Part Four: Quality – Raising Standards
Existing Housing Standards
The consultation paper summarises the complex set of legislation which dictates minimum housing standards and services for private and social rented housing. The Scottish Housing Quality Standard applies for social housing, while the Repairing Standard, set out by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, applies to most private rented housing. Work has been ongoing to harmonise these standards, but important differences remain. Stakeholders have identified timely completion of repairs as a concern across both tenures, and for social tenants this in part reflects ongoing recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social landlord services.Question 57 – What is the best way to ensure that landlords undertake essential repairs in a timely fashion?
Around 645 non-campaign respondents made a comment at Question 54. The issues raised applied, to varying degrees, to both privately rented and social housing. The analysis below identifies where issues were raised specifically in relation to one or other.Nature and scale of any issues
In relation to the scale of any problems, some expressed a view that issues are more significant in the PRS, and that while there can be problems in social housing, standards and performance are generally expected to be better. It was also noted that performance is monitored by the SHR through the Annual Return of the Charter and the subsequent benchmarking against peers. In terms of driving further improvement, it was reported that some housing associations have been looking to further improve repairs and maintenance services including, for example, by looking at proactive approaches to identify and resolve issues before a repair is required.
A frequently-raised issue concerned how landlords can be held accountable by tenants when they fail to meet the RS, particularly in relation to essential repairs. Examples were given of tenants having to wait months, or years, before essential repairs are completed. A connected point was that tenants can spend significant time and energy chasing up repair requests, and that their experiences can have an impact on both physical and mental wellbeing.
With specific reference to getting essential repairs done in PRS properties, non-campaign respondents identified a number of factors that are, or can be, problematic. These included that:
- Tenants may not be aware of required standards or may not have the confidence to exercise their rights.
- The three-way relationship between tenants, letting agents and landlords can add to communication difficulties.
- There can be challenges around access to properties where major repairs require a vacant property. It was reported that tenants sometimes refuse access for essential repairs and mandatory safety checks, and that obtaining access through the Tribunal’s right of entry process can take several months. It was suggested that options for speeding up this process should be explored.
Concerns were also raised around the financial capacity of some private landlords to bring their properties up to the expected standards. This was raised in relation to examples of landlords with large mortgages and limited disposable income, and to particular challenges for landlords in tenement properties where they cannot secure majority agreement for required repairs or improvements.
Although some respondents had concerns, a number of non-campaign respondents were of the view that current legislation and regulations are sufficient to ensure appropriate standards of repair in the PRS, and that the vast majority of landlords do undertake both essential and non-essential repairs in a timely fashion. There was reference to the application of the Repairing Standard and the Tolerable Standard, and also to other aspects of regulation, such as landlord registration and HMO licensing. Some suggested that the regulatory framework is fit for purpose, but that additional resourcing is required to support enforcement of regulations and standards. There was particular reference to timescales for cases referred to the Tribunal.Clear standards and timescales
The most frequently-raised issue was the importance of clear standards, and of greater parity in the standards that apply across the rented sector. However, some concerns were raised around the application of a single standard across Scotland, for example, in relation to varying availability of contractors and materials, with particular difficulties in rural areas.
More generally, there was thought to be a need for stronger standards in the PRS, with one suggestion being a PRS Charter, supported by a code of practice for private landlords. It was hoped that this would help ensure that tenants are clear on what they can expect from their landlord and how they can hold them to account. Existing standards for social housing, including the ‘Right to Repair’, were cited as setting a potential benchmark for a PRS Charter.
Many respondents, including a number of ‘Private landlord, letting agent or their representative bodies’, ‘Tenants’ and residents’ groups and their representative bodies’ and ‘Individual’ respondents saw a need for further guidance to set out more clearly what a Repairing Standard for the PRS would mean in practice, both for tenants and landlords.
Suggestions around what should be covered by a Repairing Standard were focused primarily on the importance of setting timescales for essential repairs. They included that it might be helpful for PRT guidance notes to indicate what would be considered reasonable timeframes for different types of repairs. It was suggested that this would help landlords understand their obligations whilst helping to manage tenants’ expectations.
In terms of other benefits of having clearly established timescales, it was hoped that turnaround time for Tribunal repairing standard applications could be reduced, with tenants whose landlords are not undertaking repairs in a timely fashion having quicker recourse through that framework.
Further comments or suggestions included that there should be greater clarity around the definition of key terms underpinning standards across private and social housing. This was connected to a concern that debates around the definition of terms such as ‘reasonable’ and ‘safe’ could undermine the effectiveness of standards. Reference was also made to a lack of clarity for some tenants on what constitutes an ‘essential’ repair.
There were also calls to:
- Ensure options are available for in-person reporting of repairs, especially for social housing. A connected point was that some local housing offices have been closed and should be reopened.
- Offer people specific time slots for repairs and for more proactive tracking of where appointments are not kept.
It was also suggested that landlords and tenants need greater awareness of each other’s rights and responsibilities in relation to essential repairs, and that this could be highlighted by a national campaign. A tenant’s handbook or improved PRT notes for tenants were also suggested. Some also wished to see greater promotion of support services available to help tenants to exercise their rights.
Other specific suggestions for changes to ensure that landlords undertake essential repairs in a timely manner included:
- Ensuring effective systems are in place for tenants to report repairs and track their progress. There was reference to a need to ensure systems for logging repairs are robust, provide tenants with a repair number at the point of reporting, and track the progress of repairs against standard timescales. There was also support for an online portal to enable tenants to track progress, although it was noted that online options would not suit all tenants.
- More resourcing of follow-up inspections and safety checks on completed repairs.
- A requirement for flatted and tenement properties to have either an appointed Factor or owners’ association.
- Financial support and/or joint insurance schemes for private landlords.
It was also suggested that all social landlords should have dedicated local capacity to respond to essential repairs, rather than relying on city-wide or regional systems.Enforcement of standards
Many respondents thought that better enforcement of current standards, and effective enforcement of any future approach, will be key to driving improvement. In terms of key features of an effective enforcement regime, there was reference to:
- Clearer and easier recourse for tenants where repairs are not delivered to standards. Further suggestions included better mechanisms for reporting issues with the delivery of repairs (such as repairs appointments not being kept), and simpler processes for escalating repair requests where these have not been actioned.
- Landlords being more accountable for addressing issues around undelivered repairs, for example by having someone meet with tenants to agree a plan to address outstanding repairs.
