Rules for renting private residential property are about to change. Laura Bloxham, from Womble Bond Dickinson, has timely advice for landlords
If you are a landlord of residential property, it is essential that you are aware of changes that come into force on Friday next week.
The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act introduces a new private residential tenancy which will replace the current assured and short assured tenancy regime.
It will have a profound impact on private letting in Scotland, for landlords in particular and also for tenants in the private rented sector.
Residential property landlords need to know what will be required for new and existing tenancies to avoid falling foul of the law from 1 December.
Womble Bond Dickinson has a long and proud history of advising a range of clients across the real estate sector and now, with a new office in Edinburgh, we’re able to draw on that experience to help landlords prepare for the changes.
For an existing tenancy in force at 1 December, it will continue until either the tenant or the landlord brings it to an end.
However any new tenancy granted after 1 December that meets the criteria under the act will be known as a “private residential tenancy”, which will be open-ended and will last until a tenant wishes to leave the property, or a landlord uses one (or more) of the 18 grounds for eviction detailed under the act.
As a landlord, you must provide your tenants with written terms and conditions in respect of their tenancy. This can be in electronic form as the new tenancy is no longer required to be signed in principal – the parties can agree to deal with the tenancy and all subsequent notices and correspondence by email.
The Scottish Government issued its recommended “model tenancy agreement” in October and it includes standardised tenancy terms that landlords can utilise.
If you do not use the model tenancy, you must give your tenant a copy of the “private residential tenancy statutory terms supporting notes”, which are available on the Scottish Government website.
A tenant is entitled to apply to the Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) if you do not provide them with the necessary information and the tribunal can impose penalties if they find in the tenant’s favour.
The act also imposes conditions on how a landlord can increase the rent and the charges that can be made.
Perhaps, most importantly, the act changes the notice provisions and process by which a tenancy can be brought to an end.
Tenants will only be required to give 28 days’ notice in writing if they want to end the tenancy.
A landlord can only end a tenancy by using one of the 18 grounds for eviction detailed in the act and the amount of notice required to be given will depend on how long the tenant has lived in the property.
The “no-fault” grounds for eviction will be removed, meaning that landlords will no longer be able to end a tenancy at a fixed date without reason.
With the grounds for eviction becoming more restricted, it is now more important than ever to vet your prospective tenant by obtaining financial, employer and previous landlord references before granting a tenancy.
In addition, ensure that a deposit is taken but remember that a deposit must be held by an independent tenancy deposit scheme until the end of the tenancy.
Private residential tenancies will bring about a significant change and it is important you are aware of what this means to you and any new tenants. n
Laura Bloxham, is managing associate at Womble Bond Dickinson in Edinburgh