National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders in Scotland

The National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders (NASSO) forms part of the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) and sets out how housing contributes to those arrangements.

2. Housing Context

2.1 Housing in Scotland

Sex offenders under MAPPA live in a range of housing tenures including the private rented sector; the owner-occupied sector; the social housing sector; specialist housing; and care homes. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 requires Sex offenders under MAPPA to tell the police of a change of home address within three days.

There is no presumption that offenders will be housed in the social housing sector.

All social landlords should be able to offer basic housing options advice. Effective housing options advice gives people a full picture of the housing options available to them and helps them to identify the best solution to meet their individual housing needs. This includes private sector renting, mid-market renting, shared equity, home ownership and help to buy schemes.

Private rented sector

The PRS sector has increased rapidly to around 15% of households in Scotland in 2017 and around 360,000 properties. Some sex offenders under MAPPA may choose to rent housing from a private landlord. To improve standards across the private rented sector the Scottish Government introduced greater security for tenants, balanced with appropriate safeguards for landlords, through the private residential tenancy and by requiring letting agents and landlords to register, and houses in multiple occupation to be licensed

The provision of information on registered sex offenders to private sector landlords is a matter for the police, who have discretion on disclosure on a case-by-case basis. Each case needs to be risk assessed and agreed by the Responsible Authorities. Where sex offenders live in the private rented sector the Responsible Authorities have to make sure that supervision, support and monitoring arrangements will be robust enough to minimise risk.

Owner-occupied sector 

The majority of homes in Scotland are owner occupied and account for around 62% of all households in Scotland in 2017 (around 1.49 million properties). Some sex offenders will return to housing they own on release from prison or may wish to buy a property. In these cases the Responsible Authorities will assess and manage the risks to public safety. The MAPPA guidance provides more information on supervision strategies available to the Responsible Authorities.

Specialist housing and support

In general registered sex offenders are managed in mainstream housing, with access to local support programmes provided by organisations such as Turning Point and Apex. In some circumstances, temporary housing available through specialist support providers such as Safeguarding Communities Reducing Offending (SACRO) may be more suitable for offenders who have been institutionalised for long periods of time. Requests for this type of accommodation need to be made at an early stage to give adequate time for the sharing of relevant information with the providers involved and identification of a suitable placement.

Where a local authority or RSL leases a property to a specialist provider such as SACRO for the housing of sex offenders under MAPPA, the local authority or RSL should have protocols in place with the specialist provider covering information sharing and any special or particular arrangements for managing the tenance.

Sheltered Housing and Care homes

Sheltered Housing gives older people the independence of having their own home along with the security of help from a warden, scheme manager or support staff, 24 hour emergency help via an alarm system, communal areas and social activities for residents. Sheltered Housing is provided in both the private sector and social rented sector.

Care homes provide accommodation and personal care for people who need extra support in their daily lives. They are registered by the Care Inspectorate who inspect services and evaluate the quality of care they deliver.

As with the general population of Scotland, the sex offender population is ageing, with those over 60 years of age making up an increasing percentage of all sex offenders under MAPPA.

Social housing

Social housing is housing owned and managed by local authorities and Registered Social Landlords and accounts for 23% of household in Scotland around 600,000 properties). There are 26 local authorities and around 160 RSLs who provide social housing in Scotland. In most areas there are a number of different RSLs providing housing and some RSLs operate nationally and provide housing in different areas across the country.

The majority of RSLs are relatively small locally-based landlords and this brings particular challenges when identifying housing for sex offenders due to the closeness and familiarity of small communities.

Only a small proportion of social housing properties become available for re-letting each year with the majority being allocated to homeless applicants and those with the greatest housing need.

2.2 Social Housing Allocations 

Given the limited supply and high demand for available housing social landlords set out how they will allocate housing in their Allocations policy, including how priority for housing is assessed. All social landlords must ensure that their allocation policy complies with legislation and with relevant equality and human rights duties. Anyone aged 16 or over has the right to be admitted to a housing list however this is not a right to be allocated a house.

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 amended section 20 of the 1987 Act and sets out three categories of applicants who should be given reasonable preference in an allocation policy from 1st May 2019.

These are:

  • homeless persons and persons threatened with homelessness and who have unmet housing needs; 
  • people who are living under unsatisfactory housing conditions and who have unmet housing needs; and
  • tenants of houses which are held by a social landlord, which the social landlord selecting its tenants considers to be under-occupied.

