Generation gap about the realities of renting – David Alexander
Here, the only reason a faultless tenant can be ordered to leave is because the landlord either wishes to sell the property or make it his or her own home; or a major renovation to the property is required.
This is contrary to the situation in England where the “short-assured” tenancy regime remains in place, giving landlords the power to evict at the end of each contract period. The situation is particularly contentious as it means landlords can evict even highly-responsible tenants in the expectation of replacing them with others prepared to pay a substantially higher rent.
You’d think, therefore, that tenant-bodies (or those who make the claim of representing tenants) would be extremely happy about the regime that exits in Scotland, wouldn’t you?
Sadly, it never takes much for some of them to find a grievance. For example, just recently we had the pressure group, Generation Rent (which claims to “make sure that the voices of private renters are heard”) complaining that nearly a third of private landlords in Scotland who went to the property chamber to evict tenants on the basis of wanting to make a sale, had failed to sell the home more than a year later.
Now, I would never condone any examples of law-breaking but this conclusion does seem open to question. The statistics are based on an example of just 125 properties over a three-year period and it is generally acknowledged that there has been a huge backlog in the registration of sales caused by the effects of the pandemic while, for the same reason, it is likely that the landlord register will still contain names of individuals who have sold on their properties.
So, are GR certain that these properties have not, in fact, been sold? It also complains that 9 per cent of the properties were sold to another landlord, “indicating that the original tenant could have stayed put and the eviction was unnecessary”. Consequently, it is calling for a requirement for landlords wishing to sell to advertise the property with a sitting tenant before seeking eviction.
Let me explain, dear reader, how the system works. In reality some landlords are extremely keen to sell a property to another investor with a tenant in place
because if said person has a history of prompt payment and responsible behaviour that is an asset in itself which adds value to the property as an investment. A landlord may even invite the sitting tenant to offer for the property prior to putting it on the open market. Relatively few tend to take up the offer but at least they are given the opportunity.
But sometimes, for a variety of reasons, things don’t work out that way and the property goes onto the open market – and in a free society, why not? In fact I find it more significant that 91pc of the properties were not sold to other landlords.
Generation Rent also calls for “relocation payments” to “ease the burden” of tenants who are required to vacate a property. Oh dear. All this will do is add one more cost item to operators in the rental market, the inevitable consequence being higher rents or a reduction in stock as more landlords decide it’s time to quit.
Personally, I am not opposed, in principle, to the additional protection given to tenants in Scotland, although the law needs to be strengthened to reduce the ability of rogue tenants to string out the eviction process to their advantage.
However if one thing can be said for “no-fault” evictions south of the Border it is that sometimes it does result in karma. I’m referring to situations where greed gets the better of a landlord and – as the law of contract allows – he evicts a near-perfect occupier at the end of a tenancy in favour of someone waving a much bigger cheque. However, it then turns out the new tenant is not what he seemed and within a few short months rental income has reduced to zero – and with it a lengthy (and costly) process of securing an eviction.
Just as well, perhaps, that the scope for landlords to be so tempted is much- reduced in Scotland.
David Alexander is managing director of DJ Alexander