Following the recent publication of a consultation on reforms of the Private Rented Sector (PRS) by the Scottish government, industry bodies have raised their concerns over the proposed tenancy changes.
The main concern is the proposed removal of the ‘no-fault ground’, (s33 notice Scotland, s21 notice England) which currently gives landlords the right to ask tenants to move out at the end of an agreed contractual term.
The government is proposing the removal of the ‘no-fault’ ground and assisting with a system of revised notice periods and grounds for possession.
The antagonists argue that existing powers in place to tackle anti-social tenants in Scotland would be considerably reduced if these new laws for the PRS are introduced.
In response to the consultation, PRS organisations including landlords and landlord associations, as well as representatives for letting agencies, have warned that the move will lead to difficulties in removing anti-social tenants.
They argue that this will create big problems for landlords and agents as well as for neighbours of these problem tenants involved, and will result in a big increase in dispute’s to be handled and settled by the new first tier tribunal.
Industry bodies have complained that the grounds listed in the consultation are “unfortunately incomplete and do not sufficiently cover legitimate grounds where it is reasonable for a landlord to request the possession of their property”.
Secondly, these landlord organisations point out that investment in the PRS would suffer, in a situation where there are already shortages of rental properties in some locations, with fewer landlords willing to invest.
Landlords wish to know they can regain possession of a property at a time of their own choosing, rather than relay on a narrow set of grounds resulting in long drawn out disputes.
John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, told Social Housing and Local Government news website 24DASH.com:
“We agree with many aspects of the proposed new tenancy agreement which will provide increased protection for tenants as well as clarity for landlords and letting agents. However, we are alarmed at the proposal to take away a landlord’s right to bring a tenancy to an end after an agreed period, creating an imbalance that would allow a tenant to end a lease but not a landlord. We think landlords should retain ultimate responsibility and control over who occupies properties they own and believe ending this right would shift the balance too far.
“Furthermore, our members are concerned that losing this right would make it harder to evict tenants engaged in anti-social behaviour or upsetting neighbours. The procedure for eviction under these circumstances is very complicated and costly, all whilst the tenant is allowed to stay in the property, perhaps continuing to cause disturbances. The current right means a tenant is still given adequate notice to vacate a property but allows the landlord to tackle anti-social behaviour or complaints more quickly. If this is removed, fewer landlords will have confidence to invest in the sector because they will fear the lack of security they will have over their properties.”
Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners and rural businesses across Scotland, told 24DASH.com that its members also have “serious concerns” about the proposals.
Katy Dickson, policy officer at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Rental homes in rural locations tend to have a less frequent turnover of tenants than properties in urban areas but we do receive requests for advice from landlords who have issues with tenants.
“One of the most common problems is disputes between neighbours at adjoining farm or estate properties that the landlord is enforced to intervene in. This can often be standard nuisances including persistent loud noise or issues with pets such as fouling. Such disputes between neighbours have a habit of escalating and often it’s the landlord who has to find the solution.
“Much of the time it is clear that one party is causing the problem but it is often anecdotal and not of a serious enough scale that antisocial behaviour can be cited in court. Instead, a landlord will choose to invoke the ‘no fault’ clause at the end of the contract, ending the dispute without placing a black mark against someone’s name.
“The danger is that without this mechanism, more and more disputes will result in court action, often at expense for all parties involved. There is also the fear that instead of providing a safeguard for tenants, it will result in more friction occurring as landlords are forced to gather evidence for a tribunal process rather than use their judgement for what is a suitable resolution for all parties involved.”
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) March 12, 2015