Publication - Minutes

Private Rented Sector Resilience Group minutes: 20 July 2020

Published: 8 Sep 2020
Date of meeting: 20 Jul 2020
Date of next meeting: 3 Aug 2020

Minutes of a meeting of the Private Rented Sector Resilience Group, held on 20 July 2020.

Published:
8 Sep 2020
Private Rented Sector Resilience Group minutes: 20 July 2020

Attendees and apologies

In attendance:

  • Alice Tooms-Moore, Shelter Scotland
  • Daryl McIntosh, Propertymark
  • Debbie King, Shelter Scotland
  • Emma Anderson, North Ayrshire Council
  • John Blackwood, Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL)
  • Nina Ballantyne, Citizen Advice Scotland (CAS) – Chair
  • Tony Cain, ALACHO
  • Michael Tornow, Public Health Scotland
  • Charlotte McHaffie, SG
  • Denise Buchanan, SG
  • Mark Cooper, SG
  • Scott Boyd, SG
  • Yvonne Gavan, SG

Apologies:

  • Katey Tabner, COSLA
  • Lisa Mallon, City of Edinburgh Council
  • Colin McRae, Dundee City Council
  • Gabrielle Hayes, Dundee City Council
  • Duncan Thomson, Glasgow City Council
  • Aoife Deery, Citizen Advice Scotland (CAS)
  • Katrina Reid, Public Health Scotland
  • Katey Tabner COSLA
  • Amanda Callaghan, SG
  • Bob Drummond-Murray, SG
  • Katie Chan, SG
  • Mandy Brown (secretariat)
  • Simon Roberts, SG
  • Yvette Sheppard, SG
  • Paul McGillivray, SG
  • Catriona McKean, SG

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductions

CAS opened the meeting and welcomed participants.

2. Note of previous meeting and action log

Two changes were agreed to the note of the meeting on 6 July on empty homes.

Point  6 (a) - empty homes update – NAC advised that their EHO’s are currently working to capacity on long term empty homes.

(b) Shelter Scotland provided an update on empty homes.  They have spoken to COSLA and had online meetings with Empty Homes Officers (EHOs).  There is scope to expand work of EHOs to liaise with owners of recent empty PRS properties, but local authorities need to have mechanisms to bring properties back into use. Also need to consider demand for a scheme and look to establish a benchmark of what is already in place as both of these vary between local authorities. 

The majority of long term empty homes (those empty for more than 6 months) are not ready to move into ASAP and may require considerable work to bring up to standard.  If looking at homes empty for less than 6 months, then this would be a shift in responsibility for EHOs as they currently work with owners of long term empty properties only.

Some EHOs are getting calls from PRS landlords and refer on to housing teams in LAs to take forward where property is suitable. SEHP advice service is also getting an uptake in calls from private landlords, but may die down as lockdown eases. 

Need to consider what LAs have in place to ensure mechanism for bringing property back into use.  Is a national approach required?  Demand varies across LAs.  Speak to Heads of Housing to see if need for it? 

Shelter advised the next steps is COSLA will write to Heads of Housing at local authorities with joint paper prepared by SEHP and COSLA.

Otherwise the group was content with the note of the previous meeting.

Action log:

Action 9 – Shelter reported approximately 20 cases of eviction without due process had been reported to their Aberdeen office, some from unregistered landlords. Shelter has contacted the landlords involved. SG advice is to alert the local authority to this and to encourage tenants to contact the local authority directly with the letters from the landlord as evidence. Shelter will pass this on to the local advisors. The 20 cases of potential evictions were all resolved and all remained (apart from one who left of their own accord) and all evictions were avoided.

Action 12 – landlord registration numbers for July will be available later in the month.

Actions 13,16, and 18 will be picked up in the agenda.

Action 19 – complete

Action 22 – Complete

Action 23 – PropertyMark reported that insurers are now adding a guarantee to new insurance products. Complete.

Actions 38 and 39 are on the agenda

Action 40 CAS statistics will be shared next month.

Action 43  complete

Action 45  ongoing

Action 48  complete.

Action 49  ongoing

Actions 50, 51 and 52 will be discussed as part of the item on the toolkit.

Actions 54 and 55 are part of empty homes partnership work to be fed back.

Action 56 is for discussion on agenda.

Action 57 Complete

Action 58 Complete

Acton 59 North Ayrshire Council noted that homelessness in their area was comparable with and slightly reduced from before the pandemic, and reported that members of Scotland’s Housing Network had reported a similar trend.  This led to a wider discussion that noted the situation varied by local authority with greater pressure on temporary accommodation in some areas. For example Edinburgh Council is looking to work with the PRS on temporary accommodation.

