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Scottish landlords have seen a change in tenant security and protection become a working reality with the granting of the first Wrongful Termination Order and landlord penalty.
Wrongful Termination Orders were introduced by the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 which came into force in Scotland on 1 December 2017.
The Act required every new private tenancy of any separate dwelling to be used as a main house to be a Private Residential Tenancy (PRT). It put an end to fixed term tenancies and to ‘no fault’ evictions. Landlords were also required to register with the Scottish Landlord Register
The Act allows a registered landlord to gain possession of his or her property by serving a ‘Notice to leave’ specifying one or more of the 18 permitted grounds. If the tenant fails to leave the property at the end of the notice period, he or she can apply to a First-Tier Tribunal for an eviction order.
This is what happened in the case of tenant Jesus Rodriguez-Ortega, whose landlord had given him notice to leave the studio flat he rented from Cesar Dominguez-Lopez.
The landlord cited one of the ‘mandatory’ grounds for seeking possession – namely that he wanted to live in the property himself.
The tribunal duly granted possession and the tenant moved out. But he soon noticed that the property had been refurbished and advertised for rent again. Supported by the Community Help & Advice Initiative (CHAI), he applied to a First-Tier Tribunal for a Wrongful Termination Order.
These can be sought on the grounds that a tribunal has made a wrongful termination order because it has been misled by the landlord. (They can also be sought where the tenant has simply left the property but has been misled into doing so by the landlord).
Wrongful Termination Orders will require the landlord to pay the tenant up to six month’s rent.
After reviewing the original possession order, the tribunal decide it had been misled by the landlord, who had not moved into the property, and awarded a penalty of £1,350, equivalent to three times the monthly rent under the original tenancy.
‘Although the tenant was granted the Wrongful Termination Order, he should never have been evicted in the first place’, said CHAI project manager Andrew Wilson.
‘The Scottish Government must act to ensure tenants have access to free expert assistance, but it must also revisit the standard of proof to be met for granting evictions from PRTs and other private sector tenancies. That can be done easily by retaining some of the emergency measures introduced to help counter COVID-19, especially the requirement for landlords to prove eviction is reasonable in the circumstances’.