The Private Residential Tenancy (PRT) is a year old this week and, despite some initial concerns by landlords, the roof hasn’t fallen in on the private rented sector.
The biggest shake-up in private renting legislation in 30 years was introduced last November ostensibly to give more protection to tenants and to force the few ‘bad apple’ landlords who were giving the sector a bad name, to change their practices.
Has it worked? Well, feedback from tenants has largely been positive and some of the worst fears among legitimate landlords have proved unfounded but most tenants are still unaware of the changes and those who do know about them are not always supportive.
The default notice period for new private tenants is now 28 days, introduced to give them more flexibility to act like consumers.
The reasoning behind the measure was to allow tenants to move on quickly if they didn’t think landlords were doing what they should, but some tenants have complained that it takes away their security of tenure.
Archie Love, Director of Scottish Property Centre Motherwell, said most prospective tenants are still unaware of their rights under the legislation.
He said: “In our experience a majority of tenants are still asking about how long they can take on a property for.
“In most cases they want a minimum period of occupancy, of six months or a year. Very few are aware that we are no longer permitted to include a minimum occupancy period in their initial lease term.”
The new rules also mean landlords must give longer notice of rent increases and can only increase rent once every 12 months.
The legislation appears to have created a more level playing field and put tenants and landlords on an equal footing regarding their rights and responsibilities – it has certainly resulted in fewer cases being heard by the Housing and Property Chamber First Tier Tribunal.
In addition, landlords have been satisfied that some common myths about how the regime operates proved to be just that.
Some landlords, for example, were under the impression rents couldn’t be increased during the first 12 months of the tenancy. Not so - the first rent increase can be carried out at any time but, thereafter, the rent cannot be increased more frequently than 12-monthly.
There also seemed to be a belief among some landlords that they were required to give 84 days’ notice to end the tenancy in all circumstances if the property has been occupied for six months.
Similarly, this is not the case. If a tenant has breached their tenancy agreement by, for example, being in arrears or through anti-social behaviour, then the landlord is only required to give 28 days’ notice, regardless of how long the tenant has been in occupation.
Some landlords believed tenants needed to be in arrears for three full months before they could be evicted. In fact, under the PRT, tenants need only to have owed some rent during a three-month period for eviction grounds to apply.
If they owe at least one months' rent when the tribunal hears the case, those are sufficient grounds for a mandatory eviction.
If arrears are below this level, then it’s discretionary. Landlords can serve the notice to leave as soon as the tenant falls into arrears. However, application can't be made to the tribunal for an eviction order until the tenant has owed some rent for a period of three months.
For more information on the PRT regulations call your local Scottish Property Centre branch where you can talk to a specialist member of staff or visit https://www.scottishpropertycentre.net/