However, the latest First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) judgement has highlighted the consequences of wrongful evictions. Landlords can now find themselves in a situation where they have to explain themselves for terminating a tenancy… with a ground that did not form the basis for a tenant vacating their property.
House Advertised for Sale after 19 Days
The two ex-tenants were not impressed when they found out that their landlord sold the property in Glasgow instead of living in it, as their Notice to Leave explained. They also highlighted that they would not have moved out if they were not given a Notice to Leave.
The Glasgow landlord lived in the property for just 19 days before marketing it with an Estate Agency and securing a quick sale.
The Tribunal questioned why “he had such a significant change of heart” and found it unacceptable that he could not “give a coherent explanation”. Notably, Covid-19 impact was not deemed as a reasonable excuse.
Consequently, a wrongful-termination order was granted in favour of the ex-tenants. The landlord was told he “mislead” his ex-tenants and due to his “misrepresentation” they vacated the property. A penalty of £2,400.00 was subsequently imposed.
The Housing Tribunal can impose a wrongful-termination order under section 59 of the 2016 Act. The maximum penalty cannot exceed six months’ rent and if more than one landlord, they could be liable ‘together or separately’ for its payment to the ex-tenant(s).
The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 lists all the eviction grounds available to landlords. Some grounds are ‘mandatory’ whereas some are ‘discretionary’. Covid-19 legislation brings active changes in this area, therefore, legal advice should be sought.
Overall, there are 18 eviction grounds that may be used. Relevantly, Ground 4 allows a landlord to ask their tenant(s) to leave if they intend to live in that property and Ground 1 if the landlord intends to the sell the property. Pre-covid, both grounds were deemed as ‘mandatory’, however, they are currently ‘discretionary’. Therefore, in this case, the landlord could have used either for the same outcome – the tenants vacating. Undoubtedly, Ground 1 would have avoided the wrongful-termination order penalty.
Other grounds include, but are not limited to: landlord wishing to refurbish the property (Ground 3); family members intending to live in the property (Ground 5); the tenant becoming unemployed (Ground 8); rent arrears (Ground 12); antisocial behaviour (Ground 14).
Elaine Elder, Associate in the Aberdein Considine Dispute resolution team had this to say:
This is an interesting case because if the landlord had used the ground that he wished to sell the property in the notice to leave, the exact same notice period would have applied and it is likely that the tenants would have vacated and obtained alternative accommodation.
This is a reminder to landlords to always seek legal advice where they are looking to remove tenants especially right now when trying to work through the emergency coronavirus legislation that remains in place. A stark reminder to landlords that at this time while we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, that the correct advice is key.
Karolina Naglik, Trainee solicitor in Dispute Resolution adds:
Evidently, it is very important that the landlords carefully consider what eviction ground they use to terminate a tenancy. That is why proper legal advice should be obtained prior to serving any Notice to Leave.
Our Dispute Resolution team is very experienced in preparing Notices to Leave for Private Residential Tenancies (PRT) and taking the matter through the Housing Tribunal should any tenant dispute it. However, we can also advise on how to properly end Assured and Short Assured Tenancies which are not as straight forward as PRT’s.