Improving Gypsy/Traveller sites: guidance on minimum sites standards and site tenants' core rights and responsibilities
Covers minimum standards for Gypsy Traveller sites and core rights and responsibilities for those renting pitches on local authority and RSL sites.
1. Many Local Authorities (and one Registered Social Landlord) are responsible for providing and running Gypsy/Traveller sites to help meet the accommodation needs of Gypsy/Travellers in their area. In 2013 the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee ( EOC) published a report, Where Gypsy/Travellers Live, which examined issues around the quality and quantity of such sites. The report made a number of recommendations to improve Gypsy/Traveller site provision in Scotland.
2. In light of the EOC’s report the Scottish Government has taken forward a number of actions relating to Gypsy/Traveller sites. In 2014 we strengthened local strategic planning for accommodation in relation to the needs of Gypsy/Travellers, by publishing revised guidance for Housing Needs and Demand Assessments and for Local Housing Strategies.  In 2014/15 we funded PAS (Planning Aid Scotland) to carry out a project on planning and the Gypsy/Traveller community.  We also formed the Gypsy/Traveller Site Working Group, which provided us with expert advice and discussed ways of addressing some of the issues raised by the EOC.
3. Two of the areas highlighted by the EOC were the poor quality of some Gypsy/Traveller sites, and the need for site tenants to have consistent tenancy agreements across the country. In light of those points we have developed this guidance for site providers, which has two sections:
a) minimum site standards for Gypsy/Traveller sites;
b) core rights and responsibilities for site tenants.
Taken together these measures will improve the quality of Gypsy/Traveller sites, and set out for site tenants their rights and responsibilities.
4. Information provided to the Scottish Housing Regulator in 2013/14 indicated that the average weekly rent per pitch in Scotland was £63. The highest weekly rent paid for a pitch was £84, and the lowest was £41. Gypsy/Traveller site tenants are entitled to live on sites that meet minimum standards, and to occupancy agreements that reflect certain core rights and responsibilities.
5. These site standards and core rights and responsibilities were developed with input from:
- Gypsy/Traveller site tenants;
- organisations who work with the Gypsy/Traveller community;
- the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers ( ALACHO);
- the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA);
- individual local authorities;
- organisations with expertise in housing.
While developing the guidance officials visited several Gypsy/Traveller sites in different parts of Scotland, to see sites at first hand and discuss the guidance with site tenants.
6. In this guidance a “site provider” refers to a local authority or Registered Social Landlord ( RSL) who provide and run a Gypsy/Traveller site. It does not refer to a private individual or company who provide a Gypsy/Traveller site. The terms “tenant” and “site tenant” in this guidance refer to someone who lives on a Gypsy/Traveller site provided and run by a local authority or Registered Social Landlord. The term “tenancy agreement” in this guidance refers to the agreement between a site provider and an individual for that individual to station a caravan / mobile home on a pitch on such a site and live in that caravan / mobile home as their main residence.
7. The Scottish Government provides local authorities with a General Capital Grant to fund capital expenditure. It is for each individual local authority to decide how its resources are best used to meet both local needs and national priorities. This includes how much it chooses to allocate to the provision of Gypsy/Traveller sites. The terms and conditions relating to this grant are set out in the General Capital Grant offer letter issued to individual authorities each year.
8. The issue of including income and expenditure relating to Gypsy/Traveller sites in a local authority’s Housing Revenue Account ( HRA) was raised during the development of this guidance. We understand the case for including finances around Gypsy/Traveller sites in the HRA, and we will explore this further. Consultation with relevant groups (including social housing tenant organisations) will be part of that process, along with examining any implications such a change could have for local government financial arrangements.
Monitoring and Enforcement
9. The Scottish Government will review progress towards implementing this guidance with site tenants, site providers, and other key stakeholders including COSLA and ALACHO. We also intend to consult on linking this guidance to the Scottish Social Housing Charter, as part of the review of the Charter in 2016.
10. The Scottish Housing Regulator is the independent regulator of RSLs and local authority housing services in Scotland. Its objective is to safeguard and promote the interests of current and future tenants, homeless people, and others who use services provided by social landlords. That includes people living on Gypsy/Traveller sites provided by local authorities and RSLs. The SHR collects data annually from local authorities and RSLs, including in relation to Gypsy/Traveller sites. It also undertakes thematic inspections into specific subjects, and plans to publish a thematic inspection into Gypsy/Traveller sites later this year. The Regulator publishes its findings, and submits an annual report to the Parliament on how it has performed its functions.
11. All sites should meet the minimum standards, and have tenancy agreements that reflect the core rights and responsibilities, by June 2018. If at that time a site tenant believes that a site provider has not met the minimum standards their first step would be to raise the issue with the site provider. If the site tenant is not satisfied with the site provider’s response they may wish to make a formal complaint, using the site provider’s formal complaint procedure. If a site tenant reaches the end of the site providers complaints procedure and is still not satisfied they may want to refer the complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, at 4 Melville Street, Edinburgh EH3 7NS, telephone 0800 3777 330, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. A site tenant can also report a Significant Performance Failure to the SHR. A Significant Performance Failure would be something that a site provider does, or fails to do, that puts the interests of its tenants or service users at risk and will affect many, or all, of the site provider’s tenants or service users. Further information on a Significant Performance Failure is available on the SHR website at: https://www.scottishhousingregulator.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/SHR%20Factsheet%20A5_AW%20online%20-%20updated.pdf
A site tenant may also wish to approach a professional advice organisation for help, such as Citizens Advice Scotland (telephone 0808 800 9060) or Shelter (telephone 0808 800 4444).
Mobile Home Legislation and Gypsy/Traveller Sites
12. A Gypsy/Traveller site run by a local authority does not need to have a caravan licence under paragraph 11 of Schedule 1 to the Caravan and Control of Development Act 1960. However many of the implied terms contained in Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (c.34) (which were amended by the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment of Schedule 1) (Scotland) Order (SSI 2013/219)) do apply to tenancy agreements entered into by site tenants. This means that the terms of any tenancy agreement they have with the site provider should reflect these rights.
13. The Mobile Homes (Written Statement) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 contain a statement of those implied terms. The majority of them apply to those living on local authority and RSL Gypsy/Traveller sites. These rights automatically apply to site tenants, and cannot be overridden. Some of the key rights are:
- for a site tenant to be able, on request, to see documentary evidence for anything for which they pay the site owner, including charges for services the site owner provides (e.g. gas and electricity);
- to have parts of the site for which the site provider is responsible maintained in a clean and tidy condition;
- the site provider may only enter a pitch to read meters and deliver post between 9am and 6pm, other than to carry out essential and emergency works.
14. This guidance, including the core rights and responsibilities, has been developed with an awareness of the implied terms, and should not cut across their provisions.
15. These minimum site standards sites are focussed on ensuring existing sites are of a reasonable quality. All new Gypsy/Traveller sites should also meet these standards. Consultation with the Gypsy/Traveller community will be key in the development of the facilities and services on any new sites, and site providers should develop proposals in discussion with existing and potential site tenants.
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