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06/09/13 09:20

Housing disputes addressed

New private rented sector tribunal announced.

A new housing tribunal is to be created as a specialist decision maker for disputes in the private rented sector (PRS) announced Housing Minister Margaret Burgess today.

The tribunal will allow more effective and efficient resolution of disputes between tenants and landlords in the private rented sector.

Jurisdiction for civil private rented sector cases will be transferred from the sheriff courts to the PRS tribunal in future as part of plans to be included in the forthcoming Housing Bill.

The decision to introduce a PRS tribunal comes following recent consultation exercises which highlighted that access through the courts can be particularly difficult for those in the private rented sector.

One of the key actions of the Scottish Government’s PRS Strategy, published in May this year, is to improve the means of redress open to consumers.

Housing Minister Margaret Burgess said:

“The majority of housing disputes are resolved between the parties involved without having to go to a court or other decision-making bodies. Landlords carry out much good preventative work, which can often stop disputes escalating to court action.

“However, where parties cannot reach an agreement to resolve their dispute, someone else needs to step in. By introducing a specialist private rented sector tribunal tenants and landlords will benefit from a more accessible and specialist decision maker for their disputes. This will enable increased access to effective justice.”

Speaking in support of the new tribunal, John Blackwood, Chief Executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said:

“We welcome the announcement of a housing tribunal for PRS cases as a way to address the many legal disputes faced by landlords and tenants.”

Alongside proposals for a PRS tribunal, housing officials are also taking forward work to look at expanding the use of mediation for all tenures of rented housing disputes. This work will not require legislation.

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said:

“Shelter Scotland has been campaigning to take private rented sector disputes out of the sheriff court to make the process of resolution cheaper, faster and fairer for landlords and tenants alike.

“We therefore welcome this move by the Scottish Government which will take private rented housing cases out of the sheriff court which we believe has the potential to make it easier for private tenants and landlords to resolve disputes. This is an important step forward for Scotland’s private rented sector.

“Tenants will be able to assert their legal rights without being put off by the formality and significant costs of court action. The ease of access, reduced delays and a focus on private rented issues will make formal dispute resolution more accessible to both landlords and tenants.”