The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill was recently passed by the Scottish Parliament and is expected to come into effect perhaps as early as 2017.
The aim of the legislation is to create simpler tenancies, offer stability and security for private tenants and ensure predictability over rent increases. It also fundamentally changes the nature of the relationship between landlords and tenants from contractual to statutory. A single new tenancy type called a ‘Private Rented Tenancy’ will replace the current Assured and Short Assured regime, though exceptions will apply to purpose-built student accommodation and holiday lets.
The main measures contained in the Private Housing Tenancies Scotland Bill include:
Supporters of the legislation argue that this creates a more streamlined and modernised system. Pre-tenancy notices which can set out specific, tailored grounds for landlord repossession of that property will become a thing of the past and it is envisaged that tenancy agreements will be easier for all parties to understand.
Rent predictability is another policy aspiration of the legislation. Landlords will be unable to increase rents any more than once per year and will have to provide three months’ notice when doing so. The tenant will also have the option to challenge what they deem to be an unreasonable rent increase by referring the matter to a Rent Officer who can then determine a ‘fair’ rent. The Rent Officer’s decision can also be subject to appeal to the Private Rented Sector Tribunal.
Finally, a local authority will also have the ability to create designated ‘rent pressure zones’. This will enable councils to apply rent caps in areas they determine have been subject of excessive rent increases in recent times.