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Residential tenancies: Are you up to speed on legislation changes?

Rachel Myles highlights the changes to Scottish tenancies and the impending deadlines.

Do you have an EICR for your let property?

Private landlords in Scotland are required by law to ensure that their properties are electrically safe. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 also requires them to carry out an electrical safety inspection at least every five years.

The inspection has two parts: an Electrical Installation Report (EICR) completed by an approved electrician every five years, and, where relevant, an annual Portable Appliance Test (PAT), which can be carried out by an approved electrician or a landlord who had completed a relevant training course.

Although EICR reports were introduced at the end of 2015, we are currently in a period of transition and not all properties had to have an EICR by this date. For properties that have become vacant after December 1, 2015, an EICR is now required before the property can be re-let. For properties that were occupied prior to and on December 1, 2015 and continue to be occupied by the same tenant, an EICR report is required by December 1, 2016.

Termination date set for Short Assured Tenancies

The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 has been passed by the Scottish Parliament and brings an end to Short Assured Tenancies (SAT) and introduces a new Private Residential Tenancy (PRT), which is expected to be introduced at the beginning of 2018.

The Act aims to provide enhanced security for tenants and a simpler tenancy system. There are a number of key changes:

  • The removal of the 'no-fault' ground for repossession which is currently available to landlords. There will be no minimum period of let with tenancies continuing indefinitely, unless the tenant wishes to leave or the landlord can prove one of the 18 grounds of eviction set out in the Act.
  • Changes to notice periods, with tenants being able to end their PRT by providing 28 days' written notice after the expiry of the initial term.
  • A First-tier Tribunal, which has powers to draw up the terms of a tenancy and assist with the regulation of PRTs.

Rent can only be reviewed once a year, and landlords must give three months' notice of the review.

Some tenancies do not fall under the PRT criteria. These include properties that have two acres or more of agricultural land, 'relevant' agricultural tenancies, and let properties occupied by the person responsible for the control of the farming of the let property.

What will happen to existing Assured and Short Assured Tenancies?

Schedule 5 of the Act sets out transitional terms for existing tenancies, which will continue as Assured or Short Assured Tenancies until they expire, unless landlord and tenant agree that the tenancy will become a PRT.

Although we are in the early stages of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016, it is clear the private lettings market is going through a period of significant reform, which will bring with it challenges and opportunities for landlords, tenants and property managers.

Out lettings teams and land agents would welcome the opportunity to review the implications for you as a landlord or tenant, so please do not hesitate to contact us in advance of the introduction of the PRT in early 2018.