Respondents also saw a need for improvements in access to legal recourse for tenants. There was a view that current processes for the PRS, which involve the Housing and Property Chamber, are protracted and complex; a connection was made to low take-up by private tenants. In this context, there was support for a PRS Regulator having a role, including having the power to refer cases to the Tribunal. There were also calls for tenants to be able to access support to take a case forward, including in the form of free legal advice.
There was also support for the use of penalties where landlords fail to provide an adequate response to outstanding repair issues. However, it was also suggested that legislation and/or regulation may be required and that local authorities would need to be resourced if they are expected to be responsible for taking enforcement action.
Specific suggestions for penalties if a landlord fails to undertake essential repairs included:
- Financial penalties, including the use of RPNs, to ensure landlords cannot continue to collect rent.
- A mechanism for tenants to withhold rent where repairs remain outstanding
- An option for tenants to claim compensation, for example alongside a Repairing Standard enforcement order.
- A facility for tenants to arrange their own repairs in the event of landlord’s failure to undertake repairs, with costs to be met by the landlord.
- A facility for the local authority to undertake repairs where private landlords fail to meet the Repairing Standard.
- Options to revoke registration status from private landlords in the event of continued failure to meet property and service standards.
While many respondents saw a need for improvements in the approach to enforcement of standards in relation to repairs, some felt that policy should make clear that enforcement and penalties should be a ‘last resort’. These non-campaign respondents wished to see a focus on information and support for landlords in the first instance.
It was reported that current enforcement of punitive measures, such as penalty notices, is not coupled with an education piece for landlords, tenants and agents on what should be expected of each party in such circumstances. There were suggestions that:
- Provision of training and guidance is likely to encourage all parties to understand who should be doing what when repair issues arise, thus helping to negate disputes arising in the first instance.
- Learning and feedback based on cases considered by the Tribunal and the Property Ombudsman could prove extremely helpful.
Respondents also noted the important role of tenant feedback and statutory reporting requirements in driving standards for social landlords. It was suggested that performance and tenant satisfaction measures could be strengthened for the PRS as part of the approach to improve standards and consistency. This included proposals for the use of online tenant ‘portals’ to improve gathering of tenant feedback on completed repairs.
There was also thought to be a need for further discussion around the range of factors contributing to the challenges facing landlords. There was reference to contractor availability and escalating costs, and it was noted that these reflect wider supply chain issues, labour shortages and inflation. These themes are covered in greater detail at Question 59.
Registration Systems in the Private Rented Sector
There are currently three statutory housing registration systems that support the PRS specifically. These systems place requirements on any individual or business carrying out specific activities related to the private rental of residential property. They cover private landlords, including through landlord registration, HMO’s and letting agents.Question 58 – What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the current housing registration systems and what could be improved to help drive up standards of management?
Around 360 non-campaign respondents made a comment at Question 58.
Most of these respondents focused their comments on landlord registration, but there were a small number of broader comments, including that the current registration system is a robust, transparent process that provides safeguards to both landlords and tenants.
Other general observations included that the rented sector is somewhat unique across the housing sector in that, letting agents aside, there is no requirement for staff to undertake any training or qualification. It was suggested that a focus on Continual Professional Development (CPD) could help improve practice across the sector, helping to ensure that landlords act professionally and engage with tenants in an empathic and positive way.
Some non-campaign respondents commented that the landlord registration system generally works well.
A frequently-made comment was that the broadening of the Prescribed Information in 2019 has been hugely beneficial in helping to ensure landlords understand and comply with their obligations. It was also suggested that it can offer valuable peace of mind to tenants, as they know that the landlord has registered with the local authority prior to the property being let.
It was also noted that the registration regime has evolved in other ways since its introduction in 2006, including through the introduction of the current statutory guidance and the applicable statutory penalties, as well as through the extended definition of the fit and proper person test. It was suggested that these changes, together with the requirement on the Housing and Property Chamber to send local authorities notifications of Repairing Standard Enforcement Orders and related matters, has resulted in tighter regulation of private landlords.
A number of other strengths identified related to being able to make contact with landlords and/or tenants and included that:
- During the pandemic, the Scottish Government used the database of landlord contact details to good effect to share updates on COVID-19.
- It also allowed for communication with tenants on their rights and the forms of support available to them during the pandemic.
- The online search facility can be helpful in tracing landlords when needed, for example in relation to common repairs, albeit it does not always contain up-to-date contact information.
Some comments focused on raising standards and increased professionalism. They included that landlord registration has allowed for communication with registered landlords enabling them to be provided with advice, training and information on their responsibilities. It was also reported that registration officers act as a point of contact for landlords seeking advice or information on property and management standards.
Other strengths highlighted by non-campaign respondents included that:
- Self-certification of Prescribed Information questions has identified areas of non-compliance and enabled these issues to be addressed.
- Potential tenants are able to check if a landlord is registered.
- Local authorities have developed a greater understanding of the PRS sector in their area.
In terms of building further understanding, it was suggested that would be useful if a review was undertaken to assess whether the introduction of Prescribed Information has led to an improvement in housing standards within the PRS. It was also thought that a more detailed national stock condition survey may be appropriate to measure standards and to gauge whether Prescribed Information has improved standards relative to previous measurements of stock condition.Weaknesses
The most frequently-raised weaknesses related to compliance and enforcement. Concerns included that:
- The system is based on self-declaration, and as such is open to abuse. Landlords do not need to provide evidence that they meet the standards required of them during the registration process as part of their Prescribed Information.
- Landlord registration schemes generally do not measure compliance rates, for example how many landlords are meeting their obligations, and how many are not.
- It is unclear how well schemes identify landlords who are avoiding registration.
It was reported that the quality of administration and enforcement of landlord registration by local authorities varies, and that the current system is not driving up standards by pursuing bad or unregistered landlords and taking them off the register or issuing effective penalties. It was also noted that the current system puts responsibility on the tenant to report any poor practice to the local authority and pursue the case, something which many tenants may not feel able to do.
In terms of specific aspects of enforcement that are not, or may not be, working well, it was also reported that:
- Some local authorities are not applying the ‘fit and proper person’ test in any meaningful way and that some of the most poorly behaved landlords are able to gain registration, and remain registered, despite poor practice.
- The use of Notices for serious disrepair fails to provide any alternative punitive measures to ensure that the owner takes responsibility for any defect identified within their property.
- There are no independent ‘on the ground’ checks of properties registered. Spot checks are completed electronically and relate only to the provision of certificates. In any case, the 2004 Act, neither empowers local authorities to enter and inspect let properties, nor to insist upon production of documentary evidence to verify the terms of an application.
