What Landlords Need To Do From Today

The Scottish government has published the rules that landlords will need to adhere to from today, following the reopening of the property market here in Scotland.

Although landlords will need to observe safety measures such as regular hand washing, socially distancing from clients and team members and using face masks, the testing and maintenance of gas and safety equipment has been relaxed until later on in the summer.

Landlords will still need to make every effort to abide by gas safety rules, but local authorities will take a more lenient view of electrical safety maintenance and testing. Unless there is an ongoing problem or emergency with these utilities, maintenance won’t be required to be completed phase 3 of the route map out of the cororonvirus lockdown.

Additional measures include not enabling house moves where any of the tenants are still shielding or self-isolating, and that physical viewings of properties should only take place if virtual viewings are not an option.

Landlords should ensure that any repairs, maintenance and gas and electrical safety checks are carried out between tenancies where the property is vacant. If this isn’t an option, then appointments need to be made in advance and if possible, when the tenant is not present and give appropriate notice except in an emergency.

In between the tenancies, landlords must carry out a deep clean to prevent the spread of the virus and for tenants’ peace of mind.

If you would like further advice or help on your responsibilities as a landlord during this time, talk to a member of the Newton Lettings team.

Opening Back Up For Business

The property market here in Scotland will officially open back up for business on 29th June as we move to phase two of our roadmap out of lockdown.

This means that home moves will surge ahead with stringent safety measures in place. Here at Newton Letting we believe that June 29th can’t come quick enough – we have many tenants waiting to get the keys to their new home and many more seeking suitable accommodation.

Pent up demand

According to latest reports from Citylets, letting agents have already experienced a huge spike in new tenant enquiries property, with transactions that were put on hold due to the pandemic, finally able to complete. We believe that there will be a big surge in demand as soon as the market opens and that the backlog of tenants that have been unable to move over the last 3 months will no doubt cause a ‘ripple’ effect with people looking to move over the peak summer months.

The importance of finding the right tenant for your property

We are yet to see the full effects of the pandemic on the economy, but with the Job Retention Scheme soon to be phased out, we do have some concerns that some tenants will not be able to meet their financial obligations. Therefore, securing the best possible tenant has never been more important going forward. It’s imperative that tenants stay as long as possible to minimise any void periods and that they are in a secure position to ensure that they can pay their rent month to month.

Keeping clients safe

The Scottish Government has issued new home moving guidance and virtual viewings should take place wherever possible and if viewing in person, virtual tours should be used prior to visiting the property to minimise the time spent at the property. In addition, it’s important to develop effective contactless tenancy moves and to keep any measures in place until the risks are negligible.

Could the market have opened sooner?

Whilst we are all relieved that the market will re open in less than a week, we also question whether the market could have opened sooner, in line with England. We believe that with the correct procedures in place to protect everyone from the risks, the market could have already reopened.

Coronovirus – A Landlord’s Guide

The buy-to-let market has been put under pressure with the financial implications making it difficult for tenants to pay their rent. But how can you navigate your way through this crisis?

If your tenant has lost their job, they may struggle to pay their rent. You may be confused as to what your obligations are to your tenants during the pandemic and what financial support they can claim to stop their income from halting.

Here are some of your obligations during this time:

Maintenance

Your repair obligations have not changed – as long as you practice social distancing works can still be carried out. You may have difficulty in finding contractors to do the work required, which could make it difficult to ensure your property meets the legal requirements. If you can’t resolve any issues due to the pandemic keep a record of the issue and what you have tried to do to solve it. Government advice states that you should take a pragmatic approach to any non-urgent issues and if you have taken appropriate steps, you won’t be in breach of your duties.

Rental payments

Tenants have been informed that they should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms in the agreement if possible. If they have lost their job, there are support systems available such as Universal Credit and help for the self-employed. Benefits payments may not be enough and so property owners could take a mortgage payment holiday and agree a schedule for the repayment of rent that has been suspended.

Eviction

The Government has said that tenants can still be evicted but the notice period has been extended. The courts have also suspended hearing repossession cases for 90 days.

Help for landlords

Landlords do not count as ‘self-employed’ and cannot get help from the government rescue package for the self-employed. Landlords can make use of an interest-free loan from the Government if they struggle to bring in rent during the pandemic and to be classified as self-employed would depend on the involvement they have with the management of their properties.

