Private Housing Tenancies Act –What it means for tenants
The Private Housing (Tenancies) Scotland Act 2016 will come into effect from 1 December 2017, with the aim to improve security for tenants, as well as providing safeguards for landlords, lenders and investors.
Any new tenancy created after the Act comes into force will be classed as a private residential tenancy as long as: the property is let to you as a separate dwelling; you live in it as your only (or main) home; it isn’t excluded under schedule one of the Act (which covers low rent, agricultural land and social housing).
This article takes a look at three key things the Act changes for tenants.
Protection from repeated rent increases
Under the new Act, there will be more protection from frequent increases in rent: there should be a maximum of one increase a year – and at least three months’ notice will be required of any increase.
This must be a written notice in a certain form, with the notice period beginning on the date that the communication is received. If the message is sent via post, a landlord must allow two business days for delivery – and this time must be factored into the notice.
If you think that the planned rent increase is too high, you can contact a rent officer, who can decide what the rent level should be. If you decide to do this, you have 21 days from your landlord giving you notice – and you also have to let your landlord know.
Longer notice period
If you’ve lived in a property for over six months, your landlord will now have to give you 84 days’ notice to leave – unless you are being asked to leave because you’ve done something wrong. There are 18 different grounds for eviction: including landlord looking to sell the property, an HMO licence being revoked or the tenant not paying rent for over three months.
If you think that you were misled into moving out of the property you can apply for a wrongful termination order, which can award up to six months’ rent in compensation.
If you want to end the tenancy, you will need to give your landlord at least 28 days’ notice. Your notice has to be given 'freely and without coercion'. You must not be pressured into leaving – say by having the water turned off.
More responsibilities for tenants
Tenants now also have more responsibilities under the act.
The act makes clear that tenants have to give ‘reasonable access’ to landlords for repairs, allowing them to carry out work when they need to, inspect the property, and carry out valuations.
Landlords should give at least 48 hours’ notice for access, unless in case of an emergency or urgent work e.g. a burst pipe.
Tenants will also have the responsibility to let the landlord know in writing if anyone aged 16 or over, who is not a joint tenant begins living in the property as a main home, such as a partner.
It is also worth noting that unless agreed with your landlord in writing, you should not sublet your property, take in a lodger or transfer your tenancy to anyone else.
If you are unsure of your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, you can get advice from your local authority, Shelter Scotland or your solicitor.