The Private Residential Tenancy was created by The Scottish Government in a quest to produce ‘a private rented sector that provides good quality homes and high management standards, inspires consumer confidence, and encourages growth through attracting increased investment’.
The Scottish Government recognised that tenants are renting for longer than they have in previous generations – due to various social and economic factors – and so require quality homes, provided by a lettings sector that they can trust. As a result, the PRT introduces several key changes to improve security, stability and predictability for tenants.
Key changes for tenants include:
(Please note these changes are only applicable for PRTs. If your tenancy began before 1st December 2017 it will remain a Short Assured Tenancy for the duration of the tenancy.)
1. Increased security of tenure
One of the main changes for tenants is that tenancy agreements no longer have end dates, making tenancies open-ended. It is now more difficult for a landlord to end a tenancy; they cannot do so simply because the tenancy has been ongoing for a predetermined amount of time, as was possible after the initial fixed term of a short assured tenancy.
Landlords can only end a PRT by using at least one of the below grounds for eviction. Landlords must be able to provide evidence supporting their claim to enforce a particular ground. If tenants believe that they have been misled into ending their tenancy they can apply to the First-tier Tribunal, which can lead to a compensation payment from the landlord if it is found tenants were asked to leave wrongfully.
1. Landlord intends to sell the property. The property must be put up for sale within 3 months of the tenant moving out.
2. Let property to be sold by lender. This ground applies if the landlord’s mortgage lender is repossessing and selling the property.
3. Landlord intends to refurbish the let property. This only includes refurbishment works on such a scale that tenants would not be able to live in the property whilst work is ongoing.
4. Landlord intends to live in the let property.
5. Landlord intends to let property for non-residential purpose.
6. Let property required for religious worker.
7. Tenant has a relevant criminal conviction. This ground applied to tenants convicted of an offence that involves using the property for illegal reasons, letting someone use the property for illegal reasons, and committing a crime in or near the property.
8. Tenant is no longer occupying the property. This ground includes the tenant not using the property as their main or only home.
9. Landlord’s family member intends to live in the let property. The family member must live in the property for a minimum of 3 months.
10. Tenant no longer needs supported accommodation.
11. Tenant has breached a term of the tenancy agreement.
12. Tenant has engaged in relevant antisocial behaviour. This ground applies to tenants who have behaved in an antisocial way to another person by causing alarm or distress, being a nuisance, or any action that can be considered harassment.
13. Tenant has associated in the let property with someone who has a criminal conviction or is antisocial. This applies to anyone who has been allowed in the property on more than one occasion who has behaved in an antisocial way that would lead to eviction if they were the tenant.
14. Landlord has had their registration refused or revoked.
15. Landlord’s HMO licence has been revoked.
16. An overcrowding statutory notice has been served on the landlord. This is for cases where the property is overcrowded to the extent that it may affect the health of tenants.
Grounds which could be mandatory or discretionary
17. Tenant is in arrears over 3 consecutive months.
18. Tenant has stopped being (or has failed to become) and employee.
2. Increased flexibility of tenure
In addition to increased security of tenure, removing the end date from tenancies also means that tenants have greater flexibility and control over the length of their tenancy. Tenants can now give 28 days’ notice to leave at any point from the start date of the tenancy.
Under the short assured tenancy regime tenants were tied in to a property for an initial fixed term, which was a minimum of 6 months. This meant that tenants could potentially have to stay in an unsuitable or substandard property for a minimum of 6 months before they could move out. By removing the minimum term, the Scottish Government hopes that rogue landlords will be encouraged to bring their rental properties up to standard in a bid to secure long term tenants, benefiting both tenants and the lettings industry in general.
3. Increased notice period for long term tenants
Tenants with PRTs must be given a minimum of 28 days’ notice for each of the 18 grounds for eviction. However, if the tenant has lived in the property for more than 6 months, the landlord must give 84 days’ notice, considerably longer than the standard 2 months’ notice that was stipulated in short assured tenancies.
The only instances where tenants who have been living in a property for more than 6 months can be given 28 days’ notice, rather that 84 days, is when the tenant is being evicted using one or more of the following grounds:
- Tenant is no longer occupying the let property
- Tenant has breached a term(s) of tenancy agreement
- Tenant is in rent arrears over three consecutive months on the date the landlord applies to the Tribunal for an eviction order
- Tenant has a relevant criminal conviction
- Tenant has engaged in relevant anti-social behaviour
- Tenant associates with a person who has a relevant conviction or has engaged in relevant anti-social behaviour.
Tenants must give their landlord 28 days’ written notice if they wish to leave a property, regardless of how long they have been living there.
4. Protection from frequent rent increases
Tenants with PRTs are also protected from frequent rent increases. Tenants with short assured tenancies can have their rent reviewed and increased as regularly as the terms in their tenancy agreement allow, although in the majority of cases this is capped at once per year and must be out with the initial period.
Landlords with PRTs can review and increase the rent level no more than once per year, and must give tenants 3 months’ notice of any increase.
If tenants disagree with their rent increase they can contact a rent officer within 21 days of receiving the notice of the increase. The rent officer will then rule on whether the increase is fair. If either the landlord or tenant disagrees with the rent officers decision either party can apply to the First-tier Tribunal to decide if the decision of the rent office is fair, or if the amount should be higher or lower.
5. Simplified tenancy paperwork
Another change that tenants may notice is that the tenancy documents have been simplified. Tenants who have previously rented in Scotland will most likely have signed an AT5 document and a Tenant Information Pack before the tenancy began, as was necessary under the old tenancy regime. These documents – which many found confusing – are no longer required, simplifying the process.
The Scottish Government has drawn up a model lease that landlords and letting agents can use. The model agreement is simpler and includes mandatory grounds, and aims to standardise leases across Scotland. Tenants will also be given a document explaining their tenancy agreement, either the 'Easy-read notes for the Scottish Government model tenancy agreement' or the 'Private Residential Tenancy Statutory Terms Supporting Notes'.
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