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Coronavirus: further legislative changes in the private rented sector

Coronavirus:  further legislative changes in the private rented sector

On 26 May 2020 the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act was given Royal Assent.

In our previous blog we discussed the emergency and temporary legislative changes to residential tenancy law made by the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

This new Act seeks to implement further emergency measures.

What does the Act do?

  • Introduces pre-action requirements
  • Early termination of student tenancies
  • Creates a new Council Tax exemption

Pre-action requirements in the Private Rented Sector

The Act introduces the concept of pre-action requirements for the first time in the private residential sector.  These are additional steps which private landlords will require to take before raising an application for eviction based on rent arrears.   

The Act proposes Scottish Ministers make Regulations requiring private landlords to provide information to tenants about the terms of the tenancy, rent arrears and any other outstanding financial obligation under the tenancy and to set out a series of steps to be taken by a landlord with a view to seeking to agree a repayment arrangement. 

This means, in addition to the notice period extension introduced in early April, private landlords will now require to undertake further steps in order to secure an eviction order. It is anticipated obtaining an eviction order will be substantially more complex in the months ahead.

Student Accommodation

The Act permits students occupying properties provided by specified educational institution and purpose built student accommodation providers to bring their tenancies to an end early for a reason relating to the coronavirus.  These provisions bring the student accommodation sector into line with the mainstream private rented sector where tenants have the benefit of the private residential tenancy. 

Students in such accommodation are usually tied into a 12 month lease.  Under the new provisions such students will be able to give either 7 or 28 days written notice to bring the tenancy to an end.   The 7-day notice period applies to existing tenancy (i.e. those entered into and occupied before the bill takes effect).  The 28-day notice period will apply in all other cases.  The Act recognises that many students may have returned home because of the lockdown but have been unable to end their tenancies and associated rental liabilities.  Students who wish to secure term time accommodation for the next academic year will have a level of comfort that they can terminate should the pandemic mean they are unable to return to their studies in the months ahead.

A New Council Tax Exemption

A new council tax exemption has been created for properties that have been unoccupied since 17 March 2020 for a reason relating to the pandemic where those properties were previously occupied by students.   This exemption includes mainstream private lettings to students and ought to go some way to alleviating the financial burden for private landlords who find themselves with void properties previously let to students.  Please note the property must have been let to students immediately before it became unoccupied in order to qualify for the exemption.

These provisions are scheduled to expire on 30 September 2020 unless extensions are required.

For more information or advice, contact our Private Rented Sector Team

Written by : Claire Mullen