Publication - Minutes

Private Rented Sector Resilience Group minutes: 28 September 2020

Published: 19 Oct 2020
Date of meeting: 28 Sep 2020

Minutes of the 28 September meeting of the Private Rented Sector Resilience Group.

Published:
19 Oct 2020
Private Rented Sector Resilience Group minutes: 28 September 2020

Attendees and apologies

In attendance:

  • Alice Tooms-Moore, Shelter Scotland
  • Daryl McIntosh, Propertymark
  • Debbie King, Shelter Scotland
  • Emma Anderson, North Ayrshire Council
  • John Blackwood, Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) – chair
  • Lisa Mallon, City of Edinburgh Council
  • Tony Cain, ALACHO
  • Charlotte McHaffie, SG
  • Denise Buchanan, SG
  • Katie Chan, SG
  • Mark Cooper, SG
  • Scott Boyd, SG
  • Debbie Horne CAS
  • Michael Tornow PHS
  • David Manderson SG

Apologies:

  • Nina Ballantyne, Citizen Advice Scotland (CAS)
  • Paul McGillivray, SG
  • Mandy Brown, SG
  • Yvette Sheppard, SG
  • Diane Lambie, SG
  • Colin McRae, Dundee City Council
  • Duncan Thomson, Glasgow City Council
  • Simon Roberts, SG
  • Yvonne Gavan, SG
  • Amanda Callaghan
  • Laura Cavan, COSLA
  • Bob Drummond-Murray, SG
  • Catriona McKean, SG
  • Katrina Reid, Public Health Scotland

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductions

SAL 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, and content to have the note of the meeting published.

Action log: The action log was agreed.

Action 95: SG agreed to update the group on dates for housing actions in the programme for Government as they became available.

3. Short Term Lets Update

SG gave a presentation on the consultation on short term lets

Following a consultation earlier this year it was decided to bring forward work on planning and licensing.  The consultation is looking for comments to ensure the licensing scheme is as good as possible.  

The consultation looks at three models:

  • Home sharing – letting out a spare room
  • Letting a home when absent
  • Secondary letting – letting a home where you do not normally reside

Criteria for licensing:

  • Let must be residential
  • Has to be part of a house or a serviced apartment
  • Has to be temporary
  • The let has to be commercial
  • Excludes immediate family
  • Excludes unconventional dwellings that have no impact on housing supply (e.g. caravans which have a separate licensing scheme and pods etc.)

If an area is designated as a control area secondary lets will be a material change and will need permission (similar to planning consent in conservation areas)  All STLs will need a licence and there will be mandatory conditions for safety and local authorities can add discretionary conditions, e.g. noise nuisance, depending on local conditions.

Local authorities can set fees to cover 100% of the costs of licensing, monitoring and enforcement.  They can consider tiered fees, for example renting a room would have less impact than renting a whole property.

Licences should be renewed every three years and there are fines of £200 - £5,000 for non-compliance.

The statutory instrument will be laid in Parliament in December. Local authorities will have until 1 April 2021 to introduce the regulations and then have to implement the regulations from 1 April 2022. All STLs have to be licensed by 31 March 2024.

The deadline for consultation responses is 16 October 2020.  The enforcement process will be similar to the HMO enforcement process.    SG is keen to explore how fire safety will work.

The approach to deciding on the location of control zones will be similar to deciding on conservation areas based on consultation by local authorities and an application to Ministers. SG will develop guidance in consultation with local authorities.

Local authorities will have powers to revoke or suspend a licence if there is non – compliance with a request to resolve an issue.  

The Chair thanked SG for the presentation.

Action 96  North Ayrshire and Edinburgh group members will discuss with the relevant teams in their authority and feedback to the group. Any further queries or comments can be passed to SG.

4. Scottish Consolidated Advice Note

This item was held over for a future meeting

5. Pre-Action Protocols Guidance

The Pre Action Protocols were passed by Parliament on 23 September, and are still to be signed by the Minister.

Guidance for the pre Action Protocols is in the final stages and SG hopes to publish it on the SG website in approximately two weeks.  Any comments from the group on last minute typos and any comments on strengthening the model letters would be appreciated, but SG is not looking for extensive comments at this stage.

SG hopes to have guidance in place in time for any cases going to the Tribunal for 7 October, however, transitional arrangements mean that landlords cannot be expected to follow the protocol before it was in place.

