Nearly one third of private landlords who evicted tenants in order to sell the property had failed to sell the home more than a year later, according to our latest research into the Scottish tenancy system.
A further nine percent of cases of tenants being evicted on grounds of sale saw the home simply sold to another landlord who has re-let the property.
As governments in Scotland and England consider reforms to private tenancies, we are calling for extra protections when landlords wish to sell so that tenants do not face expensive and disruptive moves.
In Scotland, private landlords can only end a tenancy that started since 2017 if they have one of 18 legitimate grounds, including an intention to sell the property - ground 1.
If a tenant served with an eviction notice does not leave after the notice period ends, the landlord must apply to the Tribunal to seek possession.
We have looked at 125 cases between 2018 and 2021 where the landlord was seeking possession on ground 1, and checked whether each property had been sold and was still on the landlord register.
Out of 74 cases where the landlord was awarded possession between 2018 and 2020 based on their intention to sell, 21, nearly a third of all cases, had still not been sold.
Ten of those (14% of the total) were still on the landlord register, suggesting they had simply been re-let.
A further seven homes had been sold but were registered to a different landlord (9%), indicating that the original tenant could have stayed put and the eviction was unnecessary, demonstrating why action must be taken to improve the system.
Just over half (53%) had both been sold and left the private rented sector, in line with the landlord’s original intention. A small minority (9%) had been sold but were still on the landlord register in the original landlord’s name.
For the 33 ground 1 cases heard in 2021, two thirds of homes remained unsold by early 2022.
To prove their intention to sell, landlords must demonstrate that they have appointed a solicitor, estate agent or other professional to prepare the property for listing.
As a result, it is very difficult for tenants to challenge a ground 1 eviction and many will move out before their notice period ends.
Tenants can apply for a Wrongful Termination Order, which, if successful, results in compensation, but none of the cases we examined resulted in one.
This is why we are calling for extra protections for tenants who face eviction for reasons beyond their control, including a requirement for landlords who wish to sell to advertise the property with a sitting tenant before seeking eviction, relocation payments to ease the burden of tenants who face eviction, and periods where the landlord cannot evict tenants who have not broken the terms of their tenancy agreement.
Whilst these cases represent a minority of evictions in Scotland the number of properties that are re-let instead of being sold, or are bought by another landlord, indicate that tenants are still getting a raw deal.
Despite the 2017 reforms, our research suggests it is too easy for landlords to claim a ground for sale yet seemingly abandon plans to sell them. That’s why we’d like to see incentives for landlords to keep the tenant in place.
The consequences of ground 1 evictions are devastating for the tenant. Unwanted moves cause stress, loss of savings and risk of debt, and disruption to education and work.
Landlords will always need the option to sell, but governments in both Scotland and England must ensure that private renters have the best shot at a long-term home.