The Scottish Government bill to modernise the private rented sector has passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament.
Following stage 3 consideration, MSPs approved the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill by 84 votes to 14, with only the Conservatives voting against it.
The bill introduces a new, open-ended form of tenancy in place of the short assured tenancy, with a model tenancy agreement and new rules covering notice and repossession – the grounds for repossession having been amended during the bill's passage. Landlords will not be able to ask tenants to leave simply because the tenancy agreement has reached its end date. Ministers resisted calls to make special provision for student lets.
There is provision for adjudication of rent increases that would take a rent beyond the market rate for comparable properties, and new provisions enabling local authorities to seek ministerial authorisation to implement rent caps in areas where there are excessive rent increases.
Disputes will go to a new division of the First-tier Tribunal, the Housing & Property Tribunal. Housing Minister Margaret Burgess confirmed during the debate that the Government intends that no fees will be charged for anyone taking a case to the Tribunal.
She thanked members who had made constructive criticisms of the bill, and the Government had supported a number of amendments that had been put forward.
Speaking after the vote she said: “This bill ensures the end of a process in this parliamentary term that started with the publication of PRS Strategy in 2013, has included regulating letting agents and now culminates in this bill. These significant changes will transform the private rented sector, creating a more modern tenancy, bring stability to the sector and helping to meet Scotland’s housing needs."
For the Conservatives, Alex Johnstone said the bill fgailed o strilke the right balance between tenants and landlords, many of whom were not commercial concerns but private individuals renting out one or a few properties. "I worry that investment will be lost and that we have missed a chance to bring more investment in", he commented.