As the government prepares to introduce a housing court, LandLordZone looks at the existing Scottish system to see what the future holds.

The government’s plans to introduce a dedicated housing court in England will have huge implications for millions of landlords who, if it takes inspiration from the Scottish system as expected, will have to attend hearings in person to thrash out disputes and evictions.

Scotland’s government has invested heavily in its Housing and Property Chamber tribunal system which offers swift and transparent justice – decisions are often published the next day highlighting poor behaviour by tenants and landlords alike.

And its most recent case, published earlier today, is a case in point.

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Deposit dispute

Tenant Romy King took her landlord Lotta Brown to the tribunal after her £700 deposit was not lodged correctly with an approved deposit protection provider, she had claimed.

King provided the judges with email proof from all three schemes that they had not received proof of her deposit’s protection within the 30-day window – or at all, in fact.

King had moved in during September last year but, after experiencing difficulties with the property’s heating, gave notice and the two parties then become embroiled in discussions over a gas bill and when the rent for the notice period would be paid.

During this time, it became clear that the deposit had not been lodged with a scheme, leaving it unprotected for 12 days.
Brown accepted this but contested many of the details of when and how the discussions between the two parties took place.

Although the Tribunal could have fined Brown three times the monthly rent (£2,100), because of the circumstances including the early departure of King from the property, this was dropped to £50.

‘No excuse’

There should be no excuse for landlords or their agents not protecting the tenant’s deposit as the legislation has been around for a number of years now,” says David Gibb of MyDeposits Scotland.

“The new Private Residential Tenancy (PRT) agreement also details the requirement to place the deposit into a scheme within 30 working days of the start date.

“If the PRT is being brought to end prior to the 30 working days deadline, the landlord should return the deposit in full to the tenant, or place into a scheme if they wish to make a claim against the deposit.”

Eviction delays

Whilst these kinds of cases are dealt with fairly swiftly by the FTT, landlord and agents in Scotland are still concerned that eviction actions are taking too long.

A recent FOI request by agent Aberdein Considine confirmed the average time for an eviction case is 141 days.

“As the landlord or agent is unable to raise the action until the tenant has been in rent arrears for three months, these time-frames can leave landlords facing a significant period without receiving rental income,” adds Gibb.

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