Publication - Minutes

Private Rented Sector Resilience Group minutes: 25 January 2021

Published: 23 Mar 2021
Date of meeting: 25 Jan 2021

Minutes of the Private Rented Sector Resilience Group meeting held on 11 January 2021.

Published:
23 Mar 2021
Private Rented Sector Resilience Group minutes: 25 January 2021

Attendees and apologies

In attendance:

  • Alice Tooms-Moore, Shelter Scotland
  • Debbie King, Shelter Scotland
  • Laura Caven, COSLA
  • Katrina Reid, Public Health Scotland
  • Chris McKee, City of Edinburgh Council
  • Nina Ballantyne, Citizen Advice Scotland (CAS)
  • Tony Cain, ALACHO
  • Denise Buchanan, SG
  • Mandy Brown (secretariat)
  • Yvonne Gavan, SG
  • Aoife Deery, Citizen Advice Scotland (CAS)

Apologies:

  • Emma Anderson, North Ayrshire Council
  • Colin McRae, Dundee City Council
  • Duncan Thomson, Glasgow City Council
  • Amanda Callaghan, SG

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductions

CAS opened the meeting and welcomed participants.

2. Note of previous meeting and action log

The group was content with the note of the previous meeting.

Action log:

Action 9 Engage with Police Scotland  – PHS have emailed PS to make strategic links, have received acknowledgement, and will continue to engage with them. SG had also contacted PS regarding working with them on messaging, such as through local FB groups, etc.  PHS will follow up with PS and also liaise with SG and Shelter Scotland.

Action 104 DHPs – SG DHP team to provide written update.

Action 107 Queries for Minister – Will be discussed at next Chairs meeting with Minister and will then update at next PRS meeting.

Action 118 resilience planning – COSLA Community Wellbeing Board met on 22 January and discussions included what will happen at the end of the eviction ban.  COSLA will be in further discussions with SG regarding this issue.

SG issued email re winter warmer payment, with the first 1000 people who clicked the button receiving £50.  What was the rationale behind this? SG will check.

Action 119 Section 11 notices – data use to be collected but there is now no central collation across the sector.  Shelter Scotland will discuss this with their statistician.

Action 121 NRPF – SG to check with colleagues.  COSLA advised have also been working on NRPF, so will check their papers and see if can provide an update.

Action 124 SWF – had discussion at previous meeting and SG don’t have the powers to change this.

Action 131 PRS Toolkit – SG THLF team are taking forward work to update the toolkit one more time.  SG to confirm timescales. Please contact SG THLF team with any amendments/suggestions.

Action 134 Newsletters – these newsletters are a useful opportunity to contact tenants and landlords in the PRS however some LAs don’t have the resources to produce a newsletter. SG will discuss with colleague regarding engaging with LA leads and any standard practice which could be shared with other LAs.  Would also be useful to know which LAs don’t have a newsletter and how the PRS is functioning in those LAs?  SG will contact the Landlord Regulations Team to see if anything can share.

3. Discussion of the Terms of Reference

Updated Tor circulated to the group.

Comments:

  • Members agreed that the PRS is still on emergency footing.
  • There were existing long standing issues before the pandemic which could potentially be addressed through Hto2040.
  • Group could consider moving to monthly meetings, with email discussions     in ­­between these meetings. SG will raise at the next Ministers meeting.  
  • Suggestion was made that the Housing Sector Recovery Workplan could be utilised by all three resilience groups.
  • SG will raise with the Minister whether, with the departure of SAL and Propertymark, the name should be changed to the PRS Tenants Resilience Group.
  • Membership list to be updated on the ToR. 
  • PHS suggested a further iteration of wording: Further understanding and identifying opportunities to support tenants most at risk of insecure housing and homelessness.

Action 145: CAS will update the ToR and circulate final draft.

Action 146: SG will discuss with the Minister the suggestion to hold the PRS meetings monthly. SG will liaise with the Minister regarding the name of the group.

4. Feedback on draft letters to Secretary of State

Group were content with the text for the letters to UK government on No Recourse to Public Funds and also on welfare asks.

Action 147: Members to check with their organisation regarding sign off for these letters, to confirm by cop Friday 29 January.

