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Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act in force

Thursday 28 May 2020

The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 received Royal Assent on Tuesday 26 May 2020 and the law came into force on 27 May 2020. The legislation has been introduced to work alongside the provisions contained in the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act, which received Royal Assent on 6 April.

Here is a summary of the main provisions in the Act which affect the property sector:

Pre-action requirements for tenancies

The Act outlines that during the Coronavirus pandemic, any landlord ending a tenancy agreement because of rent arrears must take certain actions to support their tenant before an order of possession is granted.

The actions are yet to be specified by Scottish Ministers and guidance will be issued shortly. Until additional regulations specifying the requirements have been passed, we understand that these provisions can not take effect. We are continuing to liaise with the Scottish Government for further details.

The legislation says that the pre-action requirements may relate to what:

  • information has the landlord provided a tenant about the terms of the tenancy, rent arrears, and any other outstanding financial obligation under the tenancy.
  • steps have been taken by a landlord with a view to seeking to agree arrangements with a tenant for payment of future rent, rent arrears, and any other outstanding financial obligation under the tenancy.

In addition, the First-Tier Tribunal must consider the steps the landlord has taken to comply with the pre-action requirements before they will issue an eviction order. The measures apply to any Assured, Short Assured, or Private Residential tenancy.

The policy intent from the Scottish Government is to direct tenants to the financial help and support that has been made available during the coronavirus pandemic.

Student notice periods

The Act establishes two things. Firstly, a seven-day notice to leave period for students who have already entered into a student residential tenancy agreement and have occupied the property. Secondly, a 28-day notice to leave period for students who have either already entered into a student residential tenancy but have not yet occupied the property, and those looking to enter into an agreement.

Land and Buildings Transactions Tax

The Act amends the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Scotland) Act 2013 to extend the period within which a previous main residence can be sold by nine months to 27 months.

Council Tax exemption for vacant properties

Where a property becomes empty it will usually qualify for empty property relief for six months, if unfurnished and unoccupied. If it is furnished and unoccupied, it will usually qualify for relief for up to 4 months if it has been most recently occupied by:

  • students
  • a student’s spouse or dependant(s)
  • school leavers
  • people under the age of 18

These exceptions are set out in the Council Tax (Exempt Dwellings) (Scotland) Order 1997. The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 introduces extended exemption periods for the above groups for properties that are unoccupied on or after 17 March 2020 for a reason relating to coronavirus. They are therefore exempt from paying Council Tax until they are occupied or the provisions in the Act come to an end.

In relation to other unoccupied properties, the Minister for Public Finance and Migration has written to all Council leaders in Scotland encouraging local authorities to use existing powers to defer the payment of Council Tax where a property is unoccupied due to the impact of the pandemic, and the property owner is struggling to meet their Council Tax liability. Such deferred council tax can then be paid once a property owner's financial circumstances have improved, such as when the property in question is let or sold.

Timetable

The provisions of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 are limited for the duration of the Coronavirus outbreak and will expire on 30 September 2020. However, Scottish ministers can extend the legislation for two further periods of six months if required. This means that the legislation may be in place for a maximum of 18 months.

Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020