COVID-19 and the residential private rented sector: Evictions in Scotland

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish Government seeks to bring a halt to evictions in the private and social rented sectors for the time being. 

In order to achieve this, the period of notice to be given by a landlord to a tenant is being increased. The landlord now has to give the tenant more notice before any proceedings for an eviction order can be instigated. It is envisaged that the new rules will be in place until the end of September 2020.

The tenancy type will determine the new extended notice period. For a private residential tenancy (PRT) formed under the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016, the relevant notice periods will be 28 days, 3 months, or 6 months, depending on the grounds for eviction being relied upon. For an Assured Tenancy formed under the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988, the relevant notice periods will be 2 months, 3 months, or 6 months, again depending upon the grounds for eviction being relied upon.

For the PRT, the 28-day period only relates to the situation in which the tenant is not residing in the property as the tenant’s only or principal home. The 3-month notice period relates only to grounds whereby:

  • the landlord or a member of the landlord’s family intends/requires to live in the property;
  • the tenant has a ‘relevant’ conviction
  • the tenant has engaged in ‘relevant’ anti-social behaviour
  • the tenant associates in the let property with a person who has a ‘relevant’ conviction or has engaged in ‘relevant’ anti-social behaviour
  • the landlord is not registered under the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2006

In all other cases, then the 6-month notice period will apply.

For Assured Tenancies, the 2-month period only relates to ground 9 whereby suitable alternative accommodation will be available for the tenant when the order for eviction takes effect. The 3-month period only relates to ground 1 whereby the landlord previously occupied the property as the landlord’s only or principal home, and now requires to resume occupying the property; and ground 15 whereby the tenant or a person residing in the property has been convicted of using or allowing the property to be used for immoral or illegal purposes, or an offence punishable by imprisonment; or acted in an anti-social manner or engaged in anti-social conduct. In all other cases, the 6-month period will apply (which includes a short assured tenancy having reached its end date).

In addition, the granting of an eviction order will now be discretionary for the time being, and so any grounds for eviction which previously attracted an eviction order on a mandatory basis, will now be subject to discretion and an assessment of whether it is reasonable in the circumstances to grant the order. This also applies in relation to eviction on the basis of a short assured tenancy having reached its end date.

There will be situations in which an application for an eviction order has already been submitted and may well have been part way through, or at the end of, the process. The First Tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) announced that all hearings and case management discussions will be postponed (this took effect on 19 March 2020).  There will be no new orders granted until at least 28 May 2020.

As for eviction orders which haven’t yet been enforced, evictions cannot be arranged at present because Sheriff Officers cannot facilitate this due to the Government restrictions.  It is hoped that some clarity regarding enforcement of pre-existing eviction orders will be obtained as soon as Sheriff Officers are fully operational again.

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