A number of respondents made a link between enforcement and local authority resources. It was suggested that regulations require enforcement, but enforcement requires funding. However, it was also suggested either that there are no resources in terms of financing and staffing available to local authorities to carry out check-ups and sampling, or that the majority of landlord registration departments are not funded or resourced well enough to fulfil their role. It was reported that most departments have reduced their allocated staff and budget over the last ten years, despite the PRS growing in size, and that the pressure on registration teams is only going to increase as the short term letting registration process comes into effect in 2022.
In terms of the scale of resources required, it was suggested that the Private Landlord Registration (Information) (Scotland) Regulations 2019 have created significant resource implications for local authorities, including because, at times, landlords do not understand what is required. It was reported that incorrect or incomplete applications can lead to backlogs and delays. More generally, it was suggested that the ability of a local authority to take action against a landlord can be bureaucratic and resource intensive.
Some non-campaign respondents made a connection to the fees payable for landlord registration applications. It was noted that these are prescribed in Regulations and have only increased incrementally since 2006. It was also reported that the benefit of the 2019 fee increases has been marginal for local authorities because a significant element of the additional payments is being put towards the Scottish Government’s costs in providing the online platform.
Other comments also considered the online platform and included some concerns about its functionality. It was reported that there are a number of technical issues, including that local authority and other details were erased when the system was updated.
- The search facility using the let address is problematic. Specifically, the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004 provides that refusals of registration and removals from the Register should be noted on the Public Register. However, this information cannot be obtained through the public search facility.
- Landlords are able to create duplicate accounts.
- The system records compliance with Prescribed Information requirements at registration, rather than property level. This makes it difficult for local authorities to identify issues and to improve standards.
There were also concerns about the platform’s limited reporting functionality, with further comments including that:
- The current platform does not meet local authorities’ current, or future, needs, particularly with respect to EPCs.
- Information in relation to the number of landlords and properties in a local authority area cannot be produced with accuracy as the reports available do not include applicants and properties where an application for registration is pending.
- It is very difficult to secure data on the numbers of landlord licenses that are revoked or refused based on poor practice. As a result, a true image of how effectively the landlord registration system is working currently is not available.
It was also noted that the consultation paper refers to collecting information about rental charges to inform national policy. In terms of the extent to which the current platform could facilitate that objective, it was again noted that information in relation to each rented property is not currently captured on the system and that, at present, the information held is overwritten each time an application is made to another local authority area.
As noted in relation to the strengths of the current approach to registration, using information collected through the online platform to disseminate information in an easy and timely manner was seen as a positive. However, there were some concerns about how individual local authorities are making use of the database. These included reports that some local authorities have been disseminating inaccurate information on topics such as EPCs and minimum requirements.
There were also observations about whether the records of information that landlords have to provide are sufficiently current and accurate. They included that, since renewals are only required every three years, much of the information is out-of-date. It was also noted that:
- There is no mandatory requirement to provide email and telephone contact details, and that landlord email address is not available as a means of contact on the public part of the platform.
- A landlord can list an address other than their own private residence. At times when trying to pursue legal action against a landlord it can be difficult to obtain their address in order to send correspondence.
Other information and/or data related issues raised included that data sharing among relevant stakeholders is often a hurdle which can be difficult to overcome.Suggestions for improvement
Respondents made a range of suggestions regarding ways in which the landlord registration system could be improved and strengthened. Many of these suggestions related to the weaknesses respondents saw in the current system (set out above). An overarching suggestion, made by ‘Private landlord, letting agent or their representative bodies’ or ‘Individual’ respondents, was that the landlord registration system should be centrally operated and government run, like the letting agent registration system.
However, resources for local authorities was the most frequently-raised issue and it was suggested that local authority registration departments should be asked what resources they would need to be able to take tougher action against landlords in breach of any rules or regulations. There was also a call for investment to increase the capacity of the local authority workforce responsible for enforcement, including those responsible for environmental health, trading standards and other roles that are needed to provide effective regulation and enforcement in the PRS.
There was also a call for a clear commitment to, and resources for, enforcement. In terms of how these additional resources would be funded, one suggestion was that additional Scottish Government funding may be required, with specific reference to an uplift in the Local Government Finance Settlement. It was also suggested that substantive fines that are enforceable would help fund adequate enforcement teams.
The other frequently-raised theme which, as above, was often connected to resources, was the need for more robust enforcement of the current regulations. It was suggested that there needs to be a common framework of standards and a way of measuring progress against such standards.
Other compliance and enforcement-related suggestions included that:
- If a landlord is not judged fit and proper in one local authority area, and perhaps banned, they should automatically be banned in another authority area. There should be a more joined up system to ensure that this cannot happen.
- Local authorities should also work with the relevant teams and organisations to ensure that landlords with poor practice are identified and reported, through all possible channels, to the landlord registration team. These teams include Police Scotland, local authority homelessness and benefit teams, and the Tribunal. It was noted that this would mean that enforcement would not only rely on tenants reporting poor practice.
- There should be an obligation to provide evidence that properties meet the required standards; this coincides with the introduction of the new standards.
- Additional sanctions such as financial penalties for non-compliance requirements would assist. Specifically, there should be more penalties and sanctions for landlords who do not carry out repairs in time.
- RPNs should be improved and extended so that tenants are incentivised to report issues such as non-registration.
- Any ‘revenge’ measures taken by a landlord should be clearly penalised to ensure that tenants feel safe to report failures.
There was also a query around how it is possible for a registration team to judge if an offshore firm has fit and proper owners? It was noted that around 5% of properties on the landlord register are owned outside the UK, many in tax havens.
Other comments addressed the specific information or proofs that landlords should provide and included that:
- The renewal process should require landlords to check all details for all properties before renewing.
- Landlords should be required to disclose their own current address.
- The registration process should require a landlord to provide proof of ownership of the property they are registering; this was connected to reports that some landlords are arranging for friends and associates to complete registration on their behalf, as the legal owner of the property may not pass the fit and proper person test.
Finally, there was a call for the Scottish Government to work closely with accredited lettings and management agent bodies to ensure that the regulatory effort is focussed on the greatest risks. It was suggested that the highest priority should be tackling rogue landlords and agents, not policing the compliant.
Other comments addressed data gathering more generally, and the online platform specifically. The most frequently-made comments were that the landlord contact information could be better used to:
- Disseminate information to landlords.
- Identify those who are unregistered or registered but failing to comply with their repairing, safety and management responsibilities.
It was also suggested that data on the numbers of landlords that have had their licence refused or revoked should be collected in a standardised way and made publicly available.
