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Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill – impact on the private rented sector

Thursday 02 April 2020

Following the passing of the Coronavirus Act 2020 by the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament has introduced and passed its own emergency legislation to tackle the Coronavirus outbreak.

The emergency powers introduced adjust the law on evictions and notice periods for the majority of repossession grounds across the private and social rented sectors.

The law will have significant impact on any attempts to recover possession of a property let under various tenures including Private Residential Tenancies (PRTs) and any remaining Short-assured (SATs) and Assured tenancies. It also affects older types of tenancies.

The changes are implemented by two main changes in the underlying legislation:

MANDATORY GROUNDS OR BASIS FOR EVICTION/POSSESSION

Whether it be Private Residential Tenancies, Assured Tenancies or Short Assured Tenancies all grounds for possession during the period the legislation is in force will be discretionary and as such, not only will landlords have to establish the ground exists, but they will also have to establish that the granting of an eviction or possession order is reasonable in the particular circumstances.

The Grounds are still established in the same way, so for example with PRTs and rent arrears (Ground 12) is still established by three months of consecutive arrears, but under the Bill, irrespective of the level of the arrears, Ground 12 will be discretionary.

This also applies to Short Assured Tenancies where the basis for possession is under section 33, which is/was the landlord's automatic right to recover possession at the end of a short-assured tenancy – often referred to as the 'no-fault' ground. This will be discretionary.

INCREASED NOTICE PERIODS

For Private Residential Tenancies, instead of the current two notice periods of 28 and 84 days, there is now three different periods:

  • 28 days - Ground 10 (where the tenant is no longer occupying the property).
  • 3 months -  Ground 4 (landlord wants to live in the property), Ground 5 (family member of landlord wants to live in the property), ground 13 (criminal behaviour of tenant), Ground 14 (antisocial behaviour by tenant), Ground 15 (association with someone guilty of criminal behaviour or anti-social behaviour), Ground 16 (landlord ceased to be registered) and Ground 17 (HMO licence revoked).
  • 6 months - Grounds 1 (landlord wants to sell), Grounds 2 (lender wants to sell), Ground 3 (refurbishment), Ground 6 (change of use), Ground 7 (required for religious purposes), Ground 8 (no longer employee of landlord), Ground 9 (supported accommodation), Ground 11 (breach of tenancy), Ground 12 (rent arrears) and Ground 18 (overcrowding notice).

 

Assured Tenancies or Short Assured Tenancies - instead of the current two notice periods there are now three:

  • 2 months - Ground 9 (alternative accommodation).
  • 3 months - Ground 1 (landlord wants to live in the property) and Ground 15 (anti-social behaviour).
  • 6 months - Grounds 2 to 8 with Ground 8 being the former mandatory rent arrears ground of three months or more rent arrears. Grounds 10 to 14 which includes the two other rent arrears grounds and where a tenant gives notice to quit and then doesn’t remove. As well as grounds 16 (condition of the furniture deteriorated) and 17 (no longer employee of landlord).

 

A six-month notice period will also apply to any notices issued to terminate a Short Assured Tenancies under section 33 (recovery of possession on termination of a Short Assured Tenancy) rather than the current two months.

The Bill does not amend the prescribed notices.

Measures

The measures introduced by the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill are limited to the duration of the Coronavirus outbreak with most of the measures expiring on 30 September 2020, six months after they come into force. However, these may be extended for two further periods of six months, meaning that the measures in the Bill could be in force for a maximum of 18 months.

Royal Assent

As soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent, it will become law.

Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill

PROPERTYMARK WEBINAR

Daryl McIntosh, Propertymark's Strategic Development Manager will provide an update for agents in Scotland on the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill and any other issues affecting agents in Scotland. The webinar will take place on 8 April.  

Register