As many farming businesses rent out surplus domestic properties on farm or have investment properties off the farm; they may have tenants concerned about being evicted if due to the financial impact of Covid-19, they are unable to pay their rent.
In response to the economic impact of Covid-19, the Governments across the UK have announced different measures to prevent or delay the eviction of tenants from the Private Rented Sector (PRS). In Scotland, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 was passed on the 1st April 2020 to protect tenants during coronavirus.
Landlord Notice Periods
Under the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016, landlords were required to give tenants a minimum of 28 days’ notice if they had lived in a property for less than 6 months or a minimum of 84 days’ notice where tenancies were for 6 months or more (with the exception of notices being served in relation to tenant behaviour issues).
Under the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020, in order to protect tenants who are struggling to pay their rent due to Covid-19, from the 7th April 2020, landlords must give 6 months’ notice of eviction unless the landlord is ending the tenancy due to antisocial and criminal behaviour or where the landlord or their family need to move into the property where the 28 day notice period will continue to apply.
Grounds for Eviction
Under the new law, all grounds for eviction in the private rented sector have been made discretionary so that in the event of a Tribunal when assessing all factors relating to the impact of coronavirus on both the landlord and tenant, discretion can be taken into account before deciding whether to issue an eviction order or not.
Information for Landlords and Tenants
The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), in partnership with Scotland’s first social enterprise letting agency, Homes for Good and the Scottish Association of Landlords has published a practical CIH Fact Sheet which gives guidance as to how private landlords and letting agents can protect their income and support tenants who are experiencing financial difficulties.
Financial Support for Tenants
As part of new nationwide support measures that have been put in place to help people and businesses, tenants who experiencing financial difficulties may be eligible for:
- Housing Benefit or Universal Credit if unemployed or on low pay;
- Discretionary Housing Payment;
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, if furloughed by their employer;
- The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, if they are self-employed;
- The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme which provides support to smaller businesses affected by Covid-19;
- A short term Crisis Grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund; and/or
- Aid from a Foodbank.
Financial Support for Landlords
In addition to the support measures listed above, landlords experiencing financial difficulties may also be eligible:
- to Defer VAT payments;
- for assistance from The Private Rent Sector (non-business) Landlord COVID-19 Loan Scheme if the rental property is owned by an individual rather than by a business.
While the measures listed above may provide some degree of assistance, it is important to proactively communicate with tenants either directly or through a letting agent so that they know to get in touch to discuss their options should they find themselves struggling to pay their rent, and who to contact with regards potential financial assistance.
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