Landlord registration was introduced in 2006 by the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004 ("the 2004 Act"). The regime has been strengthened further in subsequent legislation – including increased requirements for the fit and proper person test; an increased penalty of up to £50,000 for operating as an unregistered landlord; and disqualification orders. The powers available to local authorities through landlord registration have also been strengthened, including powers to request a criminal record certificate in specified circumstances and to obtain information.
Whilst most landlords let their houses in a responsible way, some landlords continue to operate outside the law. Landlord registration, supported by other legislation, provides a means for local authorities to register persons who are fit and proper to act as landlords and agents, but also to take steps to deal with those who operate outside the law.
The worst landlords in the sector often target vulnerable tenants who are placed in overcrowded and badly maintained properties. Such poor living conditions have a negative impact on the lives of not only the tenants, but also neighbours, wider communities and also the businesses of legitimate landlords. There is also a growing body of evidence that has established links between poor housing and health and educational attainment, and that the effects can have serious far-reaching and long term consequences.
It can be difficult to establish the extent and nature of the problems caused by such landlords but it is important that local authorities take leadership on this issue and take appropriate enforcement measures. By targeting enforcement and using the full range of powers available to them, authorities will be able to disrupt illegitimate landlord businesses. Local authorities should seek advice from Data Protection colleagues about promoting information about effective enforcement activities, including successful prosecutions, for example via websites or newsletters. This will encourage other landlords to comply and provide wider public reassurance that landlord registration is an effective regime.
Local authorities should:
- Develop an understanding of the nature and extent of the problems in their area;
- Develop an understanding of the range of powers that can be used alongside landlord registration to tackle illegal practice;
- Develop mechanisms for sharing information across the authority and with other agencies to identify illegal landlord practice;
- Have clear policies and processes in place for dealing with complaints about landlords.
This guidance is intended to help local authorities ensure that all landlords operating in their area are registered and achieve satisfactory standards of performance for their tenants. It is made under section 99A of the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004 which also requires local authorities to have regard to it in performing their landlord registration functions. It is designed to achieve good results for tenants, landlords and the communities where the landlords operate.
This guidance includes advice on how local authorities can learn from each other to help support their work to deal with problem landlords. It is not overly prescriptive in terms of administrative process – landlord registration is now well established and so local authorities are best placed to decide on the most efficient and effective way to deliver landlord registration, taking account of local governance arrangements and resources.
The focus of this guidance is on a proportionate approach to registration, which allows authorities to focus more attention on dealing with those landlords that do not comply with their legal duties in letting houses. The expectation has always been that effective enforcement action should be taken to refuse or remove unfit landlords from the register. Prosecution continues to be an option where an authority believes this action is justified.
This guidance has been produced following consultation with local authorities in Scotland, and other key stakeholders and representative bodies including Shelter Scotland, the Scottish Association of Landlords, the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Police Scotland.
The Scottish Government is grateful to those local authorities who contributed with case studies illustrating successful approaches to improving standards in the private rented sector.
Email: Gary Mitchell, Gary.firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House