The Tribunals (Scotland) Act 2014 received royal assent on 15 April 2014. The Act essentially creates a framework for tribunal reform, and will be implemented in three phases. The first phase sees the creation of a new housing chamber, which will incorporate the current work of the Private Rented Housing Panel and Home Owner Housing Panel, as well as transferring work which is currently dealt with in the sheriff court system into the new chamber.
The tribunal will have a two tier structure. There will be a First-tier Tribunal and an Upper Tribunal. The first-tier tribunal will hear cases in the first instance and the Upper Tribunal will deal with appeals from the first-tier. First-tier Tribunals will be organised into chambers, one of which will be the new specific housing chamber.
Under the new Housing (Scotland) Act 2014, the functions and jurisdiction of the sheriff in relation to repossession actions for assured and short assured tenancies will be transferred to this new First-tier Tribunal. Other matters which will also be transferred out of the sheriff court system and into the tribunal system will include applications to contract out of the repairing standard, appeals in relation to refusals of adaptation requests, appeals against refusal to register or removal from the Landlord Register and appeals against rent relief notices issued under s 94 of the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004. There is also provision within the 2014 Act giving power to the Scottish ministers to make regulations for the new tribunal to deal with HMO licensing appeals, and this may come in in due course.
The tribunal rules are still to be drafted, and recruitment for the new First-tier Tribunal is expected to take place in late 2015/early 2016. It is hoped that this is a positive step in dealing with housing litigation in the private rented sector and social landlords who utilise mid-market rent, providing a more efficient and specialised method of decision-making.