A self-employed landlord would need to be operating multiple properties and generating enough income from this for it to be considered a business.

Financial support

If you are a landlord and struggling financially you can defer the payment for your self-assessment tax return from July to January 2021. In addition, you can look to take a mortgage holiday – this shouldn’t hurt your credit score, but mortgage companies may look at this when you take out another mortgage in the future, and they could consider this in any offer they make.

Landlord insurance

Some landlord insurance policies will cover any rental payment defaults, but your policy may only pay out once they have been in arrears for a certain period of time and notice has been served. Tenants failing to pay their rent during this time cannot be evicted for at least three months and you could be faced with delays on your claim.

Finding tenants

If you have an empty property it can still be marketed to let, and it can be viewed via video call. If a lease has been signed your tenant may choose to delay the move in date so talk to prospective tenants to come to a solution. If the property is empty you will still need to pay council tax.

If you would like further advice on your obligations as a landlord throughout this pandemic, talk to Newton Letting today.

The Rights of Private Tenants

If you are a tenant here in Scotland, you have a number of rights to protect you and the property in which you live.

Here are some of the things you should be aware of as a private tenant:

You have the right to live in a safe property that is in good condition.

You have the right to live in a property undisturbed, without any unreasonable interference from your landlord or letting agent.

You have the right to know the energy performance via an Energy Performance Certificate.

Your tenancy deposit will be protected in a government approved scheme. It must be registered with Letting Protection Service Scotland, Safe Deposits Scotland or mydeposits Scotland.

You have the right to challenge rent increases that you believe to be unfair. There is a strict legal process that governs when landlords can increase your rent. It can be increased once per year, you will need to be served with a Rent Increase Notice which includes a three-month period before the rent is increased. If you feel it is unfair, you can apply to Rent Service Scotland.

You have a right to protection from unfair eviction. If you have a private tenancy your landlord can only evict you for a specific reason as outlined here and it must be stated in writing. Your notice period depends on the reason behind your eviction but in some cases, it can be up to six months. If your landlord ends your tenancy and you refuse to move out, your landlord can only recover possession through court proceedings. If you think you’re being evicted unfairly you can defend this action via a tribunal.

It is a legal requirement for tenants to receive a written tenancy agreement called the Private Residential Tenancy Agreement and all landlords are required to register with the local council that covers the area where the property is located as part of the Scottish Landlord Register.

Landlords are required to provide information on themselves and the letting agent managing the property (if applicable).

Eviction during COVID-19

Updated guidance on evictions during the pandemic has been issued by the Scottish Government. This includes an extension of the notice period for evictions of 6 months. A new law has made all grounds for eviction discretionary, allowing any tribunals to consider the impact of coronavirus before issuing an eviction order or not.

If you require any further help as a private tenant, or you’re looking for a property to let, talk to our friendly, professional team today.

Fair Rents Bill (Scotland) Bill

Today the Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament. The aim of the Bill is to change the law in Scotland by amending the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 and to improve the way that rents are set in the private rented sector, with further support for low income tenants and to help reduce poverty and hardship.

The Bill will set a cap on any rental increases and allow tenants to apply for a fair rent to be set, which will be considered based on the condition of the property, the décor, the energy efficiency and other issues.

Here’s a summary of the proposals in the Bill:

Summary of the proposals in the Bill:

  • A cap in Scotland on rent increases for Private Residential Tenancies (PRT) at no more than the annual Consumer Prices Index (“CPI”) plus 1 %.
  • Tenants will have a PRT with the right to apply for a fair rent to be determined once in any 12 month period.
  • Private landlords are required to disclose the rents they charge for each property when they register or renew their registration on the Scottish Landlord Register.
  • Scottish Ministers must publish a statement on the impact of the Bill within three years from the commencement of the proposed legislation.
  • Scottish Ministers will be able to vary the additional percentage to be applied to CPI in the fair rent CPI cap either upwards or downwards, including a negative percentage.
  • Fair rent determination by a rent officer of the First Tier Tribunal cannot be increased from the proposed rent figure that is being appealed against.
  • The rents registered in the Landlord Register will be in the public domain.

The Bill will be introduced by May 2021. Talk to us at Newton Letting to discuss this proposal and how it may affect you as a landlord.