‘Prioritise this area of human misery’: Calls for private sector housing regulation follow tenant’s landmark victory

Alasdair Clark

Solicitor Advocate Mike Dailly has said the government should prioritise a stronger regulatory regime to oversee the private rental sector

  • Housing lawyer uses Glasgow Times column to call for tougher regulation on the private rental sector
  • Glasgow man wins landmark case against unlawful eviction 
  • “Crystal clear” that current approach is failing, says tenants’ union Living Rent

HUMAN MISERY brought on by a “light touch” regulatory regime should see urgent reform to better protect private tenants, according to the leading Scottish housing lawyer Mike Dailly.

Dailly’s comments follow a landmark case in which a Glasgow tenant secured £18,000 in damages after being unlawfully evicted from his home in 2015. 

Dambaru Baral, who raised the case against his former landlords Mohammed and Khalada Arif, was forced into a Glasgow winter night shelter after returning home on Christmas Eve 2015 to find his landlord’s son changing the locks on his property. 

The landlord claimed an oral agreement had been made that Baral would vacate the property, but the First Tier Housing Tribunal found it “inherently unlikely” that such an agreement would have been made as the tenant nowhere else to go. 

Whilst the landlord accepted they had taken possession of the property without a court order, the Tribunal also rejected their claim they did so believing Baral had ceased occupying the property.

Read more: New powers announced for councils to regulate Airbnb style holiday lets

The Tribunal found in favour on Baral, who was represented by Laura Simpson, senior solicitor at Govanhill Law Centre, and awarded him £18,000 in damages.

It is the first time the Tribunal has made such a finding in an unlawful eviction case. 

Writing in the Glasgow Times, Dailly said the case was a “fantastic result” for the tenant, but questioned why the landlord’s son, acting on is behalf, were not charged with a criminal offence. 

“My colleagues and I see these unlawful evictions all too often in Glasgow. They are rife across Scotland too. Cases where a mum goes to drop her kids off at school to return home to find the locks to her home changed by a landlord. 

“Once more, strong regulation on paper is being undermined by turning a blind eye to landlords breaking the law, and it has to change.” Living Rent spokesperson

“In such cases the police act as bystanders and often think a notice to quit is sufficient in Scots law, or if someone is in rent arrears then that’s that.”

Dailly also welcomed the Scottish Government’s new licensing scheme to regulate Airbnb style lets, but said the “devil would be in the detail”. 

On licensing in the private rented sector, Dailly characterised the current registration system operated by local authorities and the government as the “lightest of light-touch” regulatory regimes.

“It’s time for the Scottish Government to prioritise this area of human misery. Airbnb legislation is all very well, but there is a herd of elephants in the room. It needs sorted,” he wrote. 

Responding to Dailly’s comments and the Tribunals decision, a spokesperson for the Scottish tenants’ union Living Rent told CommonSpace that hard-won protections for tenants would mean nothing if they are not enforced. 

“The government and the Tribunal have washed their hands of this enforcement, instead of putting the onus on tenants facing eviction and homelessness.

Read more: Tenants’ Union urges housing associations to stop all Universal Credit evictions

“It is crystal clear that this approach is failing.

“The Tribunal deals with thousands of cases of landlords blatantly breaking the law, particularly around deposits. It is therefore simply not credible to suggest that this is the only landlord who has broken the law by unlawfully evicting tenants. And yet, this is the only successful challenge to such an eviction through the Tribunal.

“Once more, strong regulation on paper is being undermined by turning a blind eye to landlords breaking the law, and it has to change. 

“The government and councils must take a much more proactive role in protecting tenants from illegal evictions, and the Tribunal process must be improved to actually guarantee tenants the rights they already have in law, shifting the power balance away from landlords and towards tenants.”

Image courtesy of Living Rent 

CommonSpace is entirely funded by small, regular donations from you: our readers. Become a sustaining supporter today.