Publication - Minutes

Private Rented Sector Resilience Group minutes: 26 October 2020

Published: 18 Nov 2020
Date of meeting: 26 Oct 2020
Date of next meeting: 9 Nov 2020

Minutes of the 26 October meeting of the Private Rented Sector Resilience Group.

Published:
18 Nov 2020
Private Rented Sector Resilience Group minutes: 26 October 2020

Attendees and apologies

In attendance:

  • Daryl McIntosh, Propertymark
  • Debbie King, Shelter Scotland
  • Duncan Thomson, Glasgow City Council
  • Emma Anderson, North Ayrshire Council
  • John Blackwood, Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) – chair
  • Laura Caven, COSLA
  • Michael Tornow, Public Health Scotland
  • Nina Ballantyne, Citizen Advice Scotland (CAS)
  • Tony Cain, ALACHO
  • Superintendent Tim Ross, Police Scotland – Guest for illegal evictions discussion
  • Denise Buchanan, SG
  • Katie Chan, SG
  • Mandy Brown (secretariat)
  • Paul McGillivray, SG
  • Yvette Sheppard, SG
  • Yvonne Gavan, SG
  • Pauline Torley, SG – for DHP
  • Aileen Harding, SG – for NRPF

Apologies:

  • Katrina Reid, Public Health Scotland
  • Lisa Mallon, City of Edinburgh Council
  • Alice Tooms-Moore, Shelter Scotland
  • Colin McRae, Dundee City Council
  • Bob Drummond-Murray, SG
  • Charlotte McHaffie, SG
  • Scott Boyd, SG
  • Amanda Callaghan, SG
  • Catriona McKean, SG
  • Diane Lambie, SG
  • Mark Cooper, SG
  • Simon Roberts, SG

Items and actions

1. Welcome from the Chair

SAL opened the meeting and welcomed participants.

2. Note of previous meeting and action log

Amendment to item 5:

Shelter Scotland and CAS advised happy to support work around DHPs. Would like to see DHP topped up as required, awareness raised, share good practice, streamline forms and processes.

Action log:

Action 12: Landlord registration - SG will give update on figures at next meeting 

Action 60: reposit schemes - Shelter Scotland have not received any information so far.

SAL advised that not much uptake in Scotland, more prevalent in England.  The tenant pays a week’s rent as fee for insurance policy.  If any damage at end of tenancy the company pays to landlord and the tenant is then pursued for the money.  In England, landlords prefer this as scheme holds the money. There are generally more claims on these policies than traditional TDS schemes.

To be kept as ongoing action

Action 103: Tenant loan affecting credit ratings: SG discussed with contractor and the credit check leaves a footprint which can have impact on credit ratings. However, in terms of the loan SG/contractor will provide no information to any credit checking agencies.  Shelter Scotland advised this needs to be made clear to any tenant applying for this loan.

3. Update from Chairs meeting with Minister

No update as the last Chairs meeting was cancelled.  The next meeting will be 11 November.

4. Tenant Hardship Loan Fund Update

SG are currently working on the eligibility criteria however can share the working assumptions:

  • For PRS and social tenants facing difficulties with rent cost due to Covid
  • Up to 9 months of rent costs will be available with a maximum of 3 months for future rent, subject to consideration of affordability of repayments
  • The period covered will be from 1 Jan 2020 as could potentially have lost employment before Covid but been unable to get another job due to Covid.
  • Any tenant in arrears prior to 1 January won’t be eligible as this fund is part of the emergency response due to Covid
  • Repayment terms will be for five years and repayments will be deferred, although the period before repayments start has still to be agreed. 
  • Will require confirmation of tenants circumstances from landlord as the fund relates to paying rent
  • With regard to the income threshold: SG were asked to consider the student loan approach where repayment is tied to an income threshold.  SG have looked at this but don’t think that approach reflects the circumstances of the THLF.  SG happy to discuss this further with CAS.
  • This will be a one off loan per tenancy agreement/tenant.

Discussion:

CAS queried if in arrears prior to 1 January but a tenant was in the process of paying off the arrears and then slipped back into them,  how would this affect eligibility?  SG advised fund for tenants not in arrears previously but for those who fell into arrears from 1 January. SG will flag this to contractor as can keep terms and conditions under review.

ALACHO queried framework for affordability check.  SG will speak to contractor as standard set of risk thresholds adopted with applied risk criteria.

SG also aware of issues with people not in employment, reduced income or no income but hope to return to previous levels of income – could maybe consider previous income levels prior to Covid? 

SG are still considering whether payment should be made to landlord or tenant.  Need to make sure done safely with the appropriate checks and balances in place so still in discussion.

Tenants won’t be excluded for applying for loan based on DHP.  Can apply even if haven’t got DHP or can apply even if already have DHP.

The fund is due to go live sometime next month, probably towards the end of the month.

SG advised the narrative will be circulated to the group this afternoon and also to the other resilience groups.

Action 109:  please provide any feedback to SG on the THLF and the narrative.

5. DHP Paper and update on SG/COSLA discussions

The team attended the last LAHRG meeting and received good feedback on the DHP discussion paper.  SG provided a quick summary on the feedback from the LAHRG meeting. COSLA are collating other feedback.  SG are also having follow up discussions with COSLA and GCC.  Once gathered all the feedback together will draft an action paper and bring to group for discussion.

SG publish monthly stats on DHPs and the next figures are due to publish 3 November.  Also publish mid-year stats which are due to be available within the next month.  This gives a good indication of pressures within individual LAs.

