It’s been a big news week for the Edinburgh rental sector. The Scottish Government has announced a planned phased lifting of lockdown restrictions that will mean more people start considering their next moves and the rental market will continue to get busier.
Scotland’s Coronavirus Lockdown Roadmap for the rental sector
The Scottish Government will be working with the property sector during phase 1, starting 28th May, to prepare for a relaxation of restrictions on house moves in phase 2, expected to come on 18th June. Until then, we’ll continue to safely and remotely support tenants who need to move. Under the roadmap, it’s likely we’ll be able to reopen our office, in some form, during phase 3, estimated to be August. Whatever the timescales may be, our team will continue to work safely and responsibly whilst adjusting to updated restrictions for as long as we need to.
Scottish Universities planned to reopen after the summer
The Scottish Government has confirmed plans for colleges and universities in Scotland to undergo a phased reopening after the summer which is welcome news to universities, students and student landlords who are affected by campus life.
Amendments to the Coronavirus Bill relevant to student landlords
On Wednesday this week, the Scottish Parliament passed amendments to the recent Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020, some of which will affect student landlords. The amendments to the temporary Coronavirus Act are expected to be given Royal Assent imminently and be applicable initially until the 30th September, but with the provision that this date can be extended.
- Council Tax break on vacant properties – Where a student tenant(s) has served notice after the 17th March 2020 and left a property vacant, the landlord will now be exempt from paying council tax on the property during the vacant period. This reduces the financial impact on landlords who have student rental properties vacant due to COVID-19.
- Notice periods changed for purpose built student blocks – Large institution-owned, purpose built student accommodation blocks (of which there are numerous in Edinburgh) are affected by a change to notice periods on this type of accomodation – no private individual landlords or their tenancies are directly affected. Previously, large student blocks did not fall under the Private Rented Tenancy (PRT) rules of tenants being able to serve 28 days notice at any time. Student tenants in these blocks were tied in to fixed-term contracts, most of these tenancies were contracts into the summer and the tenants could not get out of them early. This week’s amendment means student tenants currently bound by one of these fixed-term agreements, can serve 7 days notice to leave. This will benefit thousands of tenants who are no longer living in student blocks and create more fluidity in the student market which will help new tenancies be negotiated for next year. This week’s amendments also mean that future new tenancies entered into in student blocks will be subject to the same 28 day notice as PRTs (the 7 day notice is just for pre-existing tenancies).
Pre-action requirement on repossession for rent arrears
One other amendment that passed this week adds a new requirement for landlords seeking repossession of their property through the First Tier Tribunal for rent arrears. Landlords must be able to demonstrate that they (or their agents) have tried to work with the tenant to work through the financial difficulties of the tenancy by sign-posting the tenant to the financial aid available and discussing repayment plans. This is already part of Umega’s policy where supporting tenancies that are under pressure so does not change anything for us in practise.
We’ll continue to share important news via our blog as and when it’s announced. If you’re a landlord or tenant with any questions relating to your rental property in light of Coronavirus, please get in touch.