The Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 introduced the Scottish Social Housing Charter (the Charter). The Charter focuses on improving the quality and value of services provided by landlords across Scotland and sets the standards and outcomes that social housing landlords should be achieving for their tenants and other customers. The Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) monitors and reports on landlord performance against the Charter based on a series of Charter indicators which they collect.
The Scottish Government has given a commitment to review the Charter every five years; it was last reviewed in 2017 and is currently undergoing a further review, with the aim of implementing the revised Charter in 2022. As part of the current review, the Scottish Government (SG) launched a formal consultation in June 2021; and held a number of virtual stakeholder consultation events, facilitated by TPAS (Tenant Participation and Advisory Service) and TIS (Tenants Information Service) who also undertook a range of tailored "Involving All" consultation events among a range of stakeholders across Scotland. Consultation sessions were also held by ALACHO (Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers), NETRALT (North East Tenants, Residents and Landlords Together) and COSLA.
The consultation closed at the beginning of September 2021 and received a total of 86 responses.
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A number of key themes were evident across questions as well as across respondent groups, although each was mentioned by a minority of respondents. These are summarised below.
- The views of organisations responding to this consultation were, in the main, more positive than those of individual tenants. From the responses given, it would appear that individual tenants were unhappy with the service received from their landlords rather than being dissatisfied with the Charter specifically.
- Across most of the 16 outcomes, respondents wanted to keep them exactly as they are. The exception was for Outcome 4 – Quality of Housing – where more respondents would like this to change; there were also relatively split views as to whether Outcome 6 – Estate Management, Anti-Social Behaviour, Neighbour Nuisance and Tenancy Disputes – should change or remain as it is.
- Views on the impact of the current Charter were largely positive, although a number of the individual tenants responding to this consultation were less positive than organisations.
- A few respondents wanted to see an emphasis on human rights and the 'right to housing' for all individuals incorporated into the Charter; allied to this, there were some references of a need