Discussion:

CAS asked whether DHP can or can’t be used for rent arrears?  SG advised some LAs use DHP for rent arrears and others don’t.  LAs use own discretion but happy to get feedback from LAs.

Shelter Scotland asked what the average length of time to process applications is for each LA?  SG will work with COSLA to check this with the LAs as not information currently hold.

SAL stated if need financial help would DHP be better route as grant not loan, but would loan option be quicker?

Group commented that sounds like GCC are doing well with increased take-up and accessibility, would be good if they are willing to share good practice.

Action 110: SG – once draft action paper ready bring to group for discussion.

Action 111: SG and COSLA will check what the average length of time to process applications is for each LA, and which LAs use DHP for rent arrears

6. Group Discussion:  Illegal Evictions

Police Scotland have done work to remind officers that criminal matter not civil matter. Also discussed with other divisions to review what happening in their areas.  At the control centre the call taker has a flow chart on illegal evictions which Police Scotland advised they will be reviewing. This is the first point of contact so important that get this correct as can influence the other steps.  Guidance is also available for police officers.  Police Scotland have also spoken to Shelter Scotland.  Police Scotland are working on probationer training and would be useful if Shelter Scotland could also review.

Discussion:

Shelter Scotland advised continue to work with Police Scotland to update the relevant information.  There was a joint campaign in 2014.  Shelter Scotland will notify Police Scotland of any cases which they become aware of.

SAL suggested might be useful to delve into the codes at the control centre and see whether any increase in illegal evictions, and also whether in certain areas.

Shelter Scotland advised had 20 cases in North East where their advisors were dealing with the landlord, rather than Police Scotland. With the new powers regarding evictions there’s ongoing work so everyone is kept up to speed. 

CAS asked whether the messaging campaign Shelter Scotland and Police Scotland did previously meant tenants were well informed that criminal matter. Police Scotland advised that happy to consider refreshed advertising on social media channels, etc.

SG  advised that the next round of tenant awareness raising later next month will include a focus on illegal evictions. 

Police Scotland advised happy to engage with Shelter Scotland and other members of the PRS group.  Useful to learn from experiences of the group.  Happy to attend future meetings, as required. Please contact Superintendent Tim Ross with any evidence/identified issues and he can refer to the relevant division.

7. No Recourse to Public Funds

No Recourse to Public Funds is much broader than asylum as also applies to non‑EEA nationals.  This covers a huge range of people, including those studying and people living here but working/supporting themselves.  SG have been working in partnership with COSLA to support those people with NRPF.  In partnership with COSLA published detailed guidance for LAs in 2019.  COSLA have also published supplementary guidance:

In order to help develop the strategy, SG ran workshops last year and were planning to publish this information before summer but due to Covid now hoping to publish in New Year.

Discussion:

CAS advised concerned about students and those that had employment but now lost their job.  SG advised key support due to Covid has been on existing homelessness and rough sleepers.  CAS asked if students would be eligible for the THLF?

SAL advised North East members had migrant workers, with no access to public funds, who were trying to live off welfare fund

SG advised situation more complex for NRPF however they wouldn’t be excluded from applying for THLF although due to affordability criteria unlikely to be successful.  The loan will not fill gap for those who can’t access other funding streams.

Shelter Scotland queried whether the Scottish Welfare Fund could be used to cover rent arrears?  SG advised this is not possible due to the list of excluded public funds available to those with NRPF in the UK Immigration Act.  Scottish ministers have been calling for UK government to lift NRPF restrictions. SG have been exploring whether any movement to SWF. In Wales and Northern Ireland have also been exploring what they can do as well. 

SG advised happy to stay in touch and update the group. Please get in contact if have any other queries on NRPF.

8. Group Terms of Reference

Draft document was circulated at last meeting.  CAS advised not received any further comments since this meeting.  CAS will update and if no objections then this will be the agreed ToR.   SG can then publish the ToR on the SG website alongside the notes.

Group are content to review membership and chairing on 6 monthly basis.  Group felt that SG should be responsible for membership, since this group was set up by SG, and members can contribute to any recommended changes.  Group discussed having representatives from ethnic minorities and also tenant representatives.  Suggestion was made that might be preferable to bring in people/groups for specific areas of work.

Group discussed the chairing and the co-chairing works well as shares the workload.  Group also felt it was a good balance having tenant and landlord representatives alternating the chairing of the meetings.   Shelter Scotland advised happy to step in and help as and when required.

SG will setup a contact email address for the Group, to be made available on the SG website page where the minutes and papers for the Group are published.  

SG advised have meeting with Minister tomorrow so will raise the queries from the PRS group on action 107: how Minister and SG takes forward recommendations from group?  Has our work to date been included in updated version of Housing Sector Recovery Work Plan?  Can SG develop a more detailed reporting mechanism for what the group has changed/achieved? SG will also discuss membership with the Minister. An update will then be given at next Chairs meeting and then report back to the PRS group.

Action 112:  CAS/SG will send ToR and get update from members on their views regarding chairs/membership

9. Any other business

HMO Licensing – SAL aware that issue with landlords applying for new licenses.  Landlords are being told will take a while before can get new licence so can’t let empty rooms/properties in the meantime since don’t have licence.

Action 113: All LA representatives to check with their department what the status is with new HMO licences, SAL will check with ALACHO.

10. Date and Time of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Monday 9 November from 2pm until 4pm.