In terms of other additions or changes to the online platform, suggestions included that improvements should be driven by local authorities rather than the Registers of Scotland. Other suggestions were that:
- Internal search facilities could be improved, including by making it easier to search on the public site.
- An option for landlords to provide scanned compliance documentation should be developed.
- With a landlord’s consent, their agent should be able to update landlord details on the landlord registration system.
Other suggestions focused on ways of improving management standards and included that landlords could be required to participate in training on issues such as domestic abuse and legal rights and responsibilities, as part of the registration process. It was also suggested that the use of a management agent should be encouraged, and that there could be a difference in the fee for landlord registration between those with agents and those without.
Letting agent registerStrengths
Comments included that letting agent registration, and the associated Code of Practice, has done much to ensure a better standard of management where an agent is used by a landlord. It was suggested that the system is functioning effectively and has resulted in enhanced protection for landlords and greater protection for tenants of badly performing landlords.
There was particular reference to increased professionalism connected to mandatory training and CPD requirements.Weaknesses
Some weaknesses identified reflected those raised in relation to landlord registration and included that there may be a lack of action against unregistered agents, or those that do not otherwise follow the rules. There was also reference to high levels of inconsistency between operators, and it was reported that there are agents who operate to very poor standards; the concern was both that tenants are not well looked after and that the property owner’s reputation can be damaged.
The importance of ensuring that staff are properly trained and accredited was highlighted. There was concern that untrained staff may undermine the drive to professionalise the sector as well as the investment made by those letting agencies that do encourage staff to study for qualifications and undertake CPD. A ‘Housing, legal or advice agency or professional or representative body’ respondent reported that they have commissioned an independent review (to report later in 2022) of the impact of letting agent regulation, and what difference application of CPD requirements could make to improving the performance of private and social landlords.
Other issues identified included that:
- The process for raising complaints against agents needs to be considered.
- There is some ambiguity around who needs to be registered in the case of family-run firms. There are also no limits on the number of properties that a person can manage on behalf of family members, thereby avoiding registration and training.
- When local authorities raise queries around landlord registration, they tend to receive limited feedback from the Letting Agent Register.
Finally, it was suggested that any raising of professionalism and standards resulting from letting agent registration only comes into play when a landlord uses a letting agent, and many do not.Suggestions for improvement
A general suggestion was that the landlord registration and letting agent registration systems could be streamlined into one catch-all registration system. Other suggestions included that:
- Clearer guidance on what counts as CPD would be helpful.
- Creating a system whereby there is a benefit for landlords to use a registered agent would help drive up standards. Landlords who have their property with a registered agent could be exempt from the upload requirement.
- There needs to be a way to report unregistered or poorly performing agents.
Relatively few respondents commented on HMO licensing, but strengths identified by those that did included that there are now clear minimum standards, including in terms of numbers of tenants and around property and tenancy maintenance and management. It was also noted that HMO licences can be removed. Other strengths identified included that:
- It has been possible to make links to universities and student services.
- Local authorities have the ability to set their own fees for HMO licensing.
There was also a suggestion that the emphasis on health and safety that has accompanied HMO licensing has probably had the biggest impact on the sector.Weaknesses
In relation to weaknesses, there was a concern that more should be done to protect the rights of tenants. It was reported that there have been recent instances of tenants being illegally evicted when the landlord’s HMO licence was revoked.
Other suggested weaknesses included that:
- The cost of HMO licensing is very high for landlords, particularly in proportion to the penalties if they do not adhere to the licensing regulations. It was reported that the current rate in Edinburgh is £871 for a four bedroom licence.
- HMO guidance is not being applied correctly to universities; it was reported that they are being treated as private landlords, meaning that some protections, such as in relation to staffing, sprinklers or an Electrical Installation Condition Report, may not be in place.
Suggestions included that more needs to be done to protect the rights of tenants, and to ensure that they are fully aware of their rights when an HMO licence is due to be revoked. This could involve making it a statutory requirement that the local authority’s HMO team provides the tenant with written advice and information on their rights if their landlord’s licence is revoked.
A new housing standard for Scotland
The Scottish Government manifesto commits to the introduction of a new Housing Standard, to be set in law by 2025. This will cover all homes, rented and owner occupied, new and existing, including agricultural properties, mobile homes and tied accommodation and will go beyond a minimum standard to include aspects such as repairing and safety standards, minimum space standards, digital connectivity, future proofing of homes and the energy efficiency and heating standards committed to within the Heat in Buildings Strategy.
The vision articulated in Housing to 2040 is a shift away from the existing Tolerable Standard towards the underlying principles that good quality housing is a human right, that all tenures across new and existing homes of all types will be subject to the same common high standards with appropriate ways of enforcement, compliance and redress, and that affordability is balanced with quality improvement.Question 59 – What are the key challenges for landlords in meeting all the housing standard requirements and timescales and what support could be put in place to help landlords overcome barriers?
Around 570 non-campaign respondents made a comment at Question 59.Strategic fit and alignment
A number of these respondents commented on the general principle of a tenure-neutral Housing Standard and considered how it could or should align with other strategy and policy. Although some welcomed the commitment to consult on the principles underlying a proposed new Housing Standard, it was also suggested that it is difficult to comment on the barriers and required support without further detail.
Some non-campaign respondents also commented on how a Housing Standard would align with other policies and strategies. It was noted that social housing has historically been held to higher standards than other tenures and that there is already a complex set of existing legislation that governs standards and services. ‘Housing, legal or advice agency or professional or representative body’ respondents were among those looking for clarity on how the Housing Standard will align with existing requirements for the social sector. In terms of those alignments, there was reference to the existing Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH2), including in terms of alignment with this Strategy, and it was suggested that an apparent delay in progressing the review of EESSH2 have also been unhelpful for social landlords. Other strategies cited included that the Heat in Buildings and Fuel Poverty Strategies.
Initial concerns or queries included whether new standard can be established without effectively reducing current standards in the social sector. There was also a view that it is hard to see why lower standards have been considered appropriate in other sectors, either in terms of combatting climate change or reducing fuel poverty.
In terms of delivery, it was thought that achieving lasting change across the rented sector will require tax, regulatory and other policy reforms and that the exact nature of these will depend on the Scottish Government’s ambition, how the scope for alignment across the whole rented sector is defined and developing a collective understanding on the case for alignment of standards and services.
