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Image: Wikimedia Commons / Mike Peel

Scottish legislation allows students to end tenancies early if impacted by coronavirus

Legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament will give students living in purpose-built accommodation the right to end tenancies early if they are impacted by the coronavirus.

According to the Scottish Government, the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Bill is designed to “respond to the emergency situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic”. In addition to including provisions to “protect certain student tenants”, the Act also includes “measures to ensure that business and public services can continue to operate well”.

Students living in purpose-built accommodation who entered their tenancy agreement before the Act came into effect on 26 May will be permitted to terminate their lease for a reason relating to Covid-19 with seven days’ notice in Scotland.

Students who enter into a leasehold agreement after the introduction of the new legislation will be required to give landlords 28 days’ notice if they decide to terminate their tenancy. 

According to Alastair Cowan of law firm Addleshaw Goddard, the new Act will give students in Scotland greater flexibility to terminate their leaseholds than their peers across the rest of the United Kingdom.

Cowan said: “Students looking to secure accommodation for the 2020-2021 academic year, can do so in the knowledge that, if they were unable to take up their accommodation due to coronavirus, they would not be liable to make rental payments for the full term of their agreement.” 

Students looking to secure accommodation for the 2020-2021 academic year, can do so in the knowledge that, if they were unable to take up their accommodation due to coronavirus, they would not be liable to make rental payments for the full term of their agreement

– Alastair Cowan

The legislation gives students living in Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) similar powers to those living in private rented accommodation, who have been able to terminate their tenancy with 28 days’ notice since 2016 in Scotland.

“The new Act, coupled with restrictions in Scotland on the construction industry and the uncertainty over when face-to-face higher education will return, creates a less than level playing field in the sector north of the Border compared to south,” Alistair Cowan warned.

The Act contains a number of safeguards that allows Scottish Ministers to review the measures introduced last month, including the power to extend the procedures for up to a year with the Scottish Parliament’s consent. 

At First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The economic emergency we face is colossal, just like the health emergency we’ve been dealing with is colossal.

“We’ve been very clear all along that the health emergency very quickly led to an economic one and we have been planning for that almost from the start of this.”

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