Reasonable preference means that applicants in the above groups are given preference for available housing over and above other applicants.

The relative priority given to each of the reasonable preference groups will depend on the level of housing need in each area. Landlord’s will need to decide how much priority it wishes to give to those in each of the reasonable preference groups. While there is no requirement to give equivalent priority to each group, landlords may choose to do so.

Landlords can also take the needs of other groups into account in allocating houses and can create other needs groups, such as giving priority to ex-service personnel. However, any other groups being prioritised for allocations must not dominate an allocation policy at the expense of the three reasonable preference groups in the 2014 Act.

While social landlords must allocate their housing in line with their allocation policy, there will always be occasions when a landlord will need to use its discretion and make an allocation out-with their core policy. This should be set out in their allocations policy. An example of this could be allowing for a discretionary allocation where immediate housing is required or cannot otherwise be dealt with under the policy.

There are also particular obligations on local authorities to provide housing for those who are homeless and also for children where they require it or where it would safeguard or promote their welfare. In addition local authorities have a legal duty under section 25 of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 to provide, or secure the provision of, care and support services for persons who have, or who have had a mental disorder and are not in hospital. Care and support services include residential accommodation. This duty includes sex offenders with a mental disorder who have been convicted and those who are found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Guidance on the legal framework for allocations can be found on the Scottish Governments website at Legal Framework.

The role of Councillors and governing body members is to set and review the allocations policy and monitor progress against policy aims. Councillors and RSL management committee members generally approve the allocation policy and have overall responsibility for ensuring the policy is delivered.

Section 20(3) of the 1987 Act (as inserted by section 154 of the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993) excludes councillors from decisions on allocations under certain circumstances. It excludes local councillors from being involved in a decision on allocating a council house (or a house where the local authority has nomination rights) where the house in question is situated, or the applicant for the house in question lives, in the electoral division or ward for which those members are elected.

This does not prevent councillors from making factual information known to the local authority or from making representations to the local authority on behalf of a constituent.

Management committees must have no involvement in discussions or decisions about individual allocations, which should stay the responsibility of officers of the RSL. This also applies to the housing of sex offenders under MAPPA.

2.3 Approaches to allocating housing 

There are two primary approaches landlords use to allocate houses, needs based or choice – based lettings (CBLs).

The needs based approach remains the most frequently used system in Scotland, where applicants have their housing needs assessed based on the priority given under the landlords allocation policy. Priority is usually based on varying numbers of points being awarded for each housing need with the level of points being dependant on the severity of the housing need.

Landlords who use a choice based letting approach tend to do so because they believe it offers greater choice for applicants and can help support tenancy sustainment. Under a CBL it is the applicant themselves who takes the initiative in securing a property by bidding for advertised properties. Landlords who operate a CBL system will need to have arrangements in place to support applicants to make bids where they find it difficult to do so.

Whilst CBLs gives more choice, given the need to restrict the choice of housing that would potentially be suitable for a sex offender RSLs should discuss with the local authority SOLO any potential bid from a sex offender under a choice-based letting scheme. This should also include arrangements for bidding on behalf of sex offenders. Where the Responsible Authorities determines that a potential property is unsuitable it is reasonable to restrict the offer in the interests of public safety.

Further detailed guidance on allocations can be found in “Social Housing Allocations in Scotland – a practice guide 2019”

2.4 Managing an application for social housing from a registered sex offender 

Like all other applicants, Sex offenders under MAPPA can apply for housing directly to a social landlord by completing and submitting an application for housing. They will then be put on the landlords housing list.

Some social landlords operate their own housing list and others operate a joint housing register covering a number of landlords within a particular area. These are known as “Common Housing Registers”.

An applicant may voluntarily declare on an application form or in discussions with housing officers that he or she is a sex offender. Where this becomes known, Landlords should, as soon as possible, tell the Responsible Authorities about the application. The Responsible Authorities should also tell the SOLO of any known sex offenders who have moved into the area and may be seeking social housing so that they can liaise with RSL Link Officers or SOLOs within another local authority area on any restrictions on where the sex offender can live and to identify potential housing that may be manageable.

2.5 Nomination agreements and Section 5 referrals 

Many local authorities and RSLs have a nomination agreement in place where local authorities nominate applicants from their own lists for an agreed percentage of an RSL’s annual vacancies. Nomination agreements acknowledge that more people are likely to join the local authority’s housing list than that of an RSL.

