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Coronavirus (Scotland) Act

Blog by Jeremy Hewer, SFHA Policy Lead

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SFHA has produced a series of 10 briefings to support social landlords through the coronavirus emergency. This blog looks at our briefing which details the changes to the periods for notices of proceedings that were enacted by the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020. 

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act was passed into law at the beginning of April and makes temporary amendments to existing legislation. These amendments last until the end of September 2020, although there is provision to extend their duration by two further six-month periods if the Scottish Government believes this is necessary in order to deal with the effects of the pandemic. 

The briefing covers the extension of periods for notices of proceedings for repossession of Scottish Secure Tenancies, Short Scottish Secure Tenancies and Private Residential Tenancies (as are used in Mid-Market Rent developments). 

In the case of Scottish Secure Tenancies, where all the grounds for recovery of possession listed in Schedule 2 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 have a period of four weeks, the act has extended the period of notice for all grounds except ground five (non-occupation or absence from the property for more than six months without reasonable cause). Depending on the particular ground, the length of notice for other grounds has been extended to either three months or six months. For anti-social behaviour, harassment, obtaining the property by false statement and using the house for illegal purposes, the period of notice is three months; for all other grounds, including non-payment of rent, the period of notice is six months. 

In the case of short Scottish secure tenancies, the period of notice has been extended to six months, except for secure tenancies that were converted or tenancies that were granted for reasons to do with anti-social or criminal behaviour (where the period of notice remains two months). 

In the case of Private Residential Tenancies, amendments to the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 mean that the grounds for eviction are no longer mandatory: the first-tier tribunal must now consider it reasonable to grant an order to evict. The notice period for the grounds for possession listed in schedule three of the act have been amended to 28 days for non-occupation of the property; three months for a number reasons, including criminal conviction or anti-social behaviour; and six months for other reasons, including non-payment of rent. 

The Scottish Government’s aim, in passing this legislation, was to make good the promise that nobody would lose their tenancy as a consequence of the coronavirus emergency and to help relieve the anxiety of those who may have lost their jobs as a result of the emergency measures that have been taken, which have forced a number of businesses to shut down. By extending the notice period for a number of grounds to six months, it effectively puts a moratorium on serving notices, given that the legislation has already run its course for one month, to issue a notice now with a six month period would not have any quicker result than waiting until the legislation expires at the end of September then serving a four week notice – but that is, of course, on the assumption that the legislation will not be extended to run until the end of March 2021. 

However, if the legislation is given a six month extension, and on that basis served a notice with a six month or three month notice during August, only to find that the legislation did in fact lapse at the end of September, would that delay the commencement of proceedings? It is probably a moot point, given the status of the Sheriff Courts, with many cases delayed as a result of the current crisis, so there will be a backlog of existing cases to be processed before new applications can be considered once the emergency has passed. 

For further information on this briefing, please contact jhewer@sfha.co.uk 

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