Scotland has a housing crisis
THOSE in private tenancies account for 13% of households representing a more than doubling over the past ten years. Many rent privately due to lack of choice, and some of the properties are in a bad state of repair with high levels of insecurity and even higher rents.
The situation has come about in no small part due to the sell off of taxpayer funded council housing. This state of affairs means that taxpayer is instead of funding investment into bricks and mortar, foots the bill for an ever rising housing benefit which is paid straight to private landlords.
This is the epitome of the unproductive economy or ‘rent seeking’. The answer to this problem is relatively simple, borrow money to invest in a mass programme of national house building of new council houses, enough for anyone who needs one. It will save Scotland money.
For now, private renters should be protected and their rights to security and a peaceful life should be prioritised. When accessing this debate we must not accept unchallenged the framing of this rent seeking unproductive behavior as the false narrative of fulfilling a public need.
Landlord ‘flexibility’ should be acknowledged as it really is ‘tenant insecurity’ and addressed as such.
Question 1a: Do you agree that there should be an initial tenancy period during which a tenant and landlord would be unable to give notice unless one of the specified circumstances existed?
No. If the ‘No fault’ grounds is removed then there would be no need. Tenants can give notice, if circumstances change, tenants can then move within a suitable timeframe.
Question 2: Do you agree that Notice to Quit and Notice of Proceedings should be combined into one Notice to Leave?
Yes. This will simplify the system for tenants and landlords.
Question 3: Do you agree with the proposed notice periods a landlord should give a tenant?
No. Two months is insufficient. Families particularly require as much notice as possible if they are to move. They may need to save money for a deposit or be restricted to a small search area due to school catchments. Three months would be preferable.
Question 4a: Do you agree that a landlord may serve a Notice to Leave when a tenant has been in rent arrears for two consecutive months?
No. It should be three months.
Question 4b: Do you agree that when a tenant has reached three consecutive months of rent arrears, a landlord should be able to refer a case to the First-tier Tribunal?
Question 5a: Do you agree that the list of repossession grounds now covers all reasonable circumstances where a landlord may wish to recover possession?
Yes – indeed it is too wide and should be reduced to three as it is in other countries such as Germany.
Repossession should only occur in the event of:
Three months of arrears
Damage to the property
Breaking the contract
There is no need to end the lease in order to sell the property. If the landlord or the mortgage company wish to sell the property that can be done with the lease being transferred when the property is sold to the new owner.
Question 5b: Do you agree that the First-tier Tribunal should have an element of discretion in grounds 6, 7 and 8?
Yes. Tribunals must be careful to establish that sufficient grounds exist and it is not a device on the part of the landlord in order to evict tenants in order to increase rents, or to ‘discipline’ tenants that have complained about the standard of the property.
Question 6: From the details provided, do you agree that each of the following repossession grounds will work effectively?
Ground 1: The landlord is selling the home.
No. As explained above there is no need to end a tenancy simply to sell a property.
Ground 2: The mortgage lender is selling the home because the landlord has broken the loan’s conditions.
No. There is no need to end a tenancy in order to sell a property.
Ground 3: The landlord or a family member of the landlord wants to move into the property as their principal home.
No. This could be problematic with landlords using this as a technique to end a tenancy when they have no need to move back into the property. If this reason was used as a reason for repossession thought must be given to how a landlord will ‘prove’ their need.
Ground 4: Refurbishment.
No. This should be tenant driven, after all it is the tenant’s home. Most tenants would be happy to be temporarily rehoused (in a similar standard) at the landlord’s expense during a refurbishment. If that is not suitable the refurbishment could be carried out around the tenant who has been given a rent reduction consummate with the level of disruption.
Ground 5: Change of business use, e.g. from home to shop (from residential to non-residential).
No. The numbers of this type will be low. The landlord should wait until the tenant ends the lease.
Ground 6: The tenant has failed to pay the full rent over three consecutive months.
Ground 7: The tenant has displayed antisocial behaviour.
Yes – although ‘damage to property’ is preferable.
Damage is easier to prove, anti-social behaviour less so. Again if this is used, significant thought needs to be given to how a landlord is able to prove anti-social behaviour has taken place and is serious enough to warrant eviction.
Ground 8: The tenant has otherwise breached the clauses of their tenancy agreement.
Ground 9: Abandonment.
No. May coincide with rent arrears which would then apply as above.
Ground 10: The property was let to the tenant because they were employed by the landlord, and the tenant is no longer employed by the landlord.
No. If the tenant leaves the employ of the landlord then they should give notice and leave the property. If however, the landlord ceases to employ the tenant, the tenant should be free to continue living in the property if they so wish. If the rent was set lower than the average for the area as part payment of salary then the rent could be adjusted upwards but only to the average for the area. Otherwise this could be used as a way for unscrupulous landlords to repossess, and we must not give landlords any incentives to fire employees.
Ground 11: The property is normally needed to house a full-time religious worker of a religious denomination, and is required for this purpose.
No. In that case it should not have been rented out. The landlord should wait until the tenant wishes to leave.
Question 7a: Do you agree that rent reviews should take place no more than once a year?
Yes. Any rent increases should not be more than the average for the area to avoid rent hikes being used by landlords to drive tenants out.
Question 7b: Do you agree that a tenant should receive 12 weeks’ notice in advance of a change in the rent?
Yes. Tenants need sufficient time to consider their options.
Question 7c: Do you agree that tenants should be able to refer what they regard as unreasonable rent increases for adjudication?
Yes. Landlords are know to use rent hikes to force tenants out, this would curb that abuse.
Question 7d: Do you think there is a role for the additional regulation of area-based rent limits?
Possibly, yes. Yes. In areas where rents are increasing far faster than wages, or rents contribute to housing costs exceeding 30% of a tenant’s income, then local authorities need to be able to implement area based rent controls.
Question 7e: If we were to legislate for this proposal, what types of evidence should local authorities have to present to Ministers when applying to designate an area as a ‘rent pressure area’?
Certain criteria could be used such as – if housing costs exceed 30% of a tenant’s income; when rents are increasing faster than wages; if Local Housing Allowance applications are rising; or if the numbers of rent arrears cases before a tribunal are rising.