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Warning: rental reform could mean rewriting tenancy agreements

A lawyer says radical rental reforms proposed for Scotland - which could be a model for change in England and Wales too - may require rewriting of tenancy deals.

MSPs in the Scottish Parliament are to begin scrutinising the Housing (Scotland) Bill, which includes long-term rent controls for private tenancies, new rights to keep pets, decorate rented homes and new rules around evictions.

The measures are on top of the lifting of the rent cap in Scotland, which ended on March 31, having first been put in place as part of the Scottish Government’s Cost of Living Act in October 2022.


They open the door to tenants being allowed to keep pets in a rented property as standard - a move which could have an impact on a significant proportion of rental agreements across Scotland, legal firm Lindsays believes.

Adam Gardiner, an Associate in the firm’s Dispute Resolution and Litigation team, advises a number of private rental sector landlords.

He says: “This Bill is welcome news for animal lovers, but maybe less so for those landlords who have traditionally been reluctant to open their doors to dogs, cats or other pets.

"The change, if implemented, would bring rentals in Scotland more into line with England, where landlords can no longer put a blanket ban on pets.”

The lawyer adds: “It is fair to say that this Bill is not without its controversies among landlords, the vast majority of whom want to provide good quality homes. We know that many of them are frustrated by the level of regulation they now face.

“Some undoubtedly see legislation which gives them less control over pets and decorating, for example, as a step too far.

“A significant number of tenancy agreements in place currently will include rules around pets, which would need to be changed should this Bill become law. Landlords would therefore be well advised to stay on top of what’s happening and seek professional advice if they are in any doubt as to what steps they need to make - and when.”

Other proposals in the Bill would allow private rental sector tenants to make minor modifications to a home - such as putting up pictures or posters - without consent from the property owner. 

They also give the right to ask to carry out more significant work, such as painting, which a landlord could not unreasonably refuse, albeit that may be subject to conditions.

Changes around the management of joint tenancies are also on the cards, along with giving Scottish ministers discretionary powers to phase out assured and short-term tenancies.

It is also proposed that rent increases could not take place within the first 12 months of a private rental tenancy.

Also under the measures, tribunals would be required to consider whether it is reasonable to delay evictions to prevent hardship or harm to tenants in certain circumstances.

Duties would also be placed on local councils to carry out assessments on the state of the private rented sector in their region and make recommendations to ministers about rent controls.

Gardiner adds: “The scope and pace of regulatory change on the private rental sector in Scotland in recent years has been substantial. It would be no surprise if some landlords have struggled to keep up with what’s required of them, even though they strive to provide good homes.

“It is important that they review their rental agreements, watch what’s happening and act accordingly. Otherwise they could unintentionally risk being on the wrong side of the rules.”

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    Minor modifications? Putting up pictures or posters are not MINOR modifications. They often cause damage to the walls and, no doubt, landlords will not be able to claim repair/redecoration costs because it will be a permitted modification.

    Glad I am not in Scotland.

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    Forcing landlords to allow tenants to keep pets ! I have had a tenant vacate my rental house in Brighton ,after keeping a dog there. It has been keft full of fleas and dog hairs and has had to have a professional Pest controller Fumigate it before a painter would go in to redecorate. Margaret Randall


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