Hope that as we near the end of May and the sun is shining in Scotland we are all starting to feel a little more optimistic about the new pace of life that we seem to have and adapting to the future normality.
Personally I have been enjoying not fighting traffic for an hour in the morning and at least an hour in the evening as well as being home to bake and make meals from scratch that I never seemed to have time to do before.
I know not everyone is as lucky as I am to be able to work from home and have beautiful parks a short walk from away to go for exercise and local shops and I do appreciate my good fortune.
The way people have come together to pick up items for neighbours who may not be able to get out and the general sense of community is a huge benefit to all of this, I hope you have found that where you are.
New Scottish coronavirus legislation passed
A second Coronavirus Bill made its way through the Scottish Parliament last week. Initial amendments proposed by some Green and Labour MSPs contained a number of highly alarming and unfair plans for further “emergency” changes to the laws governing the private rented sector (PRS). If these had been passed, they would undoubtedly have damaged member rental businesses further and in fact been detrimental to the interests of the tenants who these politicians claim to be trying to help.
The amendments proposed included a two-year private sector rent freeze, rent arrears in cases of extreme hardship as a result of Coronavirus to be “extinguished” and a two-year ban on tenant evictions for rent arrears.
As soon as these were published, Scottish Association of Landlords chief executive John Blackwood spent much of last weekend speaking by phone with politicians and key Scottish Government officials, expressing clearly how unacceptable they were and outlining the likely counterproductive effects they would have on landlord/tenant relationships.
It was essential to work quickly to find political support to defeat the amendments, to prevent more harm being done to the PRS, much of which is suffering just like most other businesses, from the effects of the pandemic.
Tenants should be supported, but not at the expense of landlords
We want tenants to receive every assistance possible in this difficult time and welcome the additional financial support the government has given tenants. It must be recognised however that landlords and letting agents are not charities nor publicly funded. If tenants do not pay their rent the simple fact is, sooner or later they will lose their home. Nobody should lose their home and no landlord wants this to happen – not now and not in a years’ time either.
Thanks to SAL lobbying and the help of supportive politicians, with whom SAL has developed and nurtured good working relationships over many years, the amendments were defeated. The new Coronavirus Act as the Bill will become when it receives Royal Assent, can thankfully be seen as welcome to most members whereas it could have been a disaster.
Discretionary Housing Payment
During the course of debating the Bill the Housing Minister announced that funding for Discretionary Housing Payments will be increased by £5 million to help tenants who are struggling to cover their housing costs.
Additional requirements to gain possession
The legislation will give ministers powers to introduce regulations requiring landlords to comply with pre action requirements before serving notice for rent arrears.
This could include a requirement to notify tenants about the terms of the tenancy and what amounts are outstanding. The regulations can also set out steps that landlords must take to try to agree arrangements for repayment of any sums due. The Housing Minister has committed to working with SAL and other stakeholder groups in developing such regulations
Council tax lobbying success
SAL has been lobbying MSPs for a change to council tax legislation to exempt all empty rental properties from council tax during the coronavirus crisis. Unfortunately, the Parliament did not support this however, interestingly the Minister for Public Finance and Migration has written to all council leaders in Scotland encouraging local authorities to use existing powers to defer the payment of council tax where a property is unoccupied due to the impact of the pandemic, and the property owner is struggling to meet their council tax liability. Such deferred council tax can then be paid once a property owner’s financial circumstances have improved, such as when the property in question is let or sold
MSPs did approve a change which exempts properties previously occupied by students from council tax for the duration of the legislation being in force. This exemption applies to properties which became unoccupied on or after 17 March 2020. The exemption will end when the legislation expires on 30 September 2020 although there is provision for the legislation to be extended beyond this date.
On the Glasgow Property Letting Terms of Business we detail that we can contact council tax to apply for discounts and exemptions on your behalf for a fee.
As we are ending the month of May and next week will be June, one of Scotland’s favourite sons Billy Connolly famously said “There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter. “
Lets enjoy the other season!
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