Guidance on the operation of Local Authority Housing Revenue Accounts (HRAs) in Scotland

Guidance relating to the role of Housing Revenue Accounts (HRA).


19. Good housing outcomes in the council housing sector need to be delivered by local authority landlords working in close collaboration with their tenants. Clarity and landlord-tenant agreement are required before we know what good outcomes look like in each area. The Scottish Social Housing Charter (the Charter) requires local authority and Registered Social Landlords ( RSLs) to achieve 16 separate outcomes that relate to performance. [1] In terms of what council tenants' rents can help deliver, outcomes 13, 14 and 15 of the Charter are particularly relevant:

Outcome 13:

  • Social landlords manage all aspects of their businesses so that tenants, owners and other customers receive services that provide continually improving value for the rent and other charges they pay

Outcome 14:

  • A balance is struck between the levels of service provided, the costs of the services and how far current and prospective tenants and service users can afford them

Outcome 15:

  • Tenants get clear information on how rents and other money is spent including information on items of expenditure above thresholds agreed between landlords and tenants

20. The Charter focuses landlord attention on financial transparency and accountability. It is important that council tenants understand what the HRA should be delivering for the money they invest in the account. The Charter covers all social landlords in Scotland but local authorities (as opposed to other social landlords who may charge separately for factoring and whose services are usually more targeted) find themselves providing services to much wider groups of residents often without any specific charges involved. It is therefore not always clear in the case of local authority landlords in particular what is being delivered to whom and at what price as required by outcomes 13-15.

21. There are a number of key services which local authorities must deliver from HRA rental income. Current and prospective council tenants should expect to receive:

a) Property maintenance services of high quality including maintaining the fabric of the properties in respect of the repairing obligations of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 and ensuring that they continue to meet the appropriate housing quality, and/or energy efficiency and/or carbon emission standards (Charter outcomes 4 and 5)

b) Property management services of high quality with such fundamentals as the provision of advice and information on a range of housing related issues such as improving access to housing through an efficient allocation process (Charter outcome 7)

c) The opportunity to rent different types of accommodation ( e.g. general needs or supported accommodation or sheltered housing) which take into account, amongst many other factors, affordability to tenants (Charter outcomes 7, 8 and 9). This includes advice and information to prospective council tenants

d) Full consultation by their landlord on sufficiently important matters. The Charter (as discussed later in section 8) sets out regulatory consultation and participation expectations and provides clear context information to tenants on what constitutes an HRA 'important matter' (Charter outcomes 2 and 3)

e) Getting value for money from all of the services provided through HRA resources whether purchased externally or internally through central charges to the HRA (Charter outcomes 13, 14 and 15 as discussed above)

f) Receive services that provide value for the rent and other charges they pay. This covers the efficient and effective management of services. It includes minimising the time houses are empty; managing arrears and all resources effectively; controlling costs; getting value out of contracts; and giving better value for money by increasing the quality of services with minimum extra cost to tenants, owners and other customers (Charter outcome 13)

22. There is a choice or trade-off between these (arguably 'core' service levels and the charges made for them). The obligation on landlords to provide a quality service should allow for tenants to choose their own balance between the cost and quality of the service that they receive. Whilst there is a minimum standard to be met in terms of both the physical qualities of the properties as well as management services, it should be for the tenants to choose if they wish to pay more for a higher level of service and/or standard of property. The nature of this choice may vary over time with the availability of resources or changing tenants' preferences (Charter outcome 14).

23. In addition, where affordable and sustainable for the HRA, the provision of a new supply of council houses for rent where there is an identified need is also a desirable outcome. Investment priorities for affordable housing should be set out in a local authority's Strategic Housing Investment Plan, informed by its Local Housing Strategy. Where affordable housing proposals will deliver new council houses for current or future council tenants, then the HRA should pay for the provision of the houses. However, where housing proposals are primarily aimed at non-council tenants ( e.g. housing owned by another social landlord or aimed at first time buyers) then the General Fund should ultimately be the source of any subsidies or contributions. Any such HRA contributions to non-council housing projects require the consent of Scottish Ministers under Schedule 15 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 and/or Section 92(5) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001. The minimum expectation would be that both Scottish Ministers and the relevant council tenants, who would require to be consulted, are fully aware of the impact on existing rents and/or services of the proposal and that, with such knowledge, are ultimately in a position to properly judge the proposal.

24. In their discussions, councils and their tenants might also agree on the need to provide services (partly or wholly funded by the HRA) which extend beyond the outcomes relating solely to housing management, repairs and quality. This desire reflects the remaining outcomes contained within the Charter. For example, outcome 1 in respect of equalities; outcome 6 in respect of estate management; and outcome 11 in respect of sustaining tenancies and particularly the rights of tenants to have their individual needs taken into account where they have specific access requirements or require tenancy support. This is considered particularly significant given the councils' strategic priority of supporting older people to live independently in the Community.

25. In summary, councils must prioritise the services it spends resources on and be sure that tenants understand how these services are benefiting them.


Email: HRA Guidance

Back to top