Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016

The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 that was passed by the Scottish Parliament earlier this year comes into force on 1st December 2017. It will become the de-facto tenancy and replaces the Assured and Short Assured Tenancies we have employed since 1988 (and before). These will remain in force but no new ones can be created after 30th November 2017, so they will slowly disappear.

The new Private Residential Tenancy will give the tenant the option to give 28 days’ notice ‘at any time’ but nevertheless the right to remain in the property ‘ad infinitum’. There being no initial period, and no ‘ish’ / end date employed in the new tenancies. There are certain types of relationships some individuals may have on the death of the tenant which afford them accession to the tenancy. Local authorities may also apply to Scottish Ministers to have their regions, or parts thereof, designated as rent pressure zones, thereby placing a ceiling on rents.

There remains however, 18 (new/adjusted) grounds for eviction that the landlord can fall back on to gain repossession of their asset.  These 18 grounds range from a determination to sell the property to a tenant’s non-compliance of the tenancy agreement. This, as well as any disputes regarding rent increases, Repairing Standards and conduct are adjudicated by the first-tier tribunal that has been constituted to replace the jurisdiction of the Sheriffs’ Courts.

There are some exclusions from the 2016 Act such as agricultural tenancies (over two acres), social housing tenancies, holiday lets, and some student lets (residential halls with over 30 rooms).

The Scottish Government has produced an online Model Private Residential Tenancy Agreement (30 pages) with mandatory Easy Read Notes (49 pages).

We have strived to keep our Factotum PRS lease style concise (14 pages, inc. glossary). This is still dwarfed by the mandatory Private Residential Statutory Terms Supporting Notes (20 pages) that must accompany any optional lease.

On the notion that sometimes ‘less is more’, we have employed an economy of words, repetition and verbiage — although some well-used Scots words are retained in the lexicon (and the glossary to keep us out of trouble). We have nevertheless written in many caveats, made numerous inclusions and conditions, introduced affidavits that, combined, we believe make the whole agreement more workable, less risky and hopefully more manageable. We dare not say readable!  It’s a working document and we welcome any comments or queries. Landlords who have a preference for the Model Tenancy should inform us otherwise we will use our own style as a default.

This represents a ground-breaking, generational change, and time will tell its full impact on the Private Rented Sector. Also how the first-tier tribunal will perform and if any political bias within it may influence interpretation of the 2016 Act.

The above legislation makes much reference to the new Letting Agent Code of Practice (Scotland) Regulation 2016 and the Letting Agent Registration (Scotland) Regulation 2016, both of which come into force on the 31st January 2018. These will be the subject of our upcoming blogs.