RICS Scotland calls for initial tenancy period to be reinstated to Private Housing Bill

Hew Edgar
Hew Edgar

RICS Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to reconsider changes to the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill which will remove the initial period from the residential tenancy.

In a letter to minister for housing and welfare Margaret Burgess, Jonathan Gordon chair of the RICS Scotland PRS Forum said the removal of the clause could have a negative impact on landlords’ willingness to let property, which, in turn, could decrease the number of properties available for rent and lead to increased rents.

When the Bill was originally introduced to Parliament, it was proposed that an initial tenancy period of six months would exist unless otherwise agreed between the tenant and the landlord.

However, the clause was removed from the Bill at Stage 2 after concerns were raised that it would create difficulties for those in vulnerable positions who needed to leave the tenancy quickly without financial penalties.

RICS Scotland policy manager Hew Edgar said the amendment is not an appropriate approach to the problem.

He said: “We have always been a strong advocate for improving standards and regulation in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). In most cases, we have welcomed new policy and legislation — such as letting agent regulation and enhanced repairing standard — that will have a positive effect on the sector, the landlord and tenant experience.

“Like many other sector participants, we were surprised to see the inclusion of a stage 2 amendment that would remove any initial period in a residential tenancy. This amendment was unexpected and had not been discussed with a number of key stakeholders (ourselves included) and it could have a negative effect on the market.

“Right reasoning, wrong approach

“While we recognise and concur with the reasoning behind its introduction — to allow flexibility for victims of domestic violence — we feel this approach is not appropriate.

“Within the letter, which you can download below, we state that the initial period forms a fundamental part of the landlord/tenant relationship across all types of lease, including commercial and agricultural. To remove it without substantial consideration and scrutiny, nor impact assessment, could have a negative impact on landlords’ willingness to let property. This, in turn, could decrease the number of properties available for rent, which will only lead to increased demand and therefore increased rents.

“As well as articulating further setbacks to both landlord and tenant that could arise from this amendment, we have also co-signed another letter to the minister for housing and welfare that proposes alternate approaches for dealing with this issue.”

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