Review of Residential Evictions (Barrowman)

James Barrowman
PUBLISHER: Legal Services Agency
PRICE: £30

This book presents itself as a “comprehensive, practical and up-to-date textbook on residential evictions”, and succeeds in being all of these. It covers the law relating to eviction in all the extant forms of residential tenancy – Scottish secure tenancies, short Scottish secure tenancies, assured tenancies, short assured tenancies, regulated tenancies (although they must by now be extremely rare), and tenancies without any statutory protection (“common law tenancies”).

In fact, the matters described are not restricted to the eviction process itself: the author covers a range of related matters, such as the definitions of the various types of tenancy. Nor is the analysis restricted to landlord and tenant law in the traditional sense, consideration being given for example to the effect of human rights legislation, anti-discrimination legislation, unfair contract terms regulations and administrative law doctrines.

The book has been very thoroughly researched. It relies more heavily on sheriff court decisions (some otherwise unreported) than do most textbooks, but it is a feature of this area of Scots law that in recent years very few cases have been appealed to the Inner House. Appropriate use is made of English authorities.

With any book on residential tenancies the key structural question is whether to organise the material “longitudinally” or “horizontally”. The book adopts the latter approach, i.e. rather than explaining the whole evictions process separately for each tenure, the stages of the process are explained in a way that cuts across tenures. Thus, chapter 2 explains the preliminaries to litigation in all tenures, chapter 3 the grounds for eviction in all tenures, and so forth. This approach has the advantage of making clear the extent to which the law is essentially the same across different tenures on certain topics (for example, the meaning of the reasonableness requirement in certain grounds of eviction) and of cutting down on repetition of material. If there is a disadvantage, it is perhaps that readers with less familiarity with the subject may find it harder to acquire an understanding of each tenure.

The claim to comprehensiveness is well founded and the book should provide the answer to most questions a practitioner is likely to have in this area of law. However, there are a few rather curious gaps. Although the most common grounds for eviction are discussed at considerable length, there is no point at which the grounds for eviction in each of the statutory forms of tenure are listed in full and some of the statutory grounds are not discussed at all. This is not a major shortcoming, as some of the statutory grounds are rarely, if ever, invoked, but in the interests of completeness all grounds ought to have been discussed at least briefly. In addition, some of the grounds which are mentioned are not fully explained. Thus, although there is a detailed (and very valuable) exposition of the law on rent arrears at pp 95-112, it does not include a straightforward explanation of the difference between the three rent arrears grounds available in assured tenancies (although the terms of the grounds are quoted from the statute at pp 95-96).

Although the work presents itself as a practical work rather than an academic treatise, the author does take, at least to some degree, a contextual rather than a purely doctrinal approach, and there is reference to some of the relevant empirical research (particularly on the causes of rent arrears and on anti-social behaviour) and to good practice guidance.

The law is stated as at 31 March 2006 and so does not incorporate the amendments made by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 affecting the landlord’s repairing obligation. The book is a valuable addition to the legal literature on the subject and should prove to be an extremely useful tool for practitioners.

Tom Mullen, University of Glasgow

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