Agents warn of ‘chaos’ in Scottish rental market

A warning of looming ‘chaos’ in Scotland’s private rental market has been issued by the property agents’ professional body Propertymark.

The Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) Bill is due to complete its passage through Holyrood this week, it said. ‘And so far, all attempts to retain mandatory grounds for possession have been ignored by ministers’.

The Bill has six parts. The fourth deals with eviction from properties in the private rented sector.

‘Currently some circumstances result in tribunals having to grant an eviction. The Bill will change this’, explains the Scottish Parliament website. The Bill, on which there has been substantial consultation, proposes that tribunals will not have to evict people automatically. They will still be able to grant an eviction if it considers this to be reasonable.

Part four of the Bill also sets up a ‘pre-action protocol’ which ‘landlords can follow before starting eviction proceedings’. Although this is not mandatory, ‘whether landlords have or have not followed this protocol will be considered by a tribunal in deciding whether to order an eviction in cases where late or non-payment of rent is the reason why the landlord is seeking an eviction’.

All 18 grounds for eviction under Scottish law are currently ‘temporarily’ discretionary as part of measures brought in to protect tenants during the pandemic. If passed, the Bill will mean that from 1 October, will mean that this will remain the situation. There will be no mandatory grounds for possession. Every claim will continue to be subject to the judgement of the First-tier Tribunal, and an order will only be granted where the tribunal agrees the grounds exist.

Propertymark said it has warned the Scottish Government that it is creating an unworkable legal process with which the court system will be unable to cope.

The consequences of the increased restrictions and bureaucracy will mean landlords will leave the market, reducing the number of homes for rent in Scotland, it suggested.

‘We’re dismayed by the Scottish Government’s disregard for industry expertise and evidence in their progression of the Bill and its permanent removal of mandatory grounds for possession’, said Propertymark policy manager Daryl McIntosh.

‘We would also question whether the Scottish Government has adequately considered the full costs of removing mandatory grounds, given that no attempt appears to have been made to account for much of FTT’s operational costs that are, by the Scottish Government’s own admission, difficult to quantify’.