In terms of the breadth of the proposed Housing Standard, one understanding was that it will relate solely to physical property standards, but that it would be good to know whether it will cover energy efficiency and zero emissions heating alone or whether it would be broader – for example covering relet standards, space standards and other design issues. Another perspective was that there could be opportunities for alignment on tenants’ rights, customer service, affordability and regulation.
However, it was also suggested that standards across the tenures will never really be comparable without a uniform system of regulation across all housing tenures, and that this would not be possible.
In relation to how any Housing Standard could or should be framed, other comments and suggestions included that:
- Any Housing Standard should consider wheelchair accessibility and promote this in private sector new build housing development.
- It will be important to understand regional differences and to complete Island Communities Impact Assessments.
In terms of key challenges, meeting energy efficiency standards across the rented sector was a frequently-raised issue; it was often connected to other key challenges, including around financial constraints and a pressure on rents.
One concern was that there is a lack of suitable technology and a lack of clear direction and advice from the government on cost effective and practical ways to improve the energy efficiency of older properties. Other property-type related comments included that:
- Heat and energy efficiency requirements can be difficult and costly to retrofit in older properties with solid stone walls. Advice and guidance on carrying out works would be useful to avoid damage to properties.
- Housing stock of non-traditional construction can also present difficulties.
- There should be reasonable flexibility in terms of house types meeting the standards.
It was also suggested that there is a lack of confidence in heat pump technology in retrofit and that the extent to which district heating and heat networks should form part of the overall solution also needs to be clarified. A connected concern was around requiring the social housing sector to take a lead in this area, including accepting innovation risk. There was a view that this is likely to result in significant problems in programme delivery and keeping rents affordable.
There were also a number of references to EPCs and the various requirements to achieve particular EPC bands to specific timescales. They included a view that weaknesses in the EPC rating scheme creates unnecessary barriers; for example, it was reported that the rating gets worse if more carbon neutral heating is installed and that this is especially pertinent in ‘off gas grid’ localities. It was also reported that EPC methodology is not sympathetic to traditional building methods, neither recognising the thermal qualities of stone walls and concrete floors, nor ensuring that recommended actions do not damage the fabric of the building. It was suggested that there is a real danger of money being wasted by owners of all buildings if deadlines for improvement are imposed prior to a thorough review and modernisation of EPC methodology to measure emissions and actual energy efficiency more accurately.
With specific reference to the EPC requirements for the PRS, comments included that the timescale proposed – application at change of tenancy from 2025, with a backstop date of 2028 for all remaining existing properties – does not provide sufficient time for landlords to undertake such sizable and potentially costly measures.
In relation to social housing, one view was that bringing properties up to EPC Band B is challenging, but something which would provide real improvements for tenants. However, there was also a query as to whether all of the of the EESSH2 standards are appropriate, or whether the costs of achieving them will outweigh the potential benefits, whilst pushing up rents. It was suggested that they may be too aspirational and need to be reviewed.
It was also suggested that the social sector needs greater technical support to identify the most appropriate solutions, especially as new technologies continue to emerge. There was reference to the findings and recommendations of the Zero Emission Social Housing Taskforce, including that the Scottish Government should help to co-ordinate existing activities, develop a central source of technical information and fund additional workstreams on specifications and design guides for other housing archetypes.
Other comments addressed whole-system requirements and included that increasing energy efficiency and warmth, and lowering the carbon emissions, requires integrated masterplans at a local authority or government level. It was suggested that a re-activated and modern infrastructure is fundamental.Financial viability and rent levels
As referenced above, the financial impact of meeting energy efficiency requirements was also identified as a key challenge. It was noted that any improvement in the energy efficiency of homes in the near future will have cost implications for landlords and that these need to be considered fully by government, regulators, lenders and other stakeholders to avoid any unintended consequences.
A tenure-neutral point was that, if landlords need to make a very significant financial investment in order to meet energy efficiency requirements, this may have to be passed on to tenants. However, it was also suggested that any new Housing Standard must provide positive outcomes for tenants and not compromise housing affordability.
In terms of social housing, it was suggested that social landlords will have to balance investment decisions with the potential impacts on rents or energy costs. There was a concern that investment in property is likely to be transferred on to the tenant and reflected within the rent that they pay. If this is to be the case, it was stressed that any increases must be reasonable.Private rented pressures
A number of non-campaign respondents highlighted particular pressures in rural areas, including in relation to the relative cost of carrying out work. Further comments included that it may not be viable to spend significant sums on a property which is of relatively low value both in terms of capital value and potential income. It was also suggested that if any cost cap is ‘one-size-fits-all’, it will favour higher value urban properties and potentially exacerbate the lack of housing in rural areas.
There were also concerns that smaller PRS landlords, including those who may have become landlords through inheriting a property or with larger mortgages and outgoings, may struggle to afford the necessary improvements and may exit the sector. However, a very different perspective, and a frequently-made comment, was that higher standards will pose no problem for professional landlords, who should already be used to delivering a quality service. In terms of some PRS landlords leaving the sector, it was suggested that they could sell to local authorities or housing associations, and that this should be encouraged.Private rented funding options
Those who commented tended to refer to some form of energy efficiency-related grant funding being required for the PRS. It was noted that some grant funding is already available, but it was suggested that it does not meet current demand.
Although some form of low or interest free loans were also proposed, it was suggested that low or moderate levels of grant funding are often a more attractive incentive. Other grants-related comments included that some form of means testing could be an option.
Other funding options proposed included:
- The creation of a Rural Home Just Transition Package which combines innovative investment mechanisms with targeted advice to support the transition to low carbon energy efficient homes.
- Reduced rate VAT for works aimed at achieving net zero emissions irrespective of being occupied within the last two years; it was noted that VAT is usually at the standard-rate where property is occupied or has been occupied in the previous two years.
- Equity release.
In terms of the financial challenges facing social landlords, it was reported that:
- EESSH2 will cost housing associations around £2 billion – or around £7,000 per property.
- The costs of delivering deep retrofit, and implementing Enerphit standards for example, could cost at least £25,000 per property on average, with even greater costs expected for more complex buildings and for projects located in remote and rural areas.
It was also noted that cost estimates cover only the capital costs of installation and there will be further costs associated with managing upgrade programmes, any required enabling works and the costs of decanting tenants to temporary accommodation where required.
A ‘Housing, legal or advice agency or professional or representative body’ respondent reported that a recent survey of their housing association members found that almost 80% found sourcing funding and the capital investment for retrofit measures either ‘very challenging’ or ‘extremely challenging’, with the funding landscape described as complex and difficult to navigate due to the continual changes in scheme and eligibility criteria.
