Edinburgh tenants’ rights strengthen in wake of new legislation

Legal changes are to alter private renting dramatically
Legal changes are to alter private renting dramatically
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THE Capital’s private rented sector is expected to change dramatically over the next few years after new legislation came into force strengthening tenants’ rights.

Just over one in four Edinburgh households lives in privately-rented accommodation – more than anywhere else in Scotland.

And changes which recently came into force give them indefinite security of tenure, subject to a list of grounds for eviction.

Housing charity Shelter welcomed the legislation as “a new dawn” for Scotland’s 760,000 private renters.

Up until now landlords have been able to end a tenancy after six months without giving a reason.

But the new law means tenancies will be open-ended, with tenants able to give 28 days’ notice and landlords required to give 84 days’ notice after the first six months – and then only on the basis of one of 18 grounds for eviction listed in the Act.

Lothian Green MSP Andy Wightman said the new type of tenancy could encourage more long-term renting.

He said: “For over 60,000 private tenants in Edinburgh alone, the new Private 
Residential Tenancy will be welcome. After almost 30 years of high turnover, six-month tenancies, the new tenancy recognises that renting for many people should be a long-term option if they wish.”

The legislation is not expected automatically to cut Edinburgh’s record rental prices – the average cost of a two-bedroom flat in the Capital now stands at almost £900 per month.

But under the new law landlords can only put up rents once a year, must give three months’ notice and tenants can challenge unfair rises.

Campaigners said the new law would not lead to change overnight, but within a few years there could be many more private tenants renting properties for much longer periods, creating more of a community than the transient population currently found in many places.

But Mr Wightman said: “I remain concerned at how effective it will be, given the wide-ranging grounds for eviction that remain.”

As well as a breach of the lease or more than three months’ arrears, the 18 grounds include if a landlord wants to sell the property or use it for a family member, both of which campaigners see as being open to misuse.

The Scottish Association of Landlords has said it hopes the reforms will reduce tensions and unnecessary disagreements and make it easier to identify rogue landlords.

Property firm Rettie said in their market briefing on the new law: “For many landlords these changes will not have a major impact on how they manage their investments.

“However, for others, measures like the removal of no fault grounds repossession may remove the option of student lets combined with seasonal lets during the Edinburgh Festival.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com