The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill is continuing to progress through the various parliamentary stages.  While this is ongoing please note two recent updates to current private rented sector legislation which landlords in particular need to be aware of:

1.  Revised Tenancy Information Pack
The Scottish Government has revised its Tenant Information Pack for the private rented sector to reflect legislative changes arising from the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014.  The updated pack can be accessed here.

The revised pack includes a reference to the new requirement for landlords to arrange an electrical safety inspection at least every five years and to provide the tenant with a copy of that inspection.  The 2014 Act also introduced the requirement that an effective carbon monoxide monitor must be put in place at the property and a statement to this effect has also been added to the pack.  Landlords and their agents should take care to ensure that the revised Tenant Information Pack is used, and that the relevant steps have been taken to comply with those legislative changes.

 2. Immigration Status Checks - England only for now
Since 1 February 2016 landlords and their agents have been required to check the immigration status of a tenant and any other adult occupiers of a property located in England for any new private lettings since that date.  This requirement was introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 but is only now being extended across the whole of England following a trial scheme.

As the requirement applies to all adult occupiers, the first step for any landlord will be to establish the identity of those people who will be living at the property.  In doing this, a note of all enquiries and responses should be maintained by the landlord and consideration should be given to the size of the property and the number of proposed occupiers.  The landlord should also make enquiries as to the strength of the tenant’s connection to the local area (friends, family, work etc) as this may indicate whether the property will be used by the tenant as a main residence.

The landlord is not permitted to let accommodation to any adult who is not a “relevant national” or who does not have the “right to rent”.  A “relevant national” is any British citizen, EEA national or Swiss national.  A person who is not a relevant national but who has leave to enter or remain in the UK has the “right to rent”.  Where, however, the right to enter or remain in the UK is for a limited period of time, that person will have a limited right to rent and the landlord will be required to carry out follow-up checks to ensure that the right to rent remains in place.  For relevant nationals, appropriate evidence of citizenship (passport, national ID card) should be provided to the landlord and a copy should be retained.  For those with a right to enter or remain, evidence of this right should be provided and a copy should be retained together with identification documents.  Please note that the landlord must also comply with the terms of the Data Protection Act 1988 with regard to any documentation held. 

Certain properties are exempt from the rules such as local authority accommodation, care homes, social housing, University let student accommodation such as halls of residence, and there are some exemptions for private landlords renting to higher or further education students as well. 

Landlords who fail to comply with the immigration checks will be liable to a penalty of up to £3,000 for each adult living in the property. 

While the regime only applies in England at present, the Immigration Bill 2015-2016, which is currently progressing through parliament, includes provisions for this to be extended to the rest of the UK.  We will be monitoring the position and will keep you advised as and when the provisions are rolled out to Scotland.

For more information on private residential tenancies please contact Julia Kidd or Richard Leslie.

Our Reflections on 2015:  Scottish Property Update provides an overview of the most significant court decisions and legislative and procedural changes and is available to download here.  

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