Since 1st December 2017, the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) has received and dealt with applications in respect of Private Sector Rented Cases and Private Residential Tenancies.

SafeDeposits Scotland closely monitors cases handled by the First-tier Tribunal, particularly those where tenancy deposits are concerned. As an impartial scheme we would direct any parties - tenants, landlords and letting agents - to the Tribunal in instances where they feel aggrieved by the actions of another party to the tenancy, when the issue is not something that can be resolved by our own Alternative Dispute Resolution process.

We also believe that the cases and decisions made to date serve as a reminder of the importance of best practice to those operating in the Private Rented Sector - for example, if the Chamber is satisfied that a landlord has failed to comply with the Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011, they can order the landlord to pay the tenant up to three times the amount of the deposit.

Here, we summarise some of the questions frequently asked about the First-tier Tribunal and the answers to these...

What is the timescale involved with an application to the First-tier Tribunal?

It can be a matter of months from an application being submitted to the outcome being reached, but ultimately the timescale is influenced by a number of different factors depending on the individual case. These include whether the application form has been submitted correctly, co-operation of the parties and response times from parties.

Between 1st December 2017 and 30th November 2018 the First-tier Tribunal received nearly 3,000 applications - a volume significantly higher than predicted. The Tribunal stated in a Stakeholder Communication in January that it is recruiting and training more administrative staff to assist in processing the cases and reducing waiting times.

Is the service free to use?

Yes, there is no cost to apply to the First-tier Tribunal.

What happens at a hearing?

After the chairing member of the Tribunal has introduced the parties to the members conducting the hearing, explained the purpose of the hearing and ensured that the parties understand and can participate in the proceedings, the parties will be able to tell the Tribunal their view on the issue(s) raised. Witnesses can be brought along (although this needs to be arranged with and notified to the Tribunal in advance) and parties can ask the other party and any witnesses questions. The hearing may be recorded and parties will be notified at the outset if this is the case. From the evidence presented during the hearing, the Tribunal will establish what they think the relevant facts are, what conclusions should be drawn from them and what the outcome of the application should be.

Can I attend personally or do I have to be represented?

Parties can either conduct the case themselves, or they can arrange for a representative to conduct the case for them. Although the thought of attending a hearing may seem daunting, the First-tier Tribunal emphasises that the procedure is fairly informal and that the chairperson will ensure parties know what is happening. There are rules - detailed on the Tribunal website - regarding representatives and supporters at proceedings.

For further information on the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland, including how to apply and published decisions from previous hearings, visit www.housingandpropertychamber.scot