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Currently, most private residential tenancies in Scotland are either short-assured or assured tenancies. These will continue as such until they reach their end or are terminated by one party or the other.

However, with effect from December 1, 2017, all new private residential tenancies will take the form of the new Private Residential Tenancy introduced by the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016.

One of the main benefits for tenants is enhanced flexibility in terms of the length of the lease with tenancies under the new regime being open-ended, lasting until either the tenant wishes to leave the property or the landlord relies on one of the 18 grounds for eviction - some of which are mandatory and some discretionary.

The new tenancy will provide greater security for the tenant, allowing a possible challenge for wrongful termination of the tenancy and compensation of up to 6 months of rent if upheld. In terms of rental levels, the new tenancy provides greater stability in that the landlord can only increase the rent once per year and the tenant can ask a rent officer to set the rent if he or she disagrees with the increase.

Based upon a standardised agreement containing a number of mandatory as well as discretionary clauses, the new tenancy is easier to understand and is accompanied by a set of explanatory notes, although it has to be said that these are somewhat lengthy and as such are not a quick read.

Whilst these changes make it easy to see why the new regime is potentially more beneficial for tenants, what are the advantages for landlords? It is true that a tenancy will no longer terminate automatically on a date agreed at the commencement of the lease but, in practice, the 18 grounds available for use by the landlord in appropriate circumstances, cover most scenarios whereby the landlord may reasonably wish to recover possession.
In addition, new responsibilities are placed on the tenant in relation to allowing access for repairs and providing information about people living in the property along with the tenant. Where a tenant is behind with rent payments, the landlord can refer a case more quickly for repossession.

The tenancy documentation is also simplified by the availability of the Scottish Government recommended ‘model tenancy agreement’ (in digital form) which includes discretionary terms which can be edited to suit a specific property.
It is also no longer a requirement for landlords to issue certain additional notices at the beginning and end of the tenancy, which were previously required in the case of an assured or short-assured tenancy.

Arranging for the Tenancy Agreement to be signed is also much easier as parties, by agreement, can simply type their names onto it and email it.

It remains to be seen how well the new Private Residential Tenancy will operate in practice but, on the face of it, it does provide a more standardised, current and simpler approach with clear responsibilities on both parties and remedies for when things go wrong.

Carol Crowther, Head of Residential Property


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