15:03 PM, 29th June 2022, About 2 years ago 9
The Scottish Government is aiming to sign into law Part 4 of the Coronavirus Bill (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland). The legislation would permanently make all grounds for eviction discretionary, meaning a tribunal would not have to automatically remove a tenant in cases of anti-social behaviour, rent arrears or a landlord needing to move into or sell a property.
At the height of the pandemic, all grounds for eviction of a tenant in the residential rental sector, including cases of rent arrears, anti-social behaviour, or a landlord needing to sell or move into the property, were temporarily made discretionary. PayProp has come out against making this a permanent rule.
Neil Cobbold, managing director at PayProp UK, says making all grounds for eviction permanently discretionary appears to go against the pledge made by the Scottish government with the introduction of Private Residential Tenancy (PRT) agreements in 2017.
In 2017, the Scottish property industry was notified that some grounds for eviction would be strengthened to counteract removing the notice to quit clause included within the old assured and short assured tenancy agreements.
“The Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill seeks to make permanent the temporary changes of the last two years. At PayProp, we support reforms intended to ensure a fair and progressive private rental sector. But making these temporary changes permanent without implementing a new housing bill will deprive them of the normal level of scrutiny given a full housing bill, and the industry won’t have the opportunity to propose and consider alternative measures.”
Negative impact on the majority of tenants
Cobbold also says there is a concern that these measures could deter investment, leaving tenants with a reduced choice of rental properties at higher prices, as some landlord groups have warned.
“By revising Part 4 of the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill to ensure the previously mandatory reasons for reclaiming possession are restored as mandatory, we believe landlords will be granted the reassurance they need,” Cobbold said. “Doing so would provide the necessary protection to existing landlords while giving clarity and reassurance to those considering investing in Scotland’s private rented sector.”
Implications for future evictions and the rest of the UK
With the number of evictions in the UK steadily increasing, there is the possibility that the rest of the UK could follow measures that are similar to those in Scotland to try and resolve the issue. The Westminster government has shown, in its commitment to scrap Section 21 evictions, that it’s keen on reforming the eviction process in England.
Shelter report that 14,123 landlords in England started court proceedings to evict tenants from their properties between October and December last year.
Cobbold says Scottish eviction reforms could yet have an impact across the UK, as what is trailed in Scotland is often implemented by Westminster at a later date. He says the same concerns must be considered in such a case.
And it may have other unintended consequences too. “Making all grounds for eviction permanently discretionary may help those who breach tenancy due to circumstances beyond their control. However, it could open the door to disruptive tenants who may use this safety net to exploit the rental sector.”
“To continue providing good homes to good tenants, the private rented sector requires a fairer approach that puts all parties on a level playing field. The provisions within the Coronavirus Bill (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) were designed to be temporary measures to support the immediate pandemic response, which was perfectly understandable. However, making them permanent without a housing bill and full consultation with the industry lacks transparency – something the sector needs more of – and, perhaps more damaging still, would set a precedent for future governments to make permanent other emergency temporary legislation passed during a time of national crisis, without proper scrutiny.”
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