SCOTTISH HOUSING

Scotland’s Private Housing Act 2016 & Student Housing

Stephen Fuery, Marketing Executive, TCAS Online

15th July 2016

The Scottish parliament just passed a very important piece of legislation; the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016. The Act will lead to the imposition of a new private residential tenancy agreement in Scotland. By doing this it will replace existing tenancy agreements throughout Scotland, most of which are short, fixed term agreements.

The legislation takes effect over a number of stages, which means the new tenancy will take effect at an unconfirmed date in the future, probably in 2017 or 2018. The Act is important for a number of reasons, as it will change the dynamics of the Scottish rental market. It could also have a significant impact on the student letting market in Scotland as well.

James Jack of the law firm Burness Paull produced a briefing note on the Act, in which he stated: ‘Certain classes of lets including holiday lets and social, police and military housing will not be subject to the new regime. Student accommodation will also be exempt from the new rules if it is classed as Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) or is provided by an academic institution – this will allow universities, colleges and PBSA providers to continue to offer fixed-term lets to students.’

“Certain classes of lets including holiday lets and social, police and military housing will not be subject to the new regime.”

That is important, as anything other than that for PBSA providers would have been completely unworkable and so it was important that the Scottish government made the distinction to avoid legal grey areas. However, there is an area of student housing that will be caught in a legal grey area. That is private housing that is used for student tenants. It isn’t clear whether this legislation factors in the needs and demands of students in this part of the sector. Stakeholders from this section of the student let market have raised this issue on numerous occasions with the Scottish government, but it is still unclear how student let properties that aren’t designated as PBSAs will operate under the new legislation.

“Student accommodation will also be exempt from the new rules if it is classed as Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA)”

Overall the Act should give ordinary tenants much more security in their homes, make it more difficult for landlords to exploit tenants and should in theory lead to a fairer, more balanced rental market. There are new tribunals being set up that will deal with rent disputes and disagreements over some of the new, strict rules in which a landlords can evict a tenant at the end of a tenancy agreement, known as ‘no fault evictions’.

However, some landlord groups suggest it will reduce investment in the rental sector and lead to a shortage of rental properties, whilst private student housing landlords claim it will have a serious impact on the viability of student lets and will cause a further shortage of student housing.

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