The First-tier Tribunal for Scotland Housing and Property Chamber has issued a reminder to residential landlords to choose the correct ground for evicting residential tenants, or else face a penalty.
A residential landlord of a flat in Dennistoun, Glasgow, served his tenants with a notice to leave in December 2020 on the basis of ground 4 of schedule 3 to the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 (Landlord Intends to Live in Property). The tenants, having found alternative accommodation, served their own notice to terminate on 18 December 2020. Things moved quickly from that point…
On 13 January 2021, the tenancy came to an end.
On 2 February 2021, the landlord instructed estate agents to market the flat for sale.
On 30 March 2021, the sale of the flat was due to complete.
The tenants took issue with these events. They had called the flat their home since February 2018 and had been very happy with their tenancy. They would not have found somewhere else to live and served their own notice to terminate if the landlord hadn’t first served them with a notice to leave because he intended to live there himself.
The question was: had he actually ever intended to live there himself, therefore justifying his service of the notice to leave on this basis of ground 4?
The landlord was asked to explain how the change in his position, from wanting to live in the flat to wanting to be rid of it completely, had come to pass. As the Tribunal noted, this was "a radical change" in his intentions.
Financial difficulties, physical health problems and Covid-19 were all mentioned by the landlord as being reasons why, but the members of the Tribunal were not convinced that there was a "coherent explanation for such a significant change of heart". It concluded that "The only realistic conclusion that we can reach is that the respondent misled the applicants, and, as a result of his misrepresentation, the applicants surrendered occupation of the property".
The landlord was ordered to pay a penalty of £2,400 to the tenants, being three times the amount of the monthly rent.
If the landlord intended to sell the flat all along, he could have relied on ground 1 (Landlord Intends to Sell) when serving notice to leave on the tenants. Like ground 4, this is one of the mandatory grounds on which the Tribunal must issue an eviction order so is an equally robust ground for recovering the keys should the tenants not have left the property before the expiry of their notice period. There is a striking difference between them though, which may or may not have informed the landlord's choice, being the required period of notice for tenants. Ground 1 requires 6 months' notice. Ground 4 requires only 3.