The dust has nearly settled since the much anticipated Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

Tenants, landlords and letting agents have had time to read over the draft legislation and consider how it will impact the 330,000 households who rent privately, and the estimated 146,000 private landlords renting out property in Scotland. On Wednesday it was the turn of tenant representatives, including Shelter Scotland, to discuss the principles of the bill with the Infrastructure and Capital Investments Committee.

It’s fair to say that the intentions behind the bill received unanimous support from the organisations giving evidence. The tenancy is long overdue an overhaul: the current tenancy was devised and implemented in the late 1980s, when Scotland’s housing market operated almost entirely differently. An increasing number of families and young people looking to stay long-term has come with a desire for more security, stability and certainty over rents. The draft bill’s exclusion of the “no fault” route for repossession is a huge step forward for the thousands of renters living in the sector, and one that we have been calling for through our Make Renting Right campaign.

The devil, however, is always in the detail and there are certain aspects of the bill Shelter Scotland feel need to be tightened up to ensure the new tenancy operates as smoothly as possible.

Most importantly, we need to ensure that the grounds for eviction as laid out in the bill will work effectively and not undermine the extended security of tenure it intends to provide. For example, the ground for eviction for rent arrears currently enables a landlord to secure a mandatory eviction where a tenant has accrued one month’s rent arrears but has been unable to pay this off over three months.

This could cause difficulties for tenants who might be moving into work and off housing benefit. Equally, tenants who are claiming Universal Credit for the first time could be affected, taking into account the seven waiting days required before a claim is made and that, currently, the benefit is paid four weekly in arrears.

We need to tighten up how a landlord’s intentions are set out in the grounds for eviction. For example how will a landlords intention to sell the property be established? What is there to stop a landlord from putting a property up for sale at a vastly inflated price just in order to remove a tenant, and then reletting it to someone else?

Tenants need certainty that the provisions which prohibit illegal eviction under the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 will also apply to this new tenancy. And when considering the thorny issue of rent controls we need to ensure we see housing policy in the round, not forgetting the stark need to radically increase affordable house building across Scotland.

While Shelter Scotland want to see improvements in certain aspects of the bill we should be clear: the Government has been bold in its approach to reform in this area. Private renting in Scotland is long-due an overhaul – with security of tenure at its heart – and this bill brings that much-needed change. I’m sure the dust will be kicked up a few more times over the next few months as we get stuck into scrutinising the detail, but when it finally settles, this bill will herald a fresh new beginning for tenants and landlords across Scotland.

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