A third of Scottish landlords evicting tenants to sell up fail to make a sale
Nearly one-third of private landlords who evicted tenants in order to sell the property had failed to sell the home more than a year later, according to new research from Generation Rent into Scottish tenancy reforms.
A further 9% of cases of tenants being evicted on grounds of sale saw the home simply sold to another landlord who has re-let the property.
As governments in Scotland and England consider reforms to private tenancies, Generation Rent is calling for extra protections when landlords wish to sell so that tenants do not face expensive and disruptive moves.
In Scotland, private landlords can only end a tenancy that started since 2017 if they have one of 18 legitimate grounds, including an intention to sell the property.
If a tenant served with an eviction notice does not leave after the notice period ends, the landlord must apply to the Tribunal to seek possession.
Generation Rent looked at 125 cases between 2018 and 2021 where the landlord was seeking possession on ground 1, and checked whether each property had been sold and was still on the landlord register.
Out of 74 cases where the landlord was awarded possession between 2018 and 2020 based on their intention to sell, 21 (28%) had still not been sold. Ten of those (14% of the total) were still on the landlord register, suggesting they had simply been re-let.
A further seven homes had been sold but were registered to a different landlord (9%), indicating that the original tenant could have stayed put and the eviction was unnecessary.
Just over half (53%) had both been sold and left the private rented sector, in line with the landlord’s original intention. (A small minority (9%) had been sold but were still on the landlord register in the original landlord’s name.)
For the 33 ground 1 cases heard in 2021, two-thirds of homes remained unsold by early 2022.
To prove their intention to sell, landlords must demonstrate that they have appointed a solicitor, estate agent or other professional to prepare the property for listing. As a result, it is very difficult for tenants to challenge a ground 1 eviction and many will move out before their notice period ends.
Tenants can apply for a Wrongful Termination Order, which, if successful, results in compensation, but none of the cases examined by Generation Rent resulted in one.
Generation Rent is calling for extra protections for tenants who face eviction for reasons beyond their control, including a requirement for landlords who wish to sell to advertise the property with a sitting tenant before seeking eviction, relocation payments to ease the burden of tenants who face eviction, and periods where the landlord cannot evict tenants who have not broken the terms of their tenancy agreement.
Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “These cases represent a minority of evictions in Scotland but the number of properties that are re-let instead of being sold, or are bought by another landlord, indicate that tenants are still getting a raw deal.
“Despite the 2017 reforms, this research suggests it is too easy for landlords to claim a ground for sale yet seemingly abandon plans to sell them. That’s why we’d like to see incentives for landlords to keep the tenant in place.”
She added: “The consequences of ground 1 evictions are devastating for the tenant. Unwanted moves cause stress, loss of savings and risk of debt, and disruption to education and work.
“Landlords will always need the option to sell, but governments in both Scotland and England must ensure that private renters have the best shot at a long-term home.”
Daryl McIntosh, Propertymark’s policy manager for the UK Devolved Nations, responded: “Generation Rent is using a misleading analysis of a very small sample of tribunal cases to feed their narrative of a possession system that’s being abused.
“It is pure speculation to suggest any properties within this analysis that are either yet to be sold or still on the landlord register have been re-let. As Generation Rent acknowledges itself the register is unlikely to be up to date because there’s no legal requirement for a landlord to do so once a property has been sold. Property sales can also be delayed for legitimate reasons including a protracted possession, creating further discrepancies.
“To pre-empt the intentions of a prospective purchaser is unreasonable, so a landlord cannot be expected to pursue a sale without first ensuring vacant possession.
“Propertymark believes the Scottish Government’s proposals to reform the private rented sector are already heavily weighted in favour of tenants’ rights and we will continue to urge ministers to ensure their policies are evidence-based and balanced.”