New deal for tenants - rented sector reform proposals: consultation

Background for tenants and landlords who wish to respond to our landlord and tenant engagement questionnaire on rented sector reform, which is asking for views on some of the details of the proposals.

Greater flexibility to personalise a home

The issue

As we set out in our New Deal consultation, private rented tenants, especially those living in rented accommodation for a long period of time, would like more opportunity to personalise it so it feels more like their home, in the way that both owner occupiers and social rented tenants are already able to.

Research by CaCHE[1] gives some insights into how living in the private rented sector affects wellbeing and the negative impact of constraints on decorating or furnishing.

The Scottish Government is committed to strengthening tenants' rights to allow for greater personalisation. This would:

  • Seek to improve the renting experience for private tenants by giving them more control over personalising their home, supporting better mental health and wellbeing;
  • more closely align the rights of private tenants with other tenures while continuing to take account of the differing legal frameworks; and
  • seek to appropriately balance the strengthened rights for tenants with sufficient protections for landlords.

Overview of proposed change

29. We are developing measures that would change the tenancy framework under the Private Housing (Tenancies)(Scotland) Act 2016 Act (2016 Act) so that all private tenants with a private residential tenancy (tenancies that began on or after 1 December 2017) would be able to make certain minor modifications without consent (e.g. putting up pictures and posters), and would have the right to request certain other modifications (e.g. painting walls) that a landlord could not unreasonably refuse.

30. This approach would result in the following categories of changes that private tenants with a PRT could make to personalise their home:

Category 1: No approval from landlord required - private tenants would be allowed to make certain minor modifications to the let property without prior agreement from their landlord. For example, putting pictures and posters on walls.

Category 2: Right to request and landlord cannot unreasonably refuse – private tenants would have a new right to request to make certain larger changes to the let property and for their request to not to be unreasonably refused, where they had lived in the let property for a set period of time. For example, painting the walls inside the property a different colour. In agreeing to a change, a landlord would be able to set conditions for approval but only where it is reasonable for them to do so.

31. Tenants would be able to ask for more substantial modifications to the properties fixtures and fittings, but these would continue to be at the discretion of the landlord as is currently the case. This means the landlord could refuse modifications that did not fall into either category 1 or 2 above without any test of reasonableness.

32. The types of modification that would fall into each of the two categories are under consideration, but we are proposing to set them out in regulations. Before these regulations could be made, the Scottish Government would consult with tenants, landlords and other interested stakeholders.

33. We are also looking at setting out examples of the reasonable grounds for refusal and reasonable conditions for approval in regulations and guidance to give practical support to tenants and landlords. For example:

Reasonable reasons for refusal could include the following:

i. The modification would result in non-compliance with any other Act or law – for example the repairing standard.

ii. The modification would jeopardise the safety of tenants, dependents or other permitted occupiers.

iii. Listed building consent under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 would be required for the modification (it may be unlikely this would ever arise with the proposed Category 2 Modifications, but this would likely be retained in the legislation for clarity).

iv. A valid notice to leave the tenancy has been served on the tenant prior to a modification request.

v. The modification would require modifications to other premises or common areas.

Reasonable conditions for approval for larger 'category 2' modification requests could include the following:

i. Reinstatement of the property at the end of the tenancy or a requirement to leave the property in good decorative order.

ii. The payment of an additional amount of deposit within certain limits where no reinstatement back to the original condition is required at the end of the tenancy.

iii. The modification to be made by a suitably qualified person where applicable.

Making use of right to request a modification and not be unreasonably refused

34. Tenants would need to make a request for a modification that can't be unreasonably refused in writing. The request would need to set out the information that must be included within a request for an alteration. We are considering setting this information out in law. Where it is a joint tenancy, all joint tenants would need to agree to the change and make the request jointly.

35. Landlords would need to respond to the written request within a specific timescale, for example 30 working days of receiving the request. We think the response should include:

i. Any specific conditions for approval, for example an increase in deposit and the reason for this condition, or

ii. Where a landlord refuses the request, the reasons for the refusal.

36. If a landlord does not respond to the tenant within the set timescale, this would be treated as having refused consent.

37. We are looking at whether, if the tenant receives a response from the landlord which contains a refusal or a condition for approval that they think is unreasonable, there should be a route of appeal on the decision.

38. Damage caused to the let property by a modification would be dealt with in the same way as it is now. Landlords would be able to make a claim on any tenancy deposit taken. Any disputes around return of the deposit would be managed by the relevant approved tenancy deposit scheme under current free adjudication processes.

39. Any changes would be supported by guidance for tenants and landlords to ensure that people are informed, and that the measures are correctly applied.

40. We are seeking views in the questionnaire on the proposal, how long a landlord should have to respond to a request and the length of time a tenant must have lived in the let property before they can make a request for a modification that cannot be unreasonably refused.



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