The Scottish Government has released a consultation on “Energy Efficiency and Condition Standards in Private Rented Housing”. The consultation is seeking views on improving the quality of private rented housing in Scotland.

Energy Efficiency

The Scottish Government is proposing to introduce a minimum standard of energy efficiency for privately rented properties based on the energy efficiency rating in Energy Performance Certificates.

Repairing Standard

The Scottish Government is also proposing changes to the repairing standard. The repairing standard was introduced by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. It requires, amongst other things, that the property is wind and water tight and reasonably fit for human habitation.

The 2 main changes to the repairing standard proposed by the Scottish Government are:

  • Raising the repairing standard to take account of matters such as kitchen safety, food storage, central heating, lead free pipes.
  • Widening the scope of the repairing standard to include properties included in agricultural tenancies and holiday lets.

Agricultural Tenancies

The proposals relating to houses included in agricultural tenancies are significant, particularly in light of the current uncertainty surrounding the new rent review methodology in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 and the question of whether the farmhouse will be factored into the rent calculation.

It is worth mentioning that the exclusion for agricultural tenancies is perhaps not quite as straightforward as the consultation suggests. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 excludes a house let under a secure agricultural tenancy, an SLDT and LDT which is occupied by the tenant. It does not exclude properties which are included in the agricultural tenancy but sub-let to a third party (for example, a farm cottage). The consultation does not comment on who is responsible for meeting the repairing standard when the tenant sub-lets a property included in the agricultural lease.

The consultation does, however, highlight that the status of houses let under agricultural leases is further complicated because they are seen as “fixed equipment” under the lease. This means that the tenant is responsible for maintenance and the landlord is responsible for repair and renewal as required by natural decay or fair wear and tear. Where the landlord and tenant have entered into an enforceable post lease agreement, the obligation to repair and renew may have been placed on the tenant.

Any proposed change to the scope of the repairing standard is likely to have a big impact on agricultural landlords and tenants and we will be keeping a close eye on the consultation.

Please note that the proposals are, however, only at consultation stage. Responses to the consultation can be submitted online and the consultation will close on 30 June 2017.