Home to Stay: a campaign for security of tenure
Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group (EPTAG) has launched a new campaign called Home To Stay. We’re calling on the Scottish Government to abolish the short assured tenancy, which forces thousands of households to live under constant threat of eviction.
Since it was introduced in 1989, the short assured tenancy has become the default form of tenure for people living in the private rented sector in Scotland. It was designed to offer landlords flexibility, but it has a major disadvantage for tenants: after the initial lease period (usually 6 or 12 months) they can be given two months notice to leave at any time, and they have no legal right to challenge this.
Although the short assured tenancy makes it easier for landlords to evict bad tenants, it also allows them to legally evict good tenants for unfair reasons. EPTAG has been contacted by a number of tenants who have been forced from their homes after requesting necessary repairs or objecting to illegal charges. Some of them have written about their experiences for the Home2Stay tumblr, and we are inviting other tenants to use it to share their stories.
Many private tenants are forced to move every few years, and not only is this expensive and stressful, but it makes it difficult for tenants to plan for their future and put down roots in a community. For the increasing number of people, private rented housing is not just a short-term stopgap, but where they will make a long-term home.
EPTAG members Karen and Michael (names changed to protect identity) had been happily living at the same address for nine years when their landlord gave them notice to quit because he had decided to sell the flat. This would be an upsetting experience for anyone, but as they both balance work with caring for Michael’s elderly mother Elsie, who has late-stage dementia, it was particularly difficult for them to arrange to move house within the two-month notice period.
During notice period there was a constant stream of visitors coming to view the flat, but this Elsie who didn’t understand why her home was suddenly full of strangers. Karen and Michael asked the letting agent to stop or limit the viewings, explaining how difficult it was for them to have people in the flat, but the owner of the letting agency refused and instructed his staff to break down the door if they tried to refuse access.
While looking for a new flat, Karen and Michael made it clear to prospective landlords that they were looking for a long-term let, and eventually signed the lease on a property that they were assured would be their home for years to come. Now, just 22 months later, they’ve been given another notice to quit.
The law in Scotland offers an another form of tenure – an assured tenancy – which is much better suited to the needs of people like Karen and Michael. In an assured tenancy, the landlord can still force tenants to leave, but only if they have a good reason, for example because they haven’t paid the rent, or because the landlord needs to live in the property. The decision on whether prospective tenants get a short assured tenancy, or the greater legal protection of an assured tenancy, is left up to the landlord’s discretion, and they have little incentive to give their tenants more rights.
Landlords have shown that they aren’t willing to offer long-term security of tenure voluntarily, and we think it’s time for the law to intervene.
EPTAG will be holding a public meeting on Thursday 13th June at 7pm in Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge. For more details, see the EPTAG blog or Facebook.
Sorry if I didn’t take in the whole article before writing that. I’ve read it now. I’m all for having to have a good reason for terminating a lease but I think the need to sell the property has to be an allowable reason. Supposing you own a flat in Scotland but work abroad. Then you lose your job and have to cash in your asset, to rent property yourself. Is it reasonable that you can’t give your tenant notice?
I think this is slightly more complicated. I remember the time before Short Assured Tenancies existed. In the countryside it was not uncommon for landlords leave houses empty in case they needed to sell them eg after bad farming years. If they let them, and then they were sold with sitting tenants, much of the the money they had invested in upkeep and improvements would be lost, as a house with sitting tenant was worth very little. The practical result was that families wishing to rent could often not find houses to live in. I suspect there is an urban equivalent to this. Short Assured Tenancies have made private rented property much more available than it was in the 70s, though I’m sure there can be a downside as well. It was really a classic example of the unintended consequences of well meaning legislation to support the less well off.
Good article. Just worth noting that it’s not always to the landlord’s discretion. When we let out our house, a condition of getting consent to let on the mortage was that it had to be let under a short assured tenancy. A benefit of a change in the law would be that it would prevent banks making this condition.
Of course, in the mean time there’s nothing to stop landlords giving more than 2 months’ notice though, which is what I’d plan to do if/when the time comes to sell.
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