Holyrood issues Private Tenancies Bill briefing note
Issued prior to the Bill’s Stage 3 proceedings, which are scheduled to take place on March 17, the briefing is designed to provide a summary of the main issues associated with the legislation during its passage through the Scottish Parliament so far and the amendments made at Stage 2.
In its Stage 1 report, the infrastructure and capital investment committee supported the general principles of the Bill but requested that the Scottish Government give further consideration to a number of areas.
A total of 198 amendments were lodged at Stage 2 which have been summarised in the briefing:
- Student Accommodation – Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) built by private providers is now exempted from the Bill’s provisions in the same way that student accommodation provided by further and higher education institutions already was.
- Eviction Grounds – There were a number of changes to the eviction grounds the landlord can use including:
- Two new eviction grounds – there are now 17 grounds, compared to 16 in the Bill as introduced. A second eviction ground relating to anti-social behaviour has been added. This covers the situation where the tenant associates with someone who has a criminal conviction or who has engaged in anti-social behaviour (ground 13A). The other new eviction ground (ground 8A) can be used by providers of supported accommodation where the tenant is no longer in need of that accommodation.
- Mandatory and discretionary grounds – the balance between mandatory and discretionary eviction grounds has shifted towards more discretionary grounds. The Bill as introduced had 12 mandatory grounds; three with both a discretionary and mandatory element (grounds 2, 10 and 11) and one which was entirely discretionary (ground 13). After Stage 2 seven grounds are entirely discretionary (grounds 8A, 10, 13, 13A, 14, 15 and 16); two grounds have mandatory and discretionary elements (ground 11) and the remaining eight grounds are mandatory.
- Rent arrears – ground 11 relating to rent arrears (which attracted a lot of attention from stakeholders at Stage 1) is now mandatory in more limited circumstances than was the case previously. Specifically, it is mandatory only if the tenant is in arrears by one month’s rent (or more) on the day the Tribunal considers the case.
- Anti-social behaviour – The original ground relating to anti-social behaviour by the tenant (ground 13) also attracted a lot of attention from stakeholders at Stage 1. At Stage 2 the sort of anti-social behaviour that may give rise to eviction under this ground was extended. However, if the application for eviction was made more than 12 months from the date the anti-social behaviour occurred, the Tribunal must be satisfied that the landlord has a reasonable excuse for not making the application sooner.
- Evidence that can demonstrate an eviction ground – a number of the eviction grounds are based on the landlord intending to make an alternative use of the property (grounds 1, 3–5). At Stage 2, examples of the types of evidence that a landlord might use to demonstrate that intent were added to the grounds.
- Wrongful Termination - The Tribunal will be able to make a “wrongful termination order” against a landlord if it finds the landlord has misled the tenant or Tribunal about the grounds he or she was using to seek eviction. At Stage 2, an amendment was made to increase the level of compensation payable to the tenant for a wrongful termination from up to three months’ rent to up to six months’ rent.
- Removal of the initial tenancy period - The Bill as introduced had proposed that, unless otherwise agreed between the tenant and the landlord, there would be an initial tenancy period of six months. At Stage 1, some stakeholders were concerned that this would create difficulties for those in vulnerable positions who needed to leave the tenancy quickly without financial penalties. At Stage 2, the initial tenancy period was removed from the Bill.
- Rent Pressure Zones - The Bill as introduced proposed a formula for determining the limit that rents in a designated rent pressure zone could be increased by. At Stage 2, the formula was changed to enable an amount to be added in relation to improvements to the property carried out by the landlord, as determined by a Rent Officer.
- Tenant Notice to End the Tenancy - The Bill as introduced proposed two notice periods for a tenant to end the tenancy depending on the length of the tenancy. At Stage 2 an amendment was made to remove the longer notice period. Therefore, the notice period for a tenant to end the tenancy will be 28 days regardless of the length of the tenancy, unless the tenant proposes, and the landlord agrees, a shorter period.
Minister for housing and welfare, Margaret Burgess, has committed to reconsider a number of areas prior to Stage 3 including what happens to a tenancy if the tenant dies and the timescales for ministers to lay draft regulations to designate a rent pressure zone or to lay a document to explain why this was not done.
The minister will also reconsider changes to one of the proposed statutory tenancy terms that would limit a tenant’s requirement to notify the landlord about a person residing in the property to only if it was that person’s only or principal home.