security to the 700,000 tenants who call the private rented sector home, and ensure predictability over rent increases.

Key measures contained in the bill include:

• Improved security for tenants, which means they cannot be asked to leave their home simply because the tenancy agreement has reached its end date.

• Comprehensive and robust repossession grounds which will enable a landlord to regain possession of their property in reasonable circumstances.

• The opportunity for local authorities to implement rent caps in areas where there are excessive rent increases.

• Moves to a more streamlined system with no confusing pre-tenancy notices and easier-to-understand model tenancy agreement.

There are 2 main concerns for landlords as a result of this:

• Tenancies can no longer be terminated when they reach their end date.

• The initial period for which a tenant could be tied in has been removed.

The loss of ability to terminate the tenancy means that it will become difficult for landlords to recover possession of their property. In most cases tenancies run smoothly and it is very unlikely landlords would want to get rid of good, well-paying tenants. However even the best tenants can turn bad for many reasons and so what does the landlord do then?

In the case of non-paying tenants, landlords are unable to repossess the property as long as the tenants reduce the arrears to less than a month’s outstanding rent. And in the case of anti-social behaviour, an amount of evidence will have to be gathered and taken to the first-tier tribunal (an independent body who will listen to both sides of the argument before making a decision). It is not possible to just serve a Notice to Quit. The Scottish Government stipulate that no fees will be charged for anyone taking a case to the Housing and Property Tribunal. There will be 18 separate grounds on which a landlord can seek to take back their property, with tenants able to take landlords to the tribunal if they are unhappy. The aim of this tribunal is to ensure cases are handled quickly and correctly by decision makers who specialise in housing law.

All of this means that it is more important than ever for landlords to know what they are doing, either becoming entirely knowledgeable about the situation themselves, or by using a reputable letting agent. The Key Place is a member of leading industry bodies, and as such is proud to be involved in shaping the future of the lettings industry in Scotland.