The Coronavirus (Scotland) No 2 Bill was passed on Wednesday 20 May and is likely to receive Royal Assent imminently. The Bill introduces new emergency measures and add to the changes made by the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020.
Initial amendments proposed by some Green and Labour MSPs contained a number of highly alarming and unfair plans for further “emergency” changes to the laws governing the private rented sector including rent freezes and a two year eviction ban.
If these had been passed, they would undoubtedly have damaged landlords and rental businesses further and in fact been detrimental to the interests of the tenants who these politicians claim to be trying to help.
Industry bodies including ARLA and Scottish Association of Landlords fought these amendments and thankfully they have been defeated. The legislation changes, detailed below, that were passed are welcome.
Pre-action requirement for order for possession or eviction order on ground of rent arrears
In considering whether it is reasonable to make an order for possession against a tenant on rent arrears, and where part of the arrears were incurred in the Coronavirus period, the First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber for Scotland will consider the extent to which the landlord has complied with pre-action requirements before raising the proceedings for possession.
This could include, providing information to the tenant about the terms of the tenancy, rent arrears and what steps have been taken by the landlord with a view to seeking arrangements with the tenant for payment of future rent, rent arrears and any other outstanding financial obligation under the tenancy.
The requirements will be made by Scottish Ministers.
Student residential tenancies
The Bill introduces a 28-day notice period for new agreements entered into by students. This will ensure that students entering into new accommodation contracts for the next academic year, but are then unable to take up the accommodation as planned due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, will be able to give notice and not be held liable for accommodation they are not using for the full contract term.
Council Tax Exemption student accommodation
Any dwellings occupied by students, as defined in the Council Tax (Exempt Dwellings) (Scotland) Order 1997, that due to COVID-19 became vacant on or after the 17 March 2020, and while the dwelling remains unoccupied, will be considered as exempt from council tax.
LBTT – Additional dwelling supplement
The period that a previous main residence can be sold, and repayment of Additional Dwelling Supplement claimed for certain transactions has been increased from 18 months to 36 months.
The changes are intended as temporary measures for the duration of the Coronavirus outbreak. They will initially be in force until 30 September 2020. However, there are provisions for these to be extended for two six-month periods.
Here to Help
If as a landlord you feel you will need support to meet your obligations or have any questions about the rental market and Covid-19, contact your local Scottish Property Centre branch for a chat.
On an upbeat note, we’re expecting a hectic few months when lockdown ends, as renters who have been unable to move during lockdown will be looking for a new place to live.
The lockdown has left many people in a state of limbo, and when it eases, we anticipate a flurry of activity in the lettings market.
Demand has remained high and we have long waiting lists of viewers for all our properties currently advertised.
We live in interesting times, but here at Scottish Property Centre, we are determined to meet whatever challenges come our way with a positive, progressive, and safety-first outlook.
Thanks for reading.