A LEADING property management company has backed a claim that landlords in Scotland are breaking the law by renting property and declaring them as holiday lets to avoid long-term rights for tenants.

The National revealed last month that Scotland’s tenants’ union, Living Rent, had called for urgent action to end the loophole that allows landlords to remain exempt from regulations relating to private rented housing.

Now, Apropos by DJ Alexander has said that while many agents and landlords could be breaking the law, there was no loophole, and that tenants’ rights become legally binding if the property is their main residence.

David Alexander, the company’s joint managing director, said: “Many landlords and agents see holiday lets as a means of letting properties whilst ignoring the recent legislative changes in Scotland on the rights of the tenant. However, this is incorrect as tenants’ rights apply if it can be shown that the property is being used as a home, rather than for short-term holiday purposes.

“Even if no contract is signed, the tenancy automatically defaults to a Private Residential Tenancy Agreement if both parties have knowingly entered into a long-term, residential arrangement.”

Alexander said there was only one area of ambiguity in the definition of a “holiday let” and whether both parties believed the property would be the tenants’ main home or simply a temporary residence.

“There is no legal loophole being exploited as the law already protects tenants in these circumstances.

“If they live in a property which is advertised as a holiday let, but it is viewed as their permanent residence then they have the same rights as any long-term tenant.”

“It would appear that many tenants and some organisations are unaware that this is the case, but the rights of the tenant remain firm regardless of the contract they have signed and agents and landlords who seek to avoid this legislation are misguided.”

Alexander said it was disappointing that some landlords and agents still believe that giving tenants stronger rights was a bad thing.

He added: “Greater clarity on letting lengths would be useful to define what is a holiday let but clearly there are not many people booking a holiday home for six or even three months, especially if they have no other address, so the law should regard these lettings as the home of the tenant and protect their rights accordingly.”

Gordon Maloney, from Living Rent, Edinburgh, said too many landlords were still getting away with the practice: “We welcome letting agents joining us in condemning the practice of sham holiday lets.

“While we would also argue that this is clearly illegal, we still see far too many landlords getting away with it with impunity.

“For far too many tenants in this situation, challenging rogue landlords means facing the threat of eviction or worse.

“That is why the Scottish Government, councils, and the Housing Tribunal need to make explicit that they will not allow landlords to sidestep regulation like this, and that they will support tenants in disputes over the issue.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) told The National they agreed with Alexander’s legal interpretation, although they would dispute that “many” landlords were involved in the practice.

They said: “Fundamentally, as far as we see it, there is no loophole.”