02 August 2016

Security of Tenure in the Private Rented Sector

Private Rented Sector:  Notice to Quit Checking

Tenemants.jpg

Quarter:  1/4/16 to 30/6/16

We continue to work closely with the Council's Housing Options Team at Parliament Square, providing an initial assessment of the security of tenure of private rented sector (PRS) tenants.  All PRS tenants who present as potentially homeless at Parliament Square having received a Notice to Quit their tenancy are now directed to the weekly Drop-In Sessions provided by EHAP at the nearby High Street Customer Hub.

Experienced Advisers check the Notices to ensure that they are valid.  This is a key role, as the Council may only have a legal Duty towards the applicant in terms of Part II of the Housing (Housing) Scotland Act 1987 if the Notices issued validly terminate the tenancy.  As can be seen from the statistics below, in more than half of the presentations made to us in the last Quarter, those Notices were not valid.

In the last Quarter we provided:

  • 26 Drop In Sessions:
    • Responding to 147 Attendances
      • 6 people per session (average)
    • Advising 107 different Individuals at risk of homelessness

Attendances at Drop In

during Quarter

No. of Clients

1 Attendance

89

2 Attendances

13

3 Attendances

3

4 Attendances

1

5 Attendances

1

Total

107

Presentations:  Apr- Jun 2016

In undertaking this work we found that:

  • 52% of Notices issued to tenants were Invalid at initial presentation, meaning that these tenants had a continuing legal right of occupancy;
  • 23% of landlords were unregistered

In some cases tenants presented at the Drop In Sessions more than once, as new Notices were issued by landlords, or as they experienced pressure - and in some cases potentially criminal harassment - from their landlords.

Common errors in Notices involve a combination of insufficient Notice, failure to terminate the contractual lease on a valid 'termination' date and failure to include legally required information to assist tenants ('Prescribed Information').

Issues Arising from the NTQ Checking Sessions this Quarter:

Landlord Registration:

A significant percentage (23%) of the tenants who presented in this Quarter were occupying tenancies where the landlord was not Registered - up from 17% in the previous Quarter.  Part 8 of the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004 requires that most landlords in the PRS must register with the Council, and applies penalties for failure to do so.

CEC's Private Rented Services Team advise that there are 40,000 registered landlords in Edinburgh.  The number of unregistered landlords is, for obvious reason, not known - but if our experience from the NTQ Checking Sessions over the first 6 months of this year is representative then there could be up to 8,000 unregistered landlords operating in the City. This is a regulatory challenge.  We intend passing detail of unregistered PRS tenancies to the Council's enforcement team for them to apply the law in this area.

'Revenge Evictions' - Disrepair complaints:

We have seen evidence that PRS landlords have responded to tenants raising legitimate disrepair concerns by moving to evict using the mandatory 'no fault' Section 33 route.  In a number of cases we have seen clients being subject to eviction proceedings while their disrepair complaints were being investigated by the Private Rented Housing Panel.

Tenancy Deposit Issues:

Since 2011, landlords have been obliged by The Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011 to lodge deposits with one of the 3 Approved Schemes.

In the course of addressing NTQ issues at the Drop In we often identify that tenants' deposits are not properly secured.  This has led to a number of successful Summary Applications to the Sheriff Court, with compensation being awarded to tenants

Illegal Eviction & Harassment:

We have encountered a number of cases where we have had to advise tenants of their rights in terms of Section 22 of The Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 [Unlawful eviction and harassment of occupier] and Section 36 of The Housing (Scotland) Act 1988 [Damages for Unlawful Eviction].  Unfortunately, in too many of these cases we have had to explain to Police Scotland that these are criminal offences, and not 'civil issues' between tenants and landlord.  We intend raising this issue as a general point of concern with Police Scotland.

 

If any of these issues have affected you - or if you receive a Notice to Quit from a landlord - we can help.  For general housing advice contact us.  If you have a NTQ, you can access our NTQ Checking Drop In Sessions via the Council's Parliament Square office. We're there on Thursdays (1pm - 4.30pm).

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