It was suggested that, especially when combined with the proposed requirements around repairing and safety standards, minimum space standards, digital connectivity and the future proofing of homes, the costs will be significant and cannot be funded through rental income alone.Social rented funding options
It was reported that the Social Housing Net Zero Heat Fund has been welcome, but it was noted that, like other available schemes, it remains a short-term and finite pot which requires ‘shovel ready’ projects. There was a call for a more strategic, needs-based allocation of grant funding through an approach which aligns business plans and asset management strategies with available funding opportunities.
Comments or suggestions about current or future financial support mechanisms included support for the creation of a Green Heat Finance Taskforce to explore alternative ways of funding and leveraging private investment. It was suggested that it could consider:
- Options for financing the required improvements over the longer term through innovative models such as collective purchase/collaborative procurement, Heat as a Service, and third-party ownership.
- The role of ‘off-balance sheet’ lending vehicles which do not constrain the capacity of housing associations to respond to multiple funding challenges.
Other funding-related suggestions included that:
- An investment programme needs to be in place to either subsidise the costs of properties that cannot be brought up to standard, or to replace them with newbuild homes, especially in more rural areas where alternative provision is limited.
- Housing Association Grant should be available to retrofit existing stock.
- Greater use should be made of reserves and the potential for refinancing to reduce or avoid passing on additional costs to existing tenants.
Connected to concerns that the energy efficiency improvements required may have a limited impact on fuel poverty, there was a suggestion the Scottish Government should provide targeted financial support for those who may be in fuel poverty as a result of the transition to decarbonised heat. It was suggested that this could be addressed through a commitment to emergency redress funds which protects those on low incomes, including social housing tenants, from being negatively impacted by the rollout of new technologies.Common repairs and mixed tenure stock
A number of non-campaign respondents referred to the particular challenges associated with common repairs and delivering improvements – including energy efficiency-related improvements – in mixed tenure stock. One perspective was that private landlords often delay or prevent works being carried out, and it was also suggested that there can be challenges when owners do not wish to participate in modernisation and improvement work.
It was also reported that some local authorities are more able and willing than others to use available powers, such as those relating to paying missing shares and recharging owners, but that few if any councils would say they had adequate resources to fully exercise these powers.
There was specific reference to the challenges around traditional stone tenements, including the existing levels of disrepair and technical and legal barriers to delivering the required energy efficiency and heating upgrades. The convening of a Short Life Working Group to explore the challenges, and potential solutions, for tenements in more detail was welcomed, with other suggestions including that:
- Additional funding should be targeted at these hard-to-treat and mixed tenure archetypes which require innovation support and more complex solutions.
- Campaigns and further support are required to get everyone on board to fund housing improvements.
- Requiring maintenance funds to be set up for tenement buildings/properties where there are common elements.
Other general suggestions relating to common repairs and improvements to mixed tenure stock, included that the wider benefits of financial support to owners should be recognised. It was noted that supporting owners to take part in investment schemes will allow landlords to meet the necessary energy efficiency standards, which in turn benefits tenants.
Other comments or suggestions included that better tax incentives for work undertaken could be considered. It was also reported that there can be barriers to private landlords participating in some programmes, with the Home Energy Efficiency Programme for Scotland: Area Based Scheme’s (HEEPS-ABS) work on external wall insultation cited. The associated concern was that their non-participation penalises private owners and makes it difficult for local authorities to deliver these beneficial programmes of work.
In terms of owner occupiers, a ‘Local authority’ respondent reported that they have been successful in accessing HEEPS-ABS to support owner participation in external wall insulation programmes. However, they suggested that further financial support needs to be made available to owners in mixed tenure blocks in some property types and areas. They thought this was especially important for resident owners in low value areas where property equity is likely to be low.Historic and listed buildings
A small number of non-campaign respondents highlighted key challenges, associated with historic and/or listed buildings, including that more research and new technologies are required in terms of retrofitting more historical and protected buildings. It was suggested that the balance between retrofitting and conserving historically important buildings may need to be reconsidered in order to reduce the carbon emissions of those buildings.
However, there were also fundamental concerns about listed and traditional buildings being able to meet minimum energy efficiency standards. Returning to the issue of EPCs, it was suggested that they do not reflect any understanding of the kinds of energy efficiency measures which would be appropriate to install in a historic building.
It was also reported that, even if appropriate, energy efficiency improvements to historic buildings can be exorbitantly expensive, particularly when landlords have to obtain planning permission and Listed Building Consent. Along with calls to reform EPCs, clear guidance on how best to improve the energy efficiency of listed and traditional buildings, along with adequate funding, was requested.Skills and supply chain challenges
The other key challenge identified related to the lack of suitably qualified contractors, along with supply chain issues, making it difficult to deliver improvements, and energy efficiency-related improvements in particular.
It was reported that there are likely to be more acute problems in rural areas, but that access to skilled tradespeople, who are trained in the fitting and maintenance of new technologies, is limited across the country.
The lack of capacity in the supply chain was seen as being particularly problematic for the social sector if they are expected to meet higher energy efficiency standards and make the transition to zero emissions heat ahead of the private sector. A ‘Local authority’ respondent reported that the new PAS standards in respect of carrying out insulation works – the best and most cost-effective ways to tackle fuel poverty in their area – has resulted in their major insulation contractor entering into redundancy consultations with their workforce as it has not been possible to work to the Standard.
A ‘Housing, legal or advice agency or professional or representative body’ respondent reported that housing associations are experiencing both a skills and volume gap – within both their own organisations and wider supply chains. They suggested that this is partly due to the ongoing uncertainty around the most appropriate heating technologies, in addition to the more general labour pressures resulting from the pandemic and Brexit.
In terms of possible solutions going forward, it was suggested that:
- The Scottish Government should provide targeted grant funding for training and upskilling, with a system of equivalence to streamline accreditation processes.
- As already suggested above, a specific Rural Homes Just Transition Package could recognise the distinct challenges and opportunities in rural, remote and island communities.
A list of vetted tradespeople could be developed. This could include tradespeople who are willing to carry out small works.
Disability and the Rented Sector
Housing to 2040 sets out the actions the Scottish Government will take so that our homes support those with long-term conditions and disabilities, and everyone who can and wants to, is enabled to live independently in a home of their own. It notes that the Scottish Government is committed to undertaking a fundamental review of the adaptations system, and that this review will develop recommendations on how best to improve the system so that it will be fit and capable of dealing with the increased demand that an ageing population will driveQuestion 60 – What is your personal experience in securing necessary adaptations for disability – either for yourself, or for your tenants – in rented accommodation?
