Govan Law Centre (GLC) has expressed dismay that the Scottish Government's proposed private sector tenancy reforms are considerably more regressive for tenants than the then Conservative Government’s introduction of the short assured tenancy in Scotland some 34 years ago.
The Government's proposals are set out in its document, 'Consultation on a new tenancy for the private sector'. The proposals appear progressive at first glance, with the suggestion of abolishing the 'no-fault ground' for eviction in short assured tenancies, however, when one reads further it becomes apparent the provision of greater security of tenure for tenants is wholly illusory as the Scottish Government set out eight new mandatory grounds of eviction that would enable landlords to choose to evict on the flimsiest of reasons.
In GLC's response to the consultation response we argue that the mandatory repossession grounds undermine the entire policy exercise:
In relation to rent arrears, the proposed ground
6 (three months’ arrears of rent) is in direct conflict with the will of the Scottish
Parliament in legislating in the Homelessness etc., (Scotland) Act 2003 to provide
a reasonableness defence for the current three months arrears of rent (ground
8, schedule 5, Housing (Scotland) Act 1988). Where is the evidence now that
this defence should be repealed in relation to rent arrears which may be due to
housing benefit errors or delays."
proposed new mandatory grounds 1 to 3 are couched in very weak language: the
use of the word ‘want’ sets the bar very low. For example, it would not be
necessary to provide evidence that a house was being marketed for sale, or that
the mortgage lender had required a sale to repay the lending secured over the
property. Instead, all that would be
required to evict a tenant in the private sector is that the landlord ‘wanted’
to move back in, or sell, or that their lender wanted to sell. In other words,
there would be no need to establish an actual sale was taking place or that the
landlord really did need to and was moving back into the property".
"Ground 4 is even more open to exploitation by
landlords to the detriment of tenants: all that a landlord need say is that he
or she intended to ‘refurbish’ to evict a tenant/family. What is ‘refurbish’?
It might never materialise, or indeed it could be as little as painting a wall
or installing a new sink. Why should this be a mandatory ground of eviction?"
"Ground 7 makes provision for a mandatory
ground of repossession for ‘anti-social behaviour’. If the anti-social
behaviour was a symptom of an illness or behaviour that had since been modified
why should the tenant be subject to mandatory repossession? The requirement on
the court to consider reasonableness is an essential requirement to ensure
fairness and justice."
"Ground 8 enables a mandatory ground of eviction where the tenant has otherwise breached the tenancy agreement. Without the common sense protection of a defence of ‘reasonableness’ will tenants be evicted for the most minor contractual breaches?
note PRS evictions will no longer be dealt with by the Sheriff Court and instead will
be dealt with by the First Tier PRS Tribunal. This change in policy (for
reasons of cost savings) does concern us because losing the roof over your head
is such an important issue that it should be dealt with by an experienced and
more senior judge. We also question how
can PRS Tribunals be seen to be genuinely impartial when their chairs are often
part-time judges employed or engaged by landlords in private practice to
undertake eviction actions?"