Shelter raised a query in relation to Reposit schemes. These are schemes being used by landlords and letting agents in place of a deposit. Tenants are required to pay the equivalent of one weeks rent into the scheme (non-refundable) and this means the landlord is insured for up to 8 weeks rent arrears. That payment is only valid for 12 months, then the tenant is required to pay a £30 yearly top up. SG confirmed that this has not been tested in Courts, SAL noted that third party fees are clarified in the letting agent code of practice. 

Action 60: Updates for the next meeting requested if any members of the group know about legislation in relation to reposit schemes.   

Action 61: ALACHO will circulate the RAG report to the group

Action 62: ALACHO will approach Edinburgh Council about their representation on the PRS Resilience Group.

3. Ministerial Meeting Update

Progress on the toolkit for tenants, how to better connect the HPC with the group, feedback on tenancy sustainment work CAS statistics were discussed at the recent Ministerial meeting.

Mr Stewart will share the letter to tenants with the group for any feedback on key information. The letter will be sent by post with a short version of the toolkit for tenants.

There was an update on voids and tied accommodation. Other areas discussed included clarity on affordable supply, retrofit and carbon reduction, and whether members of the PRS resilience group can support an extension to emergency powers on evictions.

Shelter asked how actions from the PRS group reach the recovery workgroup. CAS confirmed that the tenancy sustainment work will be taken to the Chairs group and will fit into the work on evictions.

4. Pre Action Protocols update

The latest draft of the pre action protocols has been circulated. The draft guidance will be circulated shortly at a date  to be confirmed.

5. Public Health Scotland Toolkit for tenants update

There is a six page version of the toolkit ready to print and disseminate with Mr Stewart’s letter to tenants. This will be shared with the PRS group with the draft of the Ministerial letter to tenants. There has already been feedback on the toolkit from various groups.

Action 63 PHS to share the six page version of the toolkit along with Mr Stewart’s letter. Members to alert SG if anything is wrong in the toolkit. If there is anything to add this should be kept for the digital version of the toolkit.

6. Short term lets update

SG aims to lay regulations for short term lets in December, with formal engagement with stakeholders in October. The aim is to bring in control areas by Spring 2021. Noted that Shelter is keen to feed in.

7. Tenancy sustainment

The group expressed their thanks to Shelter for the work done on this paper.

It was agreed that the following would apply to group decisions on dealing with any disagreements on how group decisions on tenancy sustainment should be presented to the Minister:

  • If there is unanimous support for a proposal, these should go straight to the Minister
  • If there is majority support for a proposal this will be shared with the Minister and objections noted.
  • If there is no support for a proposal, this will not go forward to the Minister

Extending emergency powers on evictions

It was noted that while this is being actively considered there has not been a final decision on extending the emergency powers on evictions in the Coronavirus Act.

The group did not reach agreement on whether to support extending the emergency powers on evictions. CAS and Shelter supported an extension on emergency powers to prevent evictions given that there is a short timescale to the end of furlough which may not leave tenants enough time to seek other support.

SAL and PropertyMark did not support an extension to the emergency powers. They felt that delaying evictions might not be dealing with the real problems of tenants not being able to afford to pay their rent, but were keen to support the forthcoming pre action protocols to help tenants deal with problems.

Others were neutral, with ALACHO suggesting that an extension may be inevitable but there should be consideration given to direct support for tenants.

COSLA noted that there should be a clear message on the importance of paying rent to help prevent arrears.

PHS noted that it was important to promote anything to help sustain tenancies.

The group agreed that clear language and a focus on where tenants can get help were important.

SAL suggested looking for agreement on other areas of tenancy sustainment and coming back to the issue of extending evictions.

Developing a communications plan

There was whole group support for using social media, encouraging landlords to use the toolkit and asking the Tenancy Deposit Schemes to use the toolkit as a welcome message.

The group agreed to give some thought as to how to encourage landlords to give the toolkit to their tenants. 

Shelter asked about considering mental health as part of the pre action protocols.  It was agrees that SG would look at whether this could be included in the guidance.

Shelter would welcome further work on the processes for DHPs. It was agreed that SG could ask the relevant policy leads to join the next meeting.  It was also agreed that the Chair’s group could gather additional DHP queries offline and pass to COSLA. 

Action 64 SG to ask tenancy deposit schemes if they would be happy to use the toolkit as a welcome message.

Action 65 SG to review language both in the toolkit and on SG web pages in the context of the toolkit. SG will feedback to the group on the clarity and accuracy of the language in the toolkit.

Action 66 SG to look at including signposting on mental health in the guidance for pre action protocols.

Action 67 Group to consider how to encourage landlords to give the toolkit to tenants

Action 68 SG to ask DHP policy leads to join the next meeting

Action 69 Chair’s group to gather DHP queries and pass to COSLA.

8. AOB

Other agenda items will be picked up by e mail and can be discussed at the next meeting as the meeting ended before they could be discussed.

Action 70 SG to check if timing of future meetings can be extended to two hours.

9. Date and Time of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Monday 3 August from 2pm until 4.pm.