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Coronavirus - Impact on Scottish residential tenancies

23 June 2020

The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 26 May 2020 and the law came into force on 27 May 2020. The legislation is a follow on from The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act which received Royal Assent on 6 April and has been introduced to work alongside the provisions contained in the prior enactment.

Both Acts contain emergency provisions which have made significant amendments to the existing law around the eviction of tenants from private residential dwelling-houses and student accommodation and the notice periods required to end such agreements.

Jamie Murray
Jamie Murray, Solicitor

Eviction of Tenants – Private Residential Tenancies

The effect of the emergency provisions is to remove all former mandatory grounds for eviction (e.g. non-payment of rent established by three months of consecutive arrears). This means that whilst the legislation remains in force, eviction orders will only be awarded to private landlords at the discretion of the First-tier Tribunal, Housing & Property Chamber where it is satisfied that such an order is “reasonable” in all the circumstances of the case.

In addition, The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act outlines that landlords must carry out a set of pre-action requirements before attempting to end a tenancy agreement specifically because of rent arrears. In determining whether an eviction order is reasonable, the First-Tier Tribunal must consider the steps the landlord has taken to comply with the pre-action requirements before they will issue an eviction order.

Further detail on the specific pre-action requirements are awaited but the legislation states that the pre-action requirements may in particular make provision about:

(a) information to be provided by a landlord to a tenant including information about the terms of the tenancy, rent arrears and any other outstanding financial obligation under the tenancy; and

(b) steps that have been taken by a landlord with a view to seeking to agree arrangements with a tenant for payment of future rent, rent arrears and any other outstanding financial obligation.

In addition to the changes around the grounds for eviction, the legislation has altered the requisite periods of notice to leave that require to be given to tenants occupying under a private residential tenancy agreement. 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:
    - the landlord or a member of the landlord’s family intends to live in the property;
    - the tenant has or has associated in the property with a person who has a relevant conviction or has engaged in anti-social behaviour;
    - the landlord is not registered by the relevant local authority;
    - the dwelling is an unlicensed house in multiple occupation.
  • 6 months in any other case e.g. relative to rent arrears.

Student Residential Tenancies

The legislation provides that students who have already entered into a student residential tenancy agreement for the current academic term and are already in occupation can serve notice to quit on the basis of a 7 day notice period. For students who have entered into an agreement for the coming academic term (2020/2021) but not yet taken up occupation, or those who have yet to enter into a student residential tenancy agreement following the enactment of the legislation, a 28 day notice to leave period will apply. The latter amendment brings student residential tenancy agreements into line with the current requirement under a private residential tenancy agreement.

Timetable

The provisions introduced by both Acts are time limited and are due to expire on 30 September 2020. However, the Scottish Ministers have the power to extend the provisions for two further six month periods if required.

Contact

Jamie Murray Solicitor jmu@bto.co.uk T. 0141 225 4544

 

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