The Scottish government has voted to permanently abolish mandatory grounds for eviction, much to the frustration of landlord groups.
This means all eviction decisions will be discretionary, meaning they will be adjudicated by tribunals.
The change comes from the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) Bill, which was originally going to be a temporary solution introduced during the pandemic.
Daryl McIntosh, Propertymark’s policy manager for the UK devolved nations, labelled it a “dark day for Scotland’s private rented sector.
He said: “The Scottish government has provided no justification or evidence for continuing to enforce restrictive legislation on private landlords at a time when the rest of society is returning to pre-pandemic ways of living and working.
“There is no logic for housing to have formed such a significant part of legislation to manage the impact of Covid when there is a separate Housing Bill also coming down the line.
“This is a dark day for Scotland’s private rented sector with long-term outcomes that are likely to prove extremely damaging for the sector.
“Deterring more private landlords from making their properties available for rent due to the elevated risks associated with gaining possession will do nothing to ensure a sufficient supply of homes, meaning less choice for tenants and more pressure on the social housing sector.”
Adam Male, chief revenue officer at online lettings agent Mashroom, reckoned the change could result in the exodus of landlords from the private rented sector in Scotland.
He said: “The news of the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) Bill in Scotland to be made a permanent fixture by MSPs will no doubt be worrying for many Scottish landlords in the private rental sector.
“The Recovery and Reform Bill in Scotland insists that landlords attend a tribunal in order to evict their tenants for legitimate reasons, which was brought in to protect tenants during the uncertain period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If tribunal hearings are to become the norm in Scotland, we could see an exodus of landlords from the private rental sector, being put off at having to endure a lengthy battle in the local courts just to regain access to their property.
“Landlords selling up, as well as future investors in buy-to-let properties, is going to have a negative impact on the amount of private properties available to rent in Scotland, which are already in short supply.
“This is a common occurrence in the private rental sector throughout the UK, as we see more power and security going in favour towards tenants, with the feeling that landlords are being unfairly targeted with a reduction in ways to gain lawful and legitimate access to their own properties.
“We’ve seen the removal of Section 21 come into force in England which prevents ‘no fault’ evictions, and Wales are introducing their own set of legislation with the Renting Homes Act 2016 that will force landlords to make costly improvements to their properties.
“We can see that these reforms in the private rental sector have been put in place to protect tenants and crack down on unscrupulous landlords who continue to break the law and provide poor quality housing.
“However it’s the responsible landlords that will be affected the most by these reforms, who will have very little means to regain access to their properties if needs be, which could be a deal breaker when it comes to investing in buy-to-let homes.”