Tribunal Closure and Guidance for Private Landlords and Letting Agents.
First-tier Tribunal Closure and Guidance for Private Landlords and Letting Agents.
Following the recent announcement by the Scottish Courts and Tribunal service that no new jury trials would commence after 17th March 2020, we have now also received notification that all First-tier Tribunal for Scotland Housing and Property Chamber (‘The Tribunal’) Hearings (including procedural Case Management Discussions) will be postponed until further notice. The SCTS also asks generally that members of the public do not enter any of their buildings to reduce the risk of infection spread.
This will affect many of our Private Sector Landlord and Letting Agent clients with forthcoming cases or who planned to attend the Tribunal to lodge Applications. Where BKF are instructed, we will be in touch regarding individual matters in the usual manner. All current Tribunal business has been postponed until 28th May 2020. Applicants should be aware that date is notional only and Tribunal attendance is not required on 28th May 2020. At that time, it is hoped a review will be conducted and rescheduling will begin. Parties and their representatives will be formally notified of new dates in due course.
For the time being, the Tribunal will continue to accept new cases. These will be processed up to the point of acceptance when completed cases will be placed in a scheduling queue. It is expected rescheduling of new cases will begin from 30th June 2020. Whilst decisions will not be made for some months, there will be benefit in continuing to lodge applications so that those are processed in order of the date received. Applicants are encouraged to submit forms and supporting documents electronically at this time.
The Tribunal’s statement can be accessed here.
The Scottish Government have also written to Private Landlords and Letting Agents with guidance on how to support tenants during the Covid-19 pandemic. The guidance includes a call to Landlords not to evict tenants who have suffered financial hardship due to the Coronavirus.
Landlords and Letting Agents who are concerned that access for emergency repairs or gas/electrical safety checks cannot be obtained due to infection or self-isolation are encouraged to keep detailed records of all communications with tenants and contractors. Services should be delivered where it is safe to do so. If access cannot be taken or is refused this should be recorded as being related to the Coronavirus. Steps should then be taken to ensure any required works or safety checks are carried out when it is safe and to do so. As always, maintaining good communication with tenants and keeping them updated with approximate timescales is of upmost importance.
On 18th March 2020, the Scottish Government also announced proposals to introduce temporary amendments to the Private Housing (Scotland) Act 2016, increasing the mandatory ground for rent arrears from three to six consecutive months. It is not yet clear how long the temporary changes will remain in place or whether tenants will require to evidence financial hardship was caused by Coronavirus.
The Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP’s speech which outlines these proposals can be accessed here.