The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 as amended ensures that homeless persons have rights to temporary and settled accommodation, and these rights apply to homeless offenders, including homeless sex offenders. This includes section 5 referrals, under which RSLs have an obligation to give reasonable preference to homeless households and to provide accommodation for those households assessed as being unintentionally homeless.

In addition, local agreements may exist between some local authorities and RSLs which may negate the use of Section 5 in some areas.

Whatever the referral arrangements, social landlords should not give sex offenders under MAPPA priority for housing merely because they are sex offenders. They should, however, ensure that systems are in place to deal speedily with applications from sex offenders.

2.6 Temporary Accommodation 

The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) report: Transforming the use of Temporary Accommodation in Scotland, June 2018, recommended that there should be a clear national direction of travel to transition to a model of ‘rapid rehousing’ by default across Scotland.

Rapid re-housing by default means that:

  • someone who is rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping should be housed in settled mainstream accommodation as quickly as possible;
  • someone who has complex needs and is rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping should be housed in settled mainstream accommodation with the necessary wraparound support as quickly as possible; and
  • someone who is rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping for whom rapid rehousing or Housing First approach (home is the best foundation from which to address any other challenges people face) would not yet be suitable should be provided with accommodation that deals with their particular needs with the specialist support that is required.

In some cases it may not be possible to secure permanent housing immediately on release from prison and a period of accommodation in temporary housing may be necessary. Some individual offenders may also benefit from living in temporary accommodation initially where support can be provided to help them transition to permanent housing which is sustainable in the longer term.

If permanent housing is not immediately available then the Responsible Authorities may consider temporary accommodation for the offender. This may also be considered if any permanent housing options identified are deemed unsuitable or where the offender has rejected housing offers. Social landlords must discuss the potential and suitability of temporary housing with the Responsible Authorities and the following should be taken into account when considering the use of temporary accommodation.

  • Hostels 

Hostel-style accommodation within the mainstream of the social rented sector (as distinct from hostels which are specifically intended for offenders and funded for delivery of Criminal Justice Social Work services), poses the risk of bringing together a group of sex offenders in one location. In particular, hostels are not suitable housing for high-risk offenders as there are often vulnerable people, including children, in such accommodation who may be placed at risk.

  • Bed and Breakfast 

Bed and Breakfast (B&B) accommodation has been used in some areas where there is no other housing option available, after the risks have been assessed by the Responsible Authorities. Landlords should however avoid this wherever possible because of the problems of managing risk in a B&B establishment. Where landlords can remove such risks by booking the entire establishment for an individual offender then B&B accommodation may be manageable. This must only be considered as a last resort and the Responsible Authorities should examine all alternatives before reaching a decision to place an offender in a B&B.

  • Temporary accommodation unsuitable for children

The Scottish Government has put in place regulations that prevent the routine use of “unsuitable” temporary housing for homeless households with children and pregnant women (Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014). As part of the assessment of whether temporary housing is suitable for use, local authorities must assess whether it is “suitable for occupation by children”. The statutory guidance requires that the local authority is satisfied that overall, the housing does not pose significant risk to children. If a local authority places a sex offender under MAPPA in temporary housing where there are households with children, this could pose a significant risk to them, or other vulnerable groups, who may also be housed in that accommodation. The main purpose of the 2014 Order is to prevent children being placed in housing that is not safe for them or conducive to their development. Such placements of sex offenders might mean that the housing would not meet the standards of the Order and the local authority will not be able to use it to fulfil its duties under the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 as amended.

  • Houses in Multiple Occupation

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are also generally not manageable for sex offenders under MAPPA because of the close contact with other residents.

2.7 Permanent housing 

A focus on permanent housing helps the Responsible Authorities in their support, supervision and management of the offender. Social housing tenancies are normally allocated as a Scottish Secure Tenancy. This gives tenants certain rights including security of tenure and rights to sublet their tenancy, exchange their house, take on a joint tenant, take in a lodger or assign (sign over) their tenancy. Following the death of the tenant a spouse, civil partner or cohabitee; or family member or carer living in the property can also succeed to the tenancy if certain conditions are met. These include landlord notification and residency requirements.

Tenants must apply to their landlord for permission to do so and where an RSL or local authority receives a request from a sex offender under MAPPA to transfer their tenancy, take on a joint tenant, exchange or assign their home or to take in a lodger they should discuss this with their local authority SOLO before they give consent. Following consultation with the Responsible Authorities if it is determined that there are any risks that cannot be managed landlords should withhold consent where it is reasonable to do so in the interests of public safety.

