Tenancy update on temporary Coronavirus eviction measures
On 7 April 2020, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 imposed temporary measures on the private rented sector to protect tenants from eviction. The Act extended the notice periods that private landlords were required to provide to tenants when seeking eviction. It also made all eviction grounds discretionary, meaning that the First Tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing & Property Chamber) had discretion whether or not to grant an eviction order even if the ground in question was made out.
In addition, the Rent Arrears Pre-Action Requirements (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 came into force on 30 September 2020. This imposed conditions on landlords seeking eviction on the basis of non-payment of rent, requiring them to provide specific information to the tenant about their tenancy, the eviction process and how they could access financial support. This information has to be provided to the tenant prior to eviction proceedings being raised. These regulations also encouraged landlords to agree payment arrangements with their tenants. If the landlord did not comply with the pre-action requirements, the Tribunal would be unlikely to grant eviction.
In short, these temporary measures made it more difficult for private landlords to seek repossession.
The Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Act 2021, which came into force on 5 August 2021, extended these temporary measures until the end of 31 March 2022. Whilst the Scottish Ministers had the ability to extend the temporary measures further, the extended notice period provisions expired at the end of 31 March 2022. This means that from 1 April 2022, the notice periods for eviction reverted to the pre-Covid notice periods. It should be noted however that any notices served before 1 April 2022 must comply with the extended notice period provisions under the 2020 Act and eviction proceedings can only be raised after expiry of that notice period.
Unfortunately for private landlords, some of the coronavirus temporary measures are staying with us on a permanent basis.
Part 4 of the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill will make all eviction grounds under regulated, short assured, assured and private residential tenancies discretionary. This departs from the pre-Covid position which treated some eviction grounds as mandatory, in which case the Tribunal had to grant an eviction order if the eviction ground applied. This Bill means that the Tribunal retain discretion in all proceedings for eviction and will grant an eviction order only if it is reasonable to do so.
Part 4 of the Bill also makes the rent arrears pre-action requirements permanent. This means that any landlord seeking eviction on the basis of non-payment of rent will require to show compliance with the Rent Arrears Pre-Action Requirements (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 when seeking an eviction order at the Tribunal.
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