Sweeping reforms to the rules for letting home in Scotland will come into force in just over a month. Here, we take a look at five of the biggest changes, and consider whether the rest of the UK might follow suit.
From December 1, private rented tenancies will replace assured shorthold tenancy agreements in Scotland, bringing with them some of the biggest changes the private rented sector has seen.
The new rules will apply to all new tenancy agreements in Scotland.
1. Tenancies won’t have a set end date
Tenancy contracts will no longer have a set expiry date, meaning they will run indefinitely unless the tenant gives notice or the landlord uses one of new ‘grounds for eviction’.
If a tenant has lived in a property for longer than six months, landlords will now have to give them 84 days notice to leave the property.
Tenants wishing to leave of their own accord will have to give 28 days notice.
2. Rent increases will be limited
Tenants will be offered protection from rent increases, with no more than one increase allowed every 12 months. If a tenant is unhappy with the amount their rent is being increased, they can refer the matter to a ‘rent officer’, who is part of the Scottish Government’s Rent Service Scotland.
Local authorities in Scotland will also be able to apply to ministers to cap increases in areas where fees are rising too quickly. These will be designated as ‘rent pressure zones’.
3. A tribunal will oversee disputes
Both landlords and tenants will be able to apply to a first-tier tribunal to resolve disputes.
Tenants will be able to dispute various aspects of their tenancy, including if they feel they’ve been misled into moving out, or if their landlord has failed to provide them with the documentation about their rights and the terms of their agreement.
Landlords, meanwhile, will be able to apply to the tribunal if their tenant refuses to leave after an eviction order and a ‘notice to leave’ is provided.
4. Eviction processes will be simplified
Under the new system, landlords will have 18 different ‘grounds for eviction’, under which they can ask their tenant to move out.
The first eight ‘mandatory’ grounds are landlord led, including the intention to sell or refurbish the property, or move in to it themselves.
When evicting a tenant for these reasons, landlords will have to give the full 84 days notice outlined earlier.
The other grounds, which mainly centre on tenants breaching their tenancy agreements, can be enforced with a notice period of 28 days.
5. Tenancy agreements will be modernised
The paperwork around tenancy agreements will be simplified under the new regulations.
The Scottish Government will recommend a ‘model tenancy agreement’ to landlords, which will have standard clauses that landlords can edit to suit their circumstances.
When ending a tenancy, landlords will need to use a standardised ‘notice to leave’ form.
Will the rest of the UK follow suit?
It remains to be seen whether the rest of the UK will bring in similar changes in due course.
The government has already announced tentative plans to bring in longer tenancy periods and crack down on rogue landlords, which may be fleshed out further in the Budget speech next month.
Scotland has long been a trailblazer in rental reform. While England and Wales are set to impose bans on letting agent fees for tenants (and Northern Ireland is still considering its options), Scotland brought in its own ban five years ago.