A. What barriers did you face, if any?
B. Did this occur in the private or social rented sector?
Around 175 non-campaign respondents commented at this question. Of these, around 45 respondents stated that their experience related to the PRS, around 10 respondents to the social sector and a small number to both. Some respondents said that they are private landlords but that their properties would not be suitable for someone needing adaptations, or that they have never had a tenant who has needed or has asked for an adaptation. A small number of respondents noted that their only experience related to owner-occupied sector and had not been positive.
Experience and practice in the PRSLandlords’ experience
Many of those who commented referred to their experience as a private landlord, sometimes simply noting that adaptations had been made to their property. Examples given included the installation of ramps, railings and handles, and the installation of a wet room. Some referred to carrying out the work and others to agreeing to work being carried out.
In terms of funding, there were references to local authorities or tenants funding any work, but also occasional references to landlords making a contribution. For example, one respondent referred to agreeing to a request from a wheelchair user to replace carpets with the vinyl flooring and splitting the cost with the tenant. They explained that this split recognised that when the tenant leaves, the landlord would need to fit carpet again. Others also referred to adaptations being removed when their tenant moved on.
Although some of those with experience of having adaptations done referred to the process being easy, including being as simple as confirming they consented, others referred to difficulties. For example, there was one reference to costs being exorbitant and another to trying, but failing, to get local authority help to install a walk-in shower for elderly tenants.
Very much reflecting other responses, a ‘Private landlord, letting agent or their representative bodies’ respondent reported that their landlord members’ experience of disability adaptations had often been around the conversion of a bathroom to a wet room, arranged by the local authority. They noted that some landlords had reported a possible positive outcome being that the tenant might stay for longer, albeit that this is often not the case as disability conversions usually happen very close to the end of life or shortly before a tenant moves into a care home.Tenants’ experience
A small number of ‘Individual’ respondents commented on their personal experience of trying to secure adaptions to a PRS home. These experiences tended to be negative and included:
- Trying but failing to get grab rails installed, with an overseas landlord failing to reply to requests.
- A local authority not supporting the adaptations they were looking for.
- Long waits for Occupational Therapy (OT) assessments.
There were also a small number of references to other disrepair, and problems getting issues such as dampness rectified, making it impossible or unpleasant to make use of adaptations – such as a walk-in shower – which had been carried out at the expense of the tenant.
Experience and practice in social housingLandlords’ experience
Comments were limited but included a view that adaptions work well in the social rented sector. It was also reported that the processes for housing associations to secure funding for adaptations are long established.
A small number of respondents referred to the approach in their area being tenure-neutral, including:
- The local authority having an integrated equipment and adaptation service which provides an all-tenure assessment for adaptations.
- A Care and Repair service delivering adaptations across tenures with ‘co-located’ input of specialist OTs. It was reported that this has led to a clear and streamlined set of arrangements in place, with the only overall constraint being the funding envelope to deliver the volume of adaptations the area requires.
However, there were also reports that, in some areas, the process to adapt a home can be very lengthy, including with long waiting lists for assessments. It was noted that this situation has been exacerbated by the pandemic.Tenants’ experience
The small number of social tenants who commented had mixed experiences. For example, one tenant who had experience in both the PRS and the social sector reported that, although there had been a long wait, their experience in the social sector had been better. Another respondent reported that they had not had to wait long for a level access shower, although the wait for a stairlift had been longer and they are yet to have ramps installed.
A ‘Tenants’ and residents’ groups’ respondent reported that timescales for adaptations in local authority housing are too long, that staff do not always listen to tenants and that those carrying out assessments are not always trained to a high enough standard. They also reported that funding is not available throughout the year, with housing association tenants often being told that there are no resources available.Barriers to adaptations
From a local authority perspective, it was reported that the policy landscape is complex in terms of tenure, criteria, funding routes, responsibilities and definitions, and that this can make navigating the adaptations process challenging for both tenants and landlords.
In terms of barriers that were seen as common to both the PRS and social housing, comments included that cost can be a barrier and that adaptations can be expensive. It was also noted that some properties, and older properties in particular, may not be suitable for adaptations.
The shortage of OTs to undertake assessments was also raised, and that delays in accessing community care assessments can vary across local authorities. It was also reported that eligibility criteria can vary, meaning that what is available in one local authority may not be supported in another.
A specific issue raised was around additional challenges when adaptations are required to facilitate rehousing someone in different local authority area to that in which they are currently resident. It was reported that there can be confusion around which local authority is responsible for assessment of the suitability of the new property and for recommendation of any adaptations required.Barriers in the PRS
Specific comments about the PRS included occasional reports of there being no barriers, including one landlord who reported that over a 30 year period they had experienced no problems when their property had been adapted. However, other landlords did report that there are barriers, including that:
- Support systems rightly focus on the individual requiring the adaptation but can fail to engage with landlords.
- There can be issues with the quality of the work and, when it is undertaken by a third party, that the landlord has no control over this. A connected point was that the public liability insurance of tradespeople may not provide a safety net if their company is placed into administration.
- It can be more difficult to re-let properties that have been adapted. There was particular reference to bathrooms, and it was reported that, in many cases, landlords have stripped out the adaptations and renovated the bathroom at considerable expense after the disabled tenants have moved out.
From a tenant’s perspective, it was reported that it can be difficult to obtain landlord permission and that some landlords are unwilling to carry out permanent adaptations. It was suggested that this often limits the ability of people who require adaptations to look for a PRS home. It was also reported that, if adaptation requirements occur during a tenancy, disputes can escalate to the point where a tenant is served a Notice to Quit.
Other barriers identified included that:
- Private rented tenants may not be aware that they are able to access funding for adaptations.
- MMR properties are considered as privately rented and this can leave tenants with limited access to grant funding.
The most frequently-identified barrier in the social sector was insufficient funding, and in particular that the monies available run out before the end of the financial year.
In relation to housing associations, it was suggested that the level of funds provided by the Scottish Government is insufficient, and that the current system is deeply unfair to those housing association tenants who may have to self-fund. There was specific reference to tenants of stock-transfer landlords who are in this position because of business plan settlements from 20 years ago.Moving forward
In terms of learning from existing practice, comments included that some adaptations do not require a specialist assessment, meaning that simple adaptations can be completed with minimal delay, easing demand on OT services. However, it was also reported that, while some housing providers have successfully employed housing OTs to enhance their adaptations services, their roles are most likely focused on re-housing and adaptation provision, rather than initial assessments.
