Towards the end of last year, Shelter Scotland published a briefing making the case for greater security for private residential tenants in Scotland and calling on the Scottish Government to review the current Short Assured Tenancy.
One of the requirements for a Short Assured Tenancy is that it must be for a minimum period of six months. Provided landlords follow the correct procedures, they will be entitled to regain possession of their property at the end of this initial period if they wish to do so. The concern is that the current Short Assured Tenancy regime is not fit for purpose and the initial period of six months is too short, creating a feeling of insecurity among tenants who may be evicted at the end of this period even if they pay their rent on time and comply fully with the terms of the lease. Accordingly, there is a call for longer term or more secure tenancy options.
Whilst the initial six month period may seem short, it is fairly standard for the lease to continue (usually on a month to month basis) until terminated by either party on giving the requisite notice. In our experience, landlords will not terminate the lease at the end of the initial period unless there is a specific reason for doing so, such as requiring the property for themselves, a family member or farm worker or if there has been a problem with rent arrears, damage to the property or nuisance.
Of course, there is a balance to be struck between tenants' rights and landlords' rights and the suggestion of a flexible approach to notice periods (i.e. longer notice periods depending on how long a tenant has been living in the property) may be welcome. However, if the private rented sector is to continue to operate effectively, landlords require the protection and flexibility offered by the current regime to let out properties with confidence. A move to a more secure tenancy would inevitably make recovery of possession even more difficult for landlords and could well lead to a reduction in houses available for private renting.
We are continuing to monitor the position and will report further as matters progress.