Tribunal members will have training on the protocols this week.

Noted that the aim of the pre action protocols is to avoid eviction and to resolve arrears before taking action.

Action 97: Any comments on model letters or errors to SG as soon as possible,

6. Discussion Focus: Funding for Tenants

1 Tenant Hardship Loan Fund update

SG thanked the group for their helpful responses to the proposals for a Tenant Hardship Loan Fund.

The tenant hardship fund, like the Landlord Covid -19 loan fund, is part of a package of support measures for the PRS across the Scottish Government. The tenant hardship loan fund is interest free and has no specific target group, other than people outwith the scope of Universal credit.  The timescales for implementing the loan are challenging, with the first milestone being the launch of the fund. SG will continue to monitor the experience of the PRS. 

Discussion

Shelter Scotland do not support the loan fund and expressed preference to explore grant funding, and are concerned that loan debt may follow people around.  Shelter Scotland also asked for confirmation that tenants’ rights are not affected if they take out a loan, e.g.  whether this would be taken into account by the First Tier Tribunal.

PHS asked about feedback on comments provided, SG offered feedback on comments made, either individually or to provide an overall response.

ALACHO asked if any research had been carried out on client groups and if so would like to see this.  ALACHO also noted the need for a clear proposal for evaluation and diligence and clarity on debt collection processes. In response to a query on whether there had been any liaison with the Welsh Government, SG confirmed that there had been discussions and noted that the Welsh Government was administering the loan through Credit Unions, while SG will use a contractor.

SAL commented that while it would be better for a tenant to access the SG loan than use a payday loan or similar, there are still concerns that tenants would take on debt, and that grants may be more suitable.

Action 98: SG would welcome additional comments, particularly the views of advisers from advice agencies.

2. Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs)         

The group discussed a paper on DHPs completed by CAS and Shelter Scotland.

The key issues in the paper were:

Lack of awareness of DHPs

Need for an awareness campaign about DHPs

Disparity between local authorities on how to apply for DHPs during the pandemic e.g. online or paper applications.

Disparity on processing times between local authorities, between four weeks and six months.

Discussion

SAL observed that there are some concerns about the lack of applications for DHPs.

It was noted that there can be quarterly discrepancies and questioned whether local authorities may be protecting and balancing budgets. It was suggested that if SG confirmed that funding for DHPs would be topped up as necessary until 2021 this could encourage local authorities to make more awards a t a higher rate.

North Ayrshire advised that DHP applications are not any higher than before COVID.  Post Meeting Note – It is our view that this is a result of earned income being affected as a result of COVID, which has passported applicants to full housing and council tax reduction rather than any issues with the application process.

The system for DHPs is not an easy one for local authorities to use and tenants also have to navigate the Universal Credit and housing benefit systems.  Streamlining systems would be useful to allow everyone the same kind of access.

SG and COSLA are working on DHPS.  Shelter Scotland would like to link into this work. 

Action 99: SG will come back to the group with an update on DHPs.

7. Update from Chairs meeting with Minister

Action 100: Any issues or comments from the report on the Chairs meeting with Minister to either of the Chairs of the group. 

8. Terms of Reference

Shelter Scotland and CAS to discuss the terms of reference for the PRS Resilience Group and feedback to the next meeting.

Focus on short to medium term goals

How the work of the group fits with the PfG and the work of other groups and how this is fed back to the Minister.

Useful to see the objectives, terms of reference and scope from other resilience groups and the Policy Circle.

SG noted that the Minister has valued the discussions and direct feedback from the Chairs as well as the involvement of Shelter Scotland and CAS.  There is still a significant role for the group and while we are some way from recovery, need to look at what we can change and retain from the emergency response moving back to normality.

SAL noted that the Minister is keen to continue the Resilience groups.

Action 101: Shelter Scotland and CAS to produce a paper on the Terms of reference for the group for the next meeting.

9. Any other business

Action 102:  SG to rearrange a contribution on the Scottish Consolidated Advice Note for the next meeting.

Shelter Scotland has passed on the contact for Police Scotland to the PRS Resilience chairs and Scottish Government for the contact to be invited by SG/chairs to a meeting. The police contact has confirmed that he is happy to be invited to a meeting.  

SG thanked CAS for agreeing to continue to host virtual meetings. SG online platform for hosting should be available by mid – November.

 

10. Date and Time of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Monday 12 October from 2pm until 4pm.