Powers available to tackle anti-social, problem tenants could be reduced if new laws for the rental sector are introduced, according to industry bodies.
Responses to a Scottish Government consultation, looking at reforms for the private rented sector, have now been published. One of the measures the government is looking at is the removal of the ‘no-fault ground’, which allows landlords to ask tenants to move out at the end of an agreed contractual term.
The Scottish Government has asked the industry to consider the removal of the ‘no-fault’ ground and a system of revised notice periods and grounds for possession. The grounds listed in the consultation are unfortunately incomplete and do not sufficiently cover legitimate grounds where it is reasonable for a landlord to request the possession of their property.
Sector organisations are warning that this would lead to difficulties in removing anti-social tenants who create problems for neighbours, with more and more rental disputes having to be settled by the new first tier tribunal.
There are also fears that investment in the private rental sector would suffer, with fewer landlords willing to invest if they know that gaining possession of a property at a time of their own choosing unless one of a narrow set of grounds is met is compromised.
John Blackwood, Chief Executive of Scottish Association of Landlords said: "We agree with many aspects of the proposed New Tenancy agreement which will provide increased protection for tenants as well as clarity for landlords and letting agents. However, we are alarmed at the proposal to take away a landlord's right to bring a tenancy to an end after an agreed period, creating an imbalance that would allow a tenant to end a lease but not a landlord. We think landlords should retain ultimate responsibility and control over who occupies properties they own and believe ending this right would shift the balance too far.
"Furthermore, our members are concerned that losing this right would make it harder to evict tenants engaged in anti-social behaviour or upsetting neighbours. The procedure for eviction under these circumstances is very complicated and costly, all whilst the tenant is allowed to stay in the property, perhaps continuing to cause disturbances. The current right means a tenant is still given adequate notice to vacate a property but allows the landlord to tackle anti-social behaviour or complaints more quickly. If this is removed, fewer landlords will have confidence to invest in the sector because they will fear the lack of security they will have over their properties."
Other bodies have also warned of the problems that could arise if this mechanism is withdrawn by government.
Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners and rural businesses across Scotland, said that its members have serious concerns about the proposals.
Katy Dickson, Policy Officer at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Rental homes in rural locations tend to have a less frequent turnover of tenants than properties in urban areas but we do receive requests for advice from landlords who have issues with tenants.
“One of the most common problems is disputes between neighbours at adjoining farm or estate properties that the landlord is enforced to intervene in. This can often be standard nuisances including persistent loud noise or issues with pets such as fouling. Such disputes between neighbours have a habit of escalating and often it’s the landlord who has to find the solution.
“Much of the time it is clear that one party is causing the problem but it is often anecdotal and not of a serious enough scale that antisocial behaviour can be cited in court. Instead, a landlord will choose to invoke the ‘no fault’ clause at the end of the contract, ending the dispute without placing a black mark against someone’s name.
“The danger is that without this mechanism, more and more disputes will result in court action, often at expense for all parties involved. There is also the fear that instead of providing a safeguard for tenants, it will result in more friction occurring as landlords are forced to gather evidence for a tribunal process rather than use their judgement for what is a suitable resolution for all parties involved.”