April Update - For Landlords

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill

 
  
  
  
 The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill has finally been published. This bill proposes significant temporary changes to residential tenancy law in the private and social rented sectors.
 
What does the bill do?

Private Residential Tenancies

•    Increased Notice Periods

The bill increases the notice period for the Private ResidentialTenancy. The current notice period is either 28 or 84 days depending on either the duration of the tenant’s occupation or the ground relied upon. 

The bill extends the notice period to 6 months for all grounds with the exception of the tenant not occupying the let property which will remain 28 days; and 3 months for: 
-    landlord intends to live in the let property 
-    a member of the landlord’s family intends to live in the let property 
-    the tenant has a relevant conviction 
-    the tenant has engaged in relevant anti-social behaviour 
-    the tenant associates in the let property with a person who has a relevant conviction or has engaged in relevant anti-social behaviour 
-    the landlord is not registered by the relevant local authority under the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004 
-    the let property or associated living accommodation is in multiple occupation and not licensed under Part 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006

•    Removal of mandatory eviction in all cases

All grounds will be discretionary whereby the Tribunal will require to consider the reasonableness of eviction irrespective of the ground relied upon. This means landlords will require to satisfy the Tribunal that eviction is reasonable in all eviction actions calling before the Tribunal while this legislation remains in force  whether notice was served before or after commencement of these provisions. This will likely mean that the tribunal will take into account, amongst other things, how the
coronavirus outbreak has affected the personal circumstances of both the tenant and the landlord.

Assured and Short Assured Tenancies

•    Increased Notice Periods

The Notice Period for service of the AT6 has been extended from either 2 weeks or 2 months to 6 months in all cases with the exception of :
-    2  months if the notice specifies only Ground 9 in Part II of Schedule 5 to this Act (tenant will be given alternative  suitable accommodation),
-    3 months if the notice specifies any of the
following grounds  Ground 1 (landlord intends to occupy the property), Ground 15(the tenant has engaged in anti-social behaviour or been convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment) 

The Notice Period for service of the ‘no fault’ s. 33 notice has been extended from 2 months to 6 months.  Accordingly, the landlord must now give 6 months’ notice that he requires possession of the property. 

•    Removal of mandatory eviction in all cases

All grounds will be discretionary whereby the Tribunal will require to consider the reasonableness of eviction irrespective of the ground relied upon. This means landlords will require to satisfy the Tribunal that eviction is reasonable in all eviction actions calling before the Tribunal while this legislation remains in force  whether notice was served before or after commencement of these provisions. 

What is the practical reality of these provisions?

The bill does not propose to amend the prescribed notices.  Instead the notices are to be read and completed so as to give effect to the changes.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunal  Service (SCTS) has
postponed all eviction actions both in the Sheriff Court and the First-tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber until June at the earliest. When business does resume, SCTS will likely prioritise fixing hearings for postponed cases. This means any new cases are
unlikely to be heard for some considerable time and the effect of the extended notice period will result in further delays. 

Timeframe

The bill proposes that these provisions will expire on 30
September 2020.  However, there is scope for Scottish
Ministers to extend the provisions for periods of 6 months up to 30 September 2021.

 

 
 

Minimum
Energy Efficiency (MEE) Update

 
  
 Whilst it remains the Scottish Government’s intention to have the Regulations available for April 2020, the MEE requirement for all PRS properties to meet a minimum band E at change of tenancy is to be moved back from 1 April 2020 to 1 October 2020, subject to parliamentary approval.

At this stage there is no suggestion that any of the other dates are to be changed. That is:

All PRS properties to meet minimum Band E by 31 March 2022;
Minimum Band D at change of tenancy by 1 April 2022; and
All PRS properties to meet minimum Band D by 31 March 2025.

In some situations it is proposed that there will be exemptions, including where:
– It is not technically feasible to carry out improvements
– Where other owners in a block of flats refuse consent to do work to common parts of the building
– Where tenants refuse consent for work
– Where permission to carry out work to a property which is listed or in a conservation area can’t be obtained
– Where the cost of improvements needed in the period 1 October 2020 to 31 March 2022 exceeds £5000, and where the cost of improvements needed in the period after 31 March 2022 exceeds £5000.

It is intended that for all EPC related works, landlords will only be requiredto carry out such work where the cost of  purchasing and installing it can be financed by means of funding provided by a grant or loan from Scottish Ministers.

Further details of proposed exemptions can be read in the governments draft guidance  https://www.gov.scot/publications/energy-efficiency-private-rented-property-scotland-regulations-2019-guidance/pages/4/

Local authorities will be responsible for enforcing the standard and granting exemptions. It is proposed that fines of up to £5000 can be levied on those owners who don’t comply with the minimum standard or provide false or misleading information on the exemptions register.

Guidance to support the regulations is still expected this month