Background to the consultation
1.1 This report presents an analysis of the responses submitted to the Scottish Government's Better Disputes Resolution in Housing consultation. The overall focus of the consultation is on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of dispute resolution for rented housing cases, and the potential for a Scottish Housing Panel as an alternative mechanism for making decisions about housing disputes.
1.2 Three principal options are considered:
- Option 1 focuses on expanding the use of mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR);
- Option 2 proposes the creation of a pre-court Housing Panel to which housing disputes could be referred at an earlier stage for formal resolution. The panel would make enforceable decisions and where these are not complied with cases would still be escalated to court. Under this option it would remain for the courts to end tenancies and evict tenants; and
- Option 3 proposes the creation of a housing panel to replace courts as the main decision maker in certain housing dispute cases. This kind of panel would be a tribunal. This would involve transferring jurisdiction for specific types of housing dispute cases from the courts. A housing tribunal could have the ability to end tenancies and evict tenants.
1.3 The consultation document makes clear that the three options are not intended as mutually exclusive. Expanding use of mediation and ADR (Option 1) may be desirable irrespective of any form of housing panel that may be implemented.
The Consultation Process
1.4 The consultation ran from 16 January 2013, with responses invited by 9 April 2013.
1.5 The consultation document set out a total of 37 questions structured around the three proposed options, and including questions relating to Equality Issues and the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment. This included a mix of 13 'closed' questions where respondents were generally invited to indicate support or opposition to proposals, and 26 'open' questions where respondents were asked to write in their response. Respondents were invited to respond to this set of questions, but also had the option to make a response which did not directly address specific consultation questions.
1.6 While the structure, length and format of consultation responses varied, in practice the great majority of responses directly addressed some or all of the consultation questions. In terms of the content and structure of consultation responses, the following points are of particular relevance to the analysis and reporting process:
- Some respondents provided covering letters or reports alongside a completed consultation response form. Where material related to the substance of the consultation, this has been incorporated in analysis and reporting.
- Where written material provided an unequivocal answer to a 'closed' question which the respondent had not answered directly, this was included in the quantitative analysis set out in this report. Where there was any ambiguity in the response to a closed question, this has been recorded as non-response.
- Few of the closed questions provided space for respondents to add written comments. However, a minority of responses included further written comments in support of response to closed questions - key issues raised are considered in the body of the report.
- Respondents were coded into one of eight respondent types (considered in more detail in the next section). This includes some sector-specific respondent types, such as Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), and letting agents, private landlords & their representative groups. Responses from these organisations tended to be framed with reference to the housing sector in which they operate - for example RSLs about social renting, letting agents about private renting - although this was not always explicitly stated. In contrast, other respondents had a dual or cross-tenure focus, such as local authorities (as a landlord, and as a statutory body in relation to homelessness and landlord registration). Our analysis has sought to identify where responses and issues appear to relate to a specific tenure, whether this is explicit or implicit in the response.
Email: Paul Sloan