2.8 Identifying suitable housing that is manageable 

When identifying and considering the manageability of a potential property for a particular offender it is important for the Responsible Authorities to recognise that there is a limited supply of social housing including the size, location and type of properties that may become available.

It is also important to recognise that some property types such as deck access and multi-storey flats may have particular challenges due to their design, layout or the number of households living in close proximity within a block, and these must be fully considered when undertaking an environmental risk assessment and assessing the manageability of a potential property.

SOLOs should also identify any issues relating to the over concentration of offenders in particular areas.

Assessing the manageability of a potential property is undertaken by carrying out an environmental risk assessment and by the Responsible Authorities working together to assess the risk posed by the individual registered sex offender in the potential property. This is supported by implementation of tailored Risk Management Plans with appropriate measures to manage those risks (see section 3 Environmental Risk Assessments).

Environmental risk assessments need to be undertaken as quickly as possible to minimise any delay in allocating properties and minimise rent loss. Holding empty properties for any length of time incurs rent loss and it may not be possible or feasible for landlords to do so. When costs are likely to be incurred, where those costs should be met from should be agreed locally or agreement reached that the property cannot be held vacant.

2.9 Retaining an existing tenancy following conviction with a custodial sentence 

Where an existing tenant receives a custodial sentence, the social landlord in discussion with the Responsible Authorities will need to consider how best to manage the tenancy during custody. This includes whether the tenancy can be retained, and if so whether it will be suitable and manageable for the offender on release.

The Scottish Prison Service SHORE standards outcome on imprisonment is that

“Individuals are supported to sustain existing accommodation and possessions or end tenancies appropriately, securing furniture and belongings where this is the best option. Their housing needs are identified and support plans put in place, for the duration of the sentence, for those that require suitable housing on release.”

In some circumstances a tenant who is convicted of an offence may be able to keep their tenancy when they are in prison where:

  • they can meet their tenancy obligations including ensuring that the rent is paid; and 
  • where the Responsible Authorities consider that it would be manageable on release.

If, however, they are in receipt of Housing Benefit, this would stop 13 weeks after the start of their prison sentence, and they would then need to consider whether or not they can pay the full rent themselves to retain the tenancy.

Universal Credit can be paid to individuals in custody, provided: they were entitled to the benefit before entering custody; they received an award for accommodation costs; and their sentence does not exceed six months.

More information on Scottish Choices in relation to Universal Credit can be found at

If they are unable to retain the tenancy for the duration of their sentence their housing options should be discussed with them fully to ensure that they are managed in a planned way. This could include terminating the tenancy voluntarily to ensure rent arrears do not accrue or that action does not need to be taken against them to end the tenancy.

In some cases landlords have enabled the tenancy to be retained for the duration of the custodial sentence by reaching an agreement with the offender on rent payment.

2.10 Evictions 

Eviction of sex offenders under MAPPA, where they subsequently don’t secure suitable alternative stable accommodation, can risk them being lost from the system, lead to increased risk, and loss of support and failure to complete rehabilitation programmes.

It is therefore very important that where eviction action is being considered the Responsible Authorities discuss all options with the landlord and agreement reached on an outcome that is manageable.

Circumstances may however arise when a social landlord does consider raising court action to evict an existing tenant who is a sex offender under MAPPA due to a serious breach of tenancy unrelated to the sexual offence. Examples of this could include serious antisocial behaviour or rent arrears.

Where this is being considered by an RSL, the Link officer should advise the SOLO as early in the process as possible so that discussions can take place with the Responsible Authorities on the implications of the action and the future management of the offender.

Where this is being considered by a local authority, the SOLO should advise the Responsible Authorities as early as possible so that discussions can take place on the implications of the action and the future management of the offender.

Where the Responsible Authorities assess that public safety is likely to be compromised and cannot be managed safely if an eviction is carried out, discussions should take place about what other options are available, including discussions with the offender about a voluntary move of housing to alternative housing that is manageable.

Eviction of a tenant who has been convicted of a registered sex offence should not be initiated as a matter of course and should be discussed fully with the Responsible Authorities prior to any action being started. Discussions should include the individual’s circumstances, wider community safety considerations and the housing options available for the offender if an eviction takes place.



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