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Loss of the No Fault Eviction Ground

the latest batch of legislation coming out of the Holyrood parliament (a.k.a. Shelter) regarding the Private Rented Sector (PRS) is now undergoing its second review due to end in August I believe.

This is a pointless article…. No, honestly it really and truly is.

Where shall I begin, well firstly what are we talking about? A number of you will be aware the latest batch of legislation coming out of the Holyrood parliament (a.k.a. Shelter) regarding the Private Rented Sector (PRS) is now undergoing its second review due to end in August I believe.

I am not going to dissect the entire raft of legislation, in fact in a number of areas I think it addresses a some issues affecting both tenants, landlords and letting agents. However I would refer you to my earlier article about “enforcement”, without which any piece of legislation is just so much poor quality Andrex substitute.

My main issue is with the proposed removal of the “no fault” ground routinely used to get possession of a property, it requires two clear months notice and is a mandatory ground.

So why do they want to remove it? Various justifications have been put forward but the primary one seems to be that landlords/agents are using it to evict tenants who complain about things, the so called ‘revenge eviction’.

My first problem with this is simply where is the evidence for this allegation? The governments own data as published after the first phase of the review said that the vast majority of tenants in the PRS had been happy with their tenancy.

In other words they had not been asked to end their tenancies early. Even of those remaining who had been required to end their tenancy early where is the evidence it was for anything other than a legitimate reason, e.g. the landlord moving back in or the property being sold? If this is true then even under the new legislation they would still have had to leave as these two grounds will still exist.

Despite the governments own data showing no requirement for this change they still seem to want to push ahead and its has been included in the second review.

I am not suggesting that there aren’t cases of ‘revenge eviction’ out there, but all the information seems to indicate that it’s not nearly as big an issue as people are shouting about. Even if it were surely there is a better way of dealing with it, why not address it using the landlord/agent registration rules?

Any landlord/agent that consistently abused the process could have their registration suspended. In my opinion local council officers know who the likely candidates are (I know mine do), give them the ability to act (a minor tweak in the current rules and some more resources), they would be delighted, as would every reputable agent/landlord I know.

That aside, what about some cold logic? If I evict a tenant it costs both my landlord and I money. No ifs no buts. This isn’t a game it’s a business. Advertising, void periods, re letting fees, inventories, dealing with the check out, referencing, lettings paperwork etc. So what agent/landlord would routinely use this as a tactic, not the sharpest noodles in the knife draw?

Now, please don’t misunderstand me, Belvoir Lettings Dundee use the ‘no fault’ ground probably more than any other to end a tenancy, not for some dark, nefarious reason. But simply because its efficient, the vast majority of times its because the landlord is selling, moving back in etc.

However, and this is where my really big objection lies, we also use it to get rid of anti social tenants or even those who are consistent non payers or late payers, though in all honesty it’s the anti social element that really frightens me.

But why, I hear you ask, when our glorious leaders have provided us with ample legislation (Andrex), to help us? Really, I must have nodded off that day. What they did was make the landlord/agent responsible for anti social behaviour not only in the property but also around it. The problem is that they gave us precisely zero powers to actually enforce it.

Yes, we can have meetings with the tenant in question, write letters, come to behaviour agreements etc., but fundamentally if that doesn’t work (and it often doesn’t) then the only option is eviction, and the ‘no fault’ ground is the way to go.   Why not get the anti social behaviour team involved? Been there, done it, bought the tee shirt. Not spectacularly effective. I’m not getting at them; they have guidelines and are under resourced.

I will give you an example of an anti social case (real life):

Tenant moves in to a tenement flat. Nice lad, the problem was his friends who visited or banged on his door and were generally rowdy. Lots of calls from everyone else in the block complaining. We had the usual conversations and communications with him but fundamentally he couldn’t get a grip of them. We spoke to all the neighbours asking would they put their issues in writing (rather than just call us), the answer was no, don’t want the hassle etc (there were no allegations of violence or anything like that). We spoke to the Anti Social team and our own solicitors about eviction (not under the ‘no fault’ ground as it was too early in the tenancy). Both told us that unless we had written evidence (and plenty of it) it was just ‘hearsay’ and the Sherriff would just throw it out, obviously at the landlords’ expense. We produced a ‘tick box’ form for all the neighbours so all they had to do was keep a record of the disturbances and then pass it to us so we could build a case. The response back was zero.

So mediation hasn’t worked, the law hasn’t worked and the neighbours are stuck in hell and call us every day but not accepting that we have no powers……Great. Eventually we got to a point in time where we could use the ‘no fault’ ground and off he went.

So exactly how were we to solve this problem under the proposed legislation? No please I’m really interested to hear how some of the ‘experts’, and I use the term loosely who draft this kind of legislation would operate in the ‘real’ world.

So back to my opening statement, why is this article probably pointless?

Well for the very simple reason that in my opinion the government have already made up their mind. I have little, or lets be honest, no faith in a system which has a series of reviews purely so they can then basically do what they like whilst saying “but we had a public review”, which the cynic in me (which is a very large part of a very small Dachshund) thinks is happening, again.

The government’s vision statement for this legislation is:

‘A private rented sector that provides good quality homes and high management standards, inspires consumer confidence, and encourages growth through attracting increased investment.’

My basic problem with this is the last part as there is evidence that it will discourage growth and investment in quite a major way. They have been told this but so far have refused to listen.

They keep telling us how important the PRS is in Scotland (every time they produce more Andrex), but this measure on its own has the potential to drive landlords out of the sector in significant numbers, potentially impacting on jobs, taxes etc.

What about the thing that Holyrood (Shelter) talk about the most, the shortage of accommodation? There is no doubt a shortage of housing, which is not about to be fixed anytime soon, there is insufficient council and housing association properties, again not about to be fixed any time soon.

According to Shelter there are 368,000 people in private rented accommodation in Scotland (approximately), if even a fairly small percentage of current landlords pull out of the market (and plenty have indicated that’s what they will do), then what happens to these people?

If this happens, where will they live? Hey Holyrood (Shelter), ever heard of the law of unintended consequences?

Love Miss Toots X

(A cynical and slightly miffed property Dachshund now climbing off her soap box)

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