There was support for Scottish Government plans to review the adaptations system and aids and equipment guidance. In terms of what any future system might or should look like, suggestions included that:
- A tenure neutral approach would be beneficial.
- Equity between social tenants would be improved by similar adaptations funding arrangements being in place for local authorities and housing associations. It was suggested that grant funding for adaptations should not be based on tenure but on need.
Driving up Standards of ManagementA vision for cross-rented sector regulation
The consultation paper sets out the Scottish Government’s vision that regulation should seek tenure neutral outcomes for tenants in both sectors, empowering tenants through routes to redress failures and supporting good standards across the rented sector. In addition, it sets out four principles for regulation:
- Development of a private rented sector regulator to build on the strengths, experience and learning from the SHR and existing approaches.
- Private rented sector regulation will be based on clearly defined standards for quality, affordability and fairness.
- The regulatory approach will take account of evidence, views of stakeholders and value for money.
- The regulatory approach will reflect the overall ambitions of the Rented Sector Strategy.
Around 435 non-campaign respondents made a comment at Question 61.
Comments in support of the vision set out in the consultation paper included agreement with the focus on tenure neutral outcomes for tenants in both sectors, and with ensuring the right to adequate housing applies across all tenures. A PRS regulator was also seen as having a key role to play in empowering tenants, with a call for more effective enforcement of standards in the sector. While some felt that legislation provides private tenants with relatively strong rights, others saw a need for better mechanisms to ensure that private tenants can assert their rights, and access redress where their rights are not upheld. Reference was also made to potential for a regulator to improve awareness of rights among private tenants.
However, others felt that the vision and principles are too heavily weighted in favour of tenants; they wanted to ensure that any regulator balances support for tenants’ rights with the rights of landlords and the need to achieve a high quality PRS.
Some of those broadly in favour of the vision for a PRS regulator also raised potential concerns or issues. For example, it was suggested that the regulatory approach must reflect fundamental differences between the social and private rented sectors, for example in terms of the profile of landlords, properties, and access to finance. There was also a view that differences in the structure and operation of the private and social rented sectors are such that a consistent regulatory approach is unrealistic.
Concerns were also raised that the PRS regulator may become another layer of administration that unduly increases the regulatory burden on landlords, or that adds to confusion around accountability for tenants. It was argued that a proportionate approach to regulation should not disadvantage the majority of landlords and tenants in order to address the shortcomings of a minority. There were also concerns that a national regulator may lack important local knowledge.
For some non-campaign respondents, opposition to the vision for a PRS regulator as set out in the consultation paper, reflected opposition to the principle of such a regulator. This included some primarily ‘Private landlord, letting agent or their representative bodies’ respondents who raised concerns around the impact of further regulatory burdens and costs on landlords. It was suggested that such additional regulation would result in more landlords choosing to leave the sector and there was a call for an assessment of the regulatory and financial impact of a PRS regulator to be published alongside the final strategy.
Some of those opposed to the vision suggested that the existing regulatory framework has not been effective in improving standards among landlords who do not comply with legislation, and expressed scepticism around potential for a PRS regulator to change this. A range of respondents, including ‘Private landlord, letting agent or their representative bodies’ and ‘Local authority’ respondents, suggested that the vision for a PRS regulator does not make clear how this would add to capacity or value for money of enforcement. In was argued that a focus on ensuring local authorities have sufficient resources and support to enforce current regulations would be preferable to establishing a new regulator.Role of a PRS regulator
With respect to the role of a PRS regulator, there were views that this will ensure a more consistent approach to administration and enforcement. It was suggested that the efficacy of a regulator will depend on the structure, scope and powers of the role, and there was a view that it is not possible to reach any conclusion about the vision and principles without these details.
Respondents also highlighted the importance of clear definitions of terms and robust processes, and saw a need for a clear remit to be set out. There were calls for further detail on how the regulator’s remit will integrate with other bodies contributing to a high quality rented sector, with a proposal for an Ombudsman role alongside the regulator. A clear remit for a PRS regulator was seen as particularly important for RSLs providing MMR properties, who will be subject to oversight from both social and private rented housing regulators.
There was specific support for the PRS regulator drawing on the experience of the SHR, including reference to establishing a culture of accountability and effective self-assessment. It was also suggested that a PRS regulator should be willing to engage with the investor market to encourage new investment in the sector.
However, some respondents identified aspects of the SHR approach they would not wish to be applied to the PRS, including a lack of enforcement powers and reliance on landlord self-reporting. There was also a view that the number and diversity of private landlords means that it would be very challenging for a regulator to have meaningful oversight of every landlord.Clearly defined standards
In relation to ‘clearly defined standards of quality, affordability and fairness’ there was a view that definition of these terms has been ambiguous in regulation of the sector to date. Specific points raised in relation to applying clearly defined standards included that.
- Regulation should be based on a clear definition of what affordability means for the PRS.
- A definition of fairness should account for what was described as an inequality of power between landlords and tenants. It was suggested that there is an imbalance of power at the Tribunal, and there were associated calls for the regulatory approach to place a burden of proof on landlords.
The Letting Agent Code of Practice was suggested as a potential model for standards for private landlords.Evidence, views of stakeholders and value for money
Some respondents agreed that regulation should include input from a wide range of stakeholders. There was also a view that the importance of engagement with private tenants should be emphasised, reflecting concern that tenants’ voices can be ‘drowned out’ by landlords. There was also a call for the regulatory framework to set out guidance and best practice to ensure landlords take an inclusive approach to engagement with tenants and other stakeholders.
Value for money was a particular area of concern for some respondents. It was argued that careful balancing of costs and benefits associated with a PRS regulator is required, both in terms of cost to the public purse and the potential financial impact on private landlords. As noted above, this reflected concerns around the potential financial impact of a PRS regulator, and whether there is likely to be sufficient improvement in standards to justify this.Additional principles
Respondents also highlighted several other principles which they wished to see reflected in the approach to regulation of the PRS including:
- Ensuring that private tenants live in genuinely affordable housing. It was argued affordability should be included as a specific principle since affordability is the most significant issue for many private tenants.
- Accountability to tenants. Respondents highlighted the importance of the regulator being taken seriously by landlords.
- Climate justice. Respondents drew links between climate change, housing quality and fuel poverty, arguing that the impacts of climate change are not felt equally across Scotland’s communities.
Ensuring good relations between tenants and landlords. Research indicating the importance of the tenant-landlord relationship in securing positive outcomes for tenants was reported. There was a call for this relationship to be reflected in the principles for a PRS regulator, for example including a role for mediation.
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