Last week the Scottish Government published a second consultation on a new private tenancy. This goes further than the government’s initial proposal – which set out the high level principles underpinning the government’s reforms – and gives us an idea of what the Bill, to be introduced this autumn, will look like. (Cue some detail-heavy policy analysis…)
1) The very good news is that the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring private tenants have the right to stay in their homes for as long as they need by removing the ‘no fault ground for possession’. This is a clear sign that the government is listening: 81% of respondents to the government’s first consultation agreed that ‘no fault possession’ should be excluded from a new tenancy. This change is central to Shelter Scotland’s Make Renting Right campaign (<- sign up here). No longer will private tenants lack the legal certainty that they can stay in their homes for as long as they need.
2) The government sets out further detail on what the new tenancy will look like, including; notice periods from landlords to tenants being set at 28 days where a tenant has been in the property for six months or less and 56 days where this is over six months; an ‘accelerated’ procedure for repossession for rent arrears cases (which we need to make sure gives priority to early intervention and tenancy sustainment); and additional discretionary elements for possession actions for rent arrears due to housing benefit delays, antisocial behaviour and breaches of ‘non mandatory’ tenancy clauses.
3) Importantly, the government also set out how rent increases will be handled:
- Initial rents would be set by the market.
- Rents won’t be able to rise no more than once per year.
- Landlords need to give tenants 12 weeks’ notice of a rent increase.
- And if a proposed rent increase takes a tenant’s rent well above rent charged for comparable properties in their area the can refer this to the Private Rented Housing Tribunal.
While this does not address concerns around the affordability of rented housing in Scotland – requiring additional investment in social housing, and an examination of why housing in Scotland is so expensive – it does give important additional clarity on rental increases compared to the current private tenancy.
4) To tackle the issue of escalating private rents in some areas the government propose to introduce a power for Scottish Ministers to designate a ‘rent pressure’ area. This would allow Ministers to take action to limit rent increases for tenants in hot-spot areas for a limited period of time, and could offer breathing space for hard-pushed tenants in areas where rents are increasing steeply.
5) And finally, engage! The consultation closes on the 10th of May and it is vital that as many private tenants share their views as possible.
This an important step in the right direction for private rented sector reform in Scotland. If you are a private tenant and would like to share your view with Shelter Scotland as we shape our consultation response, would like to know how to respond to a government consultation or you have a question about the government’s proposal please get in touch via email, Facebook or Twitter.