The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 26 May and takes effect from 27 May 2020.
The Act makes significant changes to some areas of the law, including on issues that were not originally included when the Bill was introduced but which were approved during the amendment process. Not all the proposed amendments were accepted, with some of the more radical suggestions, such as a freeze on private rent prices, being voted down.
Some of the most important changes that are included in the final Act are:
Pre-existing student residential tenancies can now be terminated with 7 days' notice where certain requirements are met and with 28 days' notice for those which have been entered into since the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 was passed..
The Housing (Scotland) Act 1988 has also been amended to ensure that enhanced pre-action requirements are fulfilled by landlords seeking an order for possession or eviction order on ground of rent arrears that have been accrued due to the pandemic. Further regulations on this are to follow.
Changes introduced by the Act make bankruptcy easier for those who need to access it but harder for creditors to make individuals and sole traders bankrupt. There is provision for much of the process to be done electronically and the threshold for a "qualifying creditor" has been increased from £3000 to £10,000.
There is also an enhanced inspection and reporting regime for care homes with providers under a statutory obligation to report daily on the number of deaths that occur which, in turn, must be reported to Scottish Ministers. Emergency Intervention Orders may now be granted to allow authorities to step in and take over the running of care homes where there are concerns regarding the safeguarding of residents.
Marriage and civil partnership during the emergency period
Schedule 1 Part 9 creates a new duty on Scottish Ministers to ensure that the right to marry is not disproportionately interfered with for reasons relating to coronavirus. The Scottish Government will now work as a matter of urgency with National Records of Scotland to produce clear guidance on how people can apply for a civil partnership or to get married during the emergency period.
Intimation of documents on the walls of court
There is a change in the previous requirement to serve or intimate documents on the walls court. Such documents must now be intimated using the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website.
No fixed penalty notices for 16 and 17 year olds
The police had power under the Coronavirus (Scotland) (Restrictions) Regulations to issue fixed penalty notices to people aged 16 or over. The Act now provides for this to be raised to 18 or over.
Extension of statutory deadlines
There are changes to some statutory deadlines such as climate change reporting, for Registered Social Landlords to file accounts and an extension to the deadline for Scottish Ministers to produce a statement about the operation of powers to refer applications for homeless accommodation between local authorities on the grounds of local connection.
Listed building and conservation area consent
An extension has been introduced to 6 April 2021 for listed building consent that would otherwise expire before October 2020.
Electronic registration of inhibitions and judgments
The Act permits electronic signature and registration of documents in the Register of Inhibitions and the Register of Judgments to allow the system to adapt under current restrictions.
ADS extension increased
Currently, where the Additional Dwelling Supplement has been paid, the buyer may claim a repayment of the ADS if they sell their previous main residence within an 18 month period. Due to the impact of coronavirus on the housing market, Schedule 4 Part 4 of the Act doubles the 18 month reclaim period to 36 months for people who paid ADS on a transaction between 24 September 2018 and 24 March 2020. This brings Scotland in line with the rest of the UK.
Execution of documents
Schedule 4 Part 6 of the Act provides that lawyers and notaries public may sign or witness the signing of documents, administer oaths and take affidavits without a requirement to be in the physical presence of the other person. This is a significant change to the way that some legal services can be delivered within the current restrictions.
Non-domestic rates relief
There are new powers for ministers to introduce retrospective non-domestic rates relief for 2020/21.
Freedom of information timescales
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 provided for an extension to freedom of information deadlines, giving authorities 60 working days to respond to freedom of information requests rather than the 20 working days. There was no change to this proposed when the Bill was introduced but an amendment was approved to repeal the extension so authorities are once again subject to the original timescales of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).
Further guidance in relation to some of these changes is anticipated in the coming days and Harper Macleod LLP's specialist solicitors will provide sector specific updates on our Coronavirus Advice Hub.