The Housing (Scotland) Act 2014

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 introduced changes to help social landlords, like Melville, make the best use of their housing stock in the interests of existing and future tenants.

Some parts of the Act needed additional legislation to be agreed or further guidance from the Scottish Government and because of this a timetable for the changes has only recently been set.

One of the biggest changes, which has been well publicised, was the scrapping of the Right to Buy. This came into effect on 1 August 2016. The other changes will be introduced from May 2019 onwards.
1. What are the main changes to my tenancy agreement?

The main changes could affect you if you plan to:

  • sublet all or part of your house to someone else
  • assign your tenancy (pass it on) to someone else
  • add another person to your tenancy as a joint tenant

They also have an impact on:

  • the rules surrounding when certain people can succeed to (take over) a Scottish secure tenancy on the death of the tenant
  • the way in which a Scottish secure tenancy can be terminated following a conviction for serious antisocial or criminal behaviour 
2. What do these changes mean for me?

The most significant change is the importance of letting us know who is living in your household. This includes letting us know about anyone who has previously moved in with you who you have not already told us about. You should also notify us when anyone moves in or out of your home in the future.

This is important because any decision about subletting, assignation, joint tenancy or succession will be based on whether we have a record of you and/or the applicant living in the property for a minimum of 12 months. 

It is also important to note that a tenancy can now be terminated should any person living in or lodging in the property, or subletting, or a person visiting the house, be convicted for:

  1. using the house or allowing it to be used for immoral or illegal purposes, or
  2. an offence punishable by imprisonment which was committed in, or in the locality of, the house.

This means that we can end a Scottish secure tenancy if someone living in or visiting the home is convicted of a serious offence in the area of the house. It also allows us to end the tenancy where behaviour has had a serious impact on neighbours or others in the community.

A serious offence is one that the offender could have been imprisoned for, whether or not they were actually sentenced to imprisonment.

Before ending a Scottish secure tenancy in this way, we would first serve you with a notice advising that we intend to repossess the property. That would be done within 12 months of the conviction or, if it was appealed unsuccessfully, of when the appeal ended.

3. How can I update who is in my household?

You can let us know who is in your household by contacting your Housing Officer. You can do this by telephone, by email or in writing.  You can also visit our office at the Dalkeith Corn Exchange to let us know about any changes.

4. What is assignation and what are the changes?

An assignation is a formal request from a tenant to assign (pass the tenancy) to another person.

The Act states that you must have lived at your property for at least 12 months before applying for permission to pass the tenancy to someone else. There was previously no qualifying period. Also, the person you wish to pass the home to must have lived at the property as their main home for at least 12 months prior to the application. The previous qualifying period was 6 months. Importantly, we cannot consider the 12 month period to have started unless we have been formally advised that the person you wish to pass the property is part of your household. 

The Act has added two further reasons under which permission to assign a property can be refused:

  1. We can refuse permission if the person would not get priority under our allocations policy
  2. If the home would be under-occupied

This change comes into effect from 1 November 2019.

5. What is subletting and what are the changes?

Subletting is when you rent out all or part of your house to someone else on a temporary basis.

The new Act says that you must have been the tenant of the house for the 12 months immediately before you apply for written permission to sublet your home. There was previously no qualifying period. Also, the person you wish to sublet the property to must have been living at the property during those 12 months and you must have notified us at the time they moved in. 

This change comes into effect from 1 November 2019.

6. What are the changes when applying for a joint tenancy?

Single tenants who wish to add another person to their tenancy must first request permission from Melville.  

The new Act states that the proposed joint tenant must have lived at the property as their main home for the 12 months before the application is submitted. There was previously no qualifying period. 

This change comes into effect from 1 November 2019.

7. What is succession and what are the changes?

Succession is when another person is entitled to take over a Scottish secure tenancy on the death of the tenant. 

The new Act changes the rules on succession for three key groups:

  1. Unmarried partners. In order to take over the tenancy the Act says that the house must have been the unmarried partners only home for a minimum of 12 months prior to the tenant’s death and they must have been registered as part of the household. The previous qualifying period was 6 months. 
  2. Family members. In order to take over the tenancy the Act says that the house must have been the family member’s only home for a minimum of 12 months prior to the tenant’s death. Previously there was no qualifying period, the person simply had to be living there at the time of death. 
  3. Carers. In order to take over the tenancy the Act says that the house must have been the carer’s only home for a minimum of 12 months prior to the tenant’s death. Previously there was no qualifying period, the person simply had to be living there at the time of the tenant’s death and have given up a previous home to provide care.

These changes come into effect from 1 November 2019.

If you have already told us about changes to your household then you don't have to tell us again but it's always worth checking that your household details are up-to-date.

8. What about the changes to ending tenancies?

The Act now allows for Scottish secure tenancies to be ended due to:

  • a Court Order
  • conversion to a short Scottish secure tenancy or
  • an adaptation no longer being required by the current tenant and needed by someone else

The Act has also changed the way in which a Scottish secure tenancy can be ended by Court Order.  A tenancy can now be terminated should any person living in or lodging in the property, or subletting, or a person visiting the house, be convicted for:

  1. using the house or allowing it to be used for immoral or illegal purposes, or
  2. an offence punishable by imprisonment which was committed in, or in the locality of, the house.

This means that we can end a Scottish secure tenancy if someone living in or visiting the home is convicted of a serious offence in the area of the house. It also allows us to end the tenancy where behaviour has had a serious impact on neighbours or others in the community.

A serious offence is one that the offender could have been imprisoned for, whether or not they were actually sentenced to imprisonment.

Before ending a Scottish secure tenancy in this way, we would first serve you with a notice advising that we intend to repossess the property. That would be done within 12 months of the conviction or, if it was appealed unsuccessfully, of when the appeal ended.

This change takes effect from 1 May 2019.

9. What about ending tenancies where the property has been adapted?

The Act allows any social landlord to request a Court order to end the tenancy of an adapted property where the adaptation/s is no longer needed by a member of the household. This only applies where the landlord needs the property for someone who does need the adaptations. If this situation arises, we would first give notice before applying to the sheriff and would offer suitable alternative accommodation. The tenant has the right to challenge both the request and the suitability of any alternative accommodation offered.

This change comes into effect from 1 May 2019.

10. What are the changes in converting a tenancy to a short Scottish secure tenancy?

The new Act extends the circumstances by which we could change your Scottish secure tenancy (SST) to a short Scottish secure tenancy (SSST). A tenant with an SSST has fewer rights and less protection from eviction than with an SST. An SSST also has a fixed duration, unless we agree to extend it or convert it back to an SST. 

The circumstances now include any situation where a tenant or someone living with the tenant has acted in an antisocial manner or pursued a course of conduct amounting to harassment of another person. This conduct must have been in or around the house occupied by the tenant and it must also have happened in the three years before the notice is served.

The Act also places new requirements on social landlords when issuing a notice to a tenant converting a tenancy to an SSST as a result of antisocial behaviour. In cases where no antisocial behaviour order has been granted by the court, the landlord must include in the notice:

  • the actions of the person who has behaved in an antisocial manner
  • reasons for converting the tenancy and
  • details of the tenant’s right of appeal to the sheriff

This change comes into effect from 1 May 2019.

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