Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 - Impact on the private rented sector

Added on 08 April 2020

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 received Royal Assent on Monday 6 April 2020.

The Act makes certain emergency provisions as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis covering a range of topics including housing law. These provisions will expire on 30 September 2020 but can be extended to 31 March 2021 and beyond that to 30 September 2021. The provisions can also be brought to an end at an earlier date if appropriate.

Schedule 1 amends the existing law on the eviction of tenants from dwelling-houses and these amendments are of significance to all landlords including those in the private rented sector.

EVICTION OF TENANTS

The effect of the emergency provisions is to remove all mandatory grounds for the eviction of tenants and give the First-tier Tribunal, Housing & Property Chamber a discretion only to make an order for eviction where it is satisfied that it is reasonable to do so.

This discretion applies whether or not the tenancy is a Private Residential Tenancy under the Private Housing (Tenancies)(Scotland) Act 2016 or an Assured or Short Assured Tenancy under the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988.

Whether or not the Tribunal considers it reasonable to grant an eviction order will be dependent upon the facts and circumstances of each case.

NOTICES TO LEAVE IN PRIVATE RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES    

The 2020 Act also extends the notice periods required in Notices to Leave.

The new periods are as follows:-

28 days where the only ground of eviction is that the tenant is no longer occupying the let property;

3 months where one or more of the following grounds apply:-
- that the landlord or a member of the landlord’s family intends to live in the property,
- that the tenant has or has associated in the property with a person who has a relevant conviction or has engaged in anti-social behaviour,
- that the landlord is not registered by the relevant local authority, or
- the house in an unlicensed house in multiple occupation.

6 months in any other case, for example, relative to rent arrears.


Notices to Leave served prior to the 2020 Act coming into force are not affected but it remains the case that an eviction order will only be granted by the Tribunal where it is reasonable to do so irrespective that at the time of issuing the Notice to Leave the ground of eviction was then a mandatory one.

NOTICES IN ASSURED/SHORT ASSURED TENANCIES

Again the notice periods required under the 1988 Act are extended.

The new periods are as follows:-

2 months where the only ground of eviction is that alternative accommodation is available;

3 months where the landlord previously occupied or is seeking to occupy the property as his own home, or where the tenant or a person lodging with or visiting the tenant has been convicted of a relevant offence or has engaged in anti-social behaviour;

6 months in every other case, such as rent arrears.

FORMS

Be careful to use the amended versions of the prescribed Notices and Forms. These documents have also been changed as result of the 2020 Act and the various changes outlined above.

TRIBUNAL BUSINESS

As a result of the coronavirus crisis the Glasgow office of the First-tier Tribunal, Housing & Property Chamber is effectively closed other than to deal with urgent or time critical applications. Applications for payment, eviction etc are not being processed and no Case Management Discussions are being fixed.

Urgent or time critical applications can be submitted electronically and will be accepted and  processed through the sift stage but no further.

Once the current lock down passes there will be a significant backlog of applications for the administrative staff to process and that is likely to cause yet further unavoidable delays.

 

Gillian Buchanan

Partner

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