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20
Apr
2020

COVID-19 – Implications for private landlords and tenants in Scotland

In our latest guest blog, Fiona Watson, a Partner with East Lothian based law firm, Paris Steele, provides guidance for landlords and their tenants during the current pandemic.

The global CoVID-19 pandemic and subsequent UK lockdown has forced huge changes to the way that everyone can work and live. The economic effects of the outbreak have put significant pressure on individuals who either cannot work during the lockdown, or have significantly reduced income as a result, and this is having a significant effect on the ability of tenants to pay their rent and meet their usual living costs.

It is important for landlords to make contact with your tenants if you consider that they may face financial difficulty and are unable to meet rental payments. Tenants in financial difficulty (and who are eligible) can claim for Universal Credit which includes support for housing costs. It is also expected that the Scottish Government will put in place a short-term emergency loan fund, to which eligible private landlords may be able to apply for an interest free loan with deferred payments.

The Scottish Government has made it clear that they do not expect any landlord to evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19 and that they expect landlords to be flexible with tenants facing financial hardship and signpost them to the financial support available. The Scottish Government has passed emergency legislation to protect tenants during the outbreak, and the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 protects tenants in Scotland from eviction action for a period of up to six months.

It is important to note that the new (and temporary) legislative provisions apply where landlords have served notice on their tenant on or after 7 April 2020. Where a notice was served prior to that date, the changes do not apply.

The legislation temporarily makes all grounds for eviction discretionary, ensuring that the First-tier Tribunal will have discretion in granting all repossession orders. They will take all factors relating to the impact of the pandemic into account (both the impact on landlord and tenant) before deciding whether to issue a repossession order or not.

For a Private Residential Tenancy, the normal notice period is 28 or 84 days, depending on how long the tenant has lived in the property and the ground being used. The emergency legislation has increased the notice periods to either six months, three months or 28 days, depending on the ground used. The most commonly used ground of rent arrears (ground 12), falls into the six-month notice period.

For Assured/Short Assured tenancies, where an AT6 is being served, the notice period is usually 14 days or two months, depending on the ground being used. This has been changed to either six months, three months or two months, depending on the ground used. Again, the rent arrears grounds (grounds 8, 11 and 12) fall into the six-month notice period.

For service of a ‘no fault’ section 33 notice, the usual two-month notice period has been extended to six months. Normally mandatory, this has also become a discretionary ground for the Tribunal.

The Act provides that these temporary changes will expire on 30 September 2020.  However, they will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and the Scottish Ministers have the power to extend them for further periods up to 30 September 2021.

If you are considering serving notice on your tenant, you should obtain legal advice to ensure that you are complying with the new provisions.e changes to the way that everyone can work and live. The economic effects of the outbreak have put significant pressure on individuals who either cannot work during the lockdown, or have significantly reduced income as a result, and this is having a significant effect on the ability of tenants to pay their rent and meet their usual living costs.

It is important for landlords to make contact with your tenants if you consider that they may face financial difficulty and are unable to meet rental payments. Tenants in financial difficulty (and who are eligible) can claim for Universal Credit which includes support for housing costs. It is also expected that the Scottish Government will put in place a short-term emergency loan fund, to which eligible private landlords may be able to apply for an interest free loan with deferred payments.

The Scottish Government has made it clear that they do not expect any landlord to evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19 and that they expect landlords to be flexible with tenants facing financial hardship and signpost them to the financial support available. The Scottish Government has passed emergency legislation to protect tenants during the outbreak, and the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 protects tenants in Scotland from eviction action for a period of up to six months.

It is important to note that the new (and temporary) legislative provisions apply where landlords have served notice on their tenant on or after 7 April 2020. Where a notice was served prior to that date, the changes do not apply.

The legislation temporarily makes all grounds for eviction discretionary, ensuring that the First-tier Tribunal will have discretion in granting all repossession orders. They will take all factors relating to the impact of the pandemic into account (both the impact on landlord and tenant) before deciding whether to issue a repossession order or not.

For a Private Residential Tenancy, the normal notice period is 28 or 84 days, depending on how long the tenant has lived in the property and the ground being used. The emergency legislation has increased the notice periods to either six months, three months or 28 days, depending on the ground used. The most commonly used ground of rent arrears (ground 12), falls into the six-month notice period.

For Assured/Short Assured tenancies, where an AT6 is being served, the notice period is usually 14 days or two months, depending on the ground being used. This has been changed to either six months, three months or two months, depending on the ground used. Again, the rent arrears grounds (grounds 8, 11 and 12) fall into the six-month notice period.

For service of a ‘no fault’ section 33 notice, the usual two-month notice period has been extended to six months. Normally mandatory, this has also become a discretionary ground for the Tribunal.

The Act provides that these temporary changes will expire on 30 September 2020.  However, they will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and the Scottish Ministers have the power to extend them for further periods up to 30 September 2021. 

If you are considering serving notice on your tenant, you should obtain legal advice to ensure that you are complying with the new provisions.