5. Any follow up actions/comments from group on the HPC report

Comments:

  • Important to have information regarding tenants experiences, especially when so many tenants are not represented.
  • PHS offered to scope out what a potential project on tenants experiences might look like and will discuss with Shelter Scotland. 
  • Query was raised on whether the right to Access to Justice is included in Housing to 2040?
  • Members interested to know whether there has been anymore discussion about plans to evaluate the PARs?

Action 148:  SG to confirm whether the right to Access to Justice is included in Housing to 2040.

Action 149:  SG to update the group whether there are any plans to evaluate the PARs.

6. The Scottish Government budget

The SG budget and medium term financial strategy for 2021-22 is due on 28 January.

In relation to DHPs, SG will monitor the amount that LAs are spending and if required to be topped up then Ministers might be sympathetic.

Action 150: SG will check whether a budget briefing will be issued.

7. Tenant Hardship Loan Fund

Written update on the THLF was sent to the group.  Additionally, the eligibility criteria has been extended:

  • Pre-Covid arrears -  applications will now be allowed from tenants with arrears prior to the 1st January 2020, however, the amount of loan will only cover the amount of arrears that have occurred after the original cut-off date (1 January 2020). The total amount of loan available remains up to a maximum of 9 months agreed rent.
  • Non-consecutive arrears – applications will now be allowed from those who have non-consecutive arrears.

Comments:

  • The group welcomed the changes to the eligibility criteria.
  • The THLF is receiving applications for non-consecutive periods of rent arrears for a variety of reasons and this indicates the emergency responses tenants are having to make.
  • Concerned about the number of unsuccessful applications and that there has been 58 notices to quit.
  • What plans are in place to monitor how the loan progresses once the tenant starts repaying? The loan prevents evictions at this stage but when repayments begin the tenant might have other financial issues.   What support is available if repaying is causing hardship?
  • Would be keen to have non-repayable options for tenants - would need to consider how this would work in practice and where these funds would come from.
  • Members commented that would also be useful to receive stats regarding the Landlord Loan Fund.

Action 151: SG THLF to provide update to the group

Action 152:  SG to share stats from the Landlord Loan Fund

8. Shelter Scotland renter and mortgage holder research

Shelter Scotland conducted a YouGov survey in December regarding housing costs:

  • One in four are worried about not meeting housing costs in 2021
  • More than 1 in 4 (28%) of renters or mortgage-holders cut back on spending
  • More than 1 in 10 (12%) had skipped meals
  • Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) left the heating off in cold weather.
  • A third (33%) were forced to borrow from their overdrafts or credit cards, or from friends and family to pay landlords, banks and building societies.

9. Scottish Welfare Fund statistics

SG has published data on the SWF, Self-Isolation Support Grant and DHP.

Shelter Scotland shared a compilation of the SWF statistics:

Crisis grants:

  • 22,956 crisis grant applications in Nov, a slight decrease of 34 compared to October 2020, but still 34% higher than for November 2019.
  • £1,619,562 was spent on awards, £122,388 more than the month before and 58% more than in November 2019.

Community care grants:

  • In November 2020 there were 7,949 community care grant applications, 279 less than in October 2020 but still 15% higher than in Nov 2019.
  • Although applications lower, spending was still £343,156 higher than Octobers, at £2,965,609. This is 33% higher than in Nov 2019.

Self-isolation grants:

  • 3,938 applications, and 1,160 awards in November 2020. With a total of £580,000 spent on these.

 

DHPs:

  • From April to Nov 2020 there had been 104,295 applications for DHPs. The number of applications had increased by 6,085 from October to November 2020.
  • There has been a total spend of £69,427,538 for this financial year so far.
  • Applications in Nov 2020, are still only 6% higher than those in Nov 2019, and amount spent still only 13% higher.

Discussion:

  • The number of applications is higher than last year for crisis grants and community care grants.
  • There has been a smaller increase in the number of applications for DHP.
  • Group commented that this may be due to less awareness of DHP rather than a lower need.  Additionally, the rules regarding DHP is complicated.
  • LAs are keen to allocate DHP but what more can be done to assist them? COSLA advised they previously worked on a paper with LAs so will revisit.

Action 153:  COSLA will revisit paper they worked on with LAs regarding DHPs

10. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be in a fortnight and will consider then the frequency of these meetings.

Action 154:  Group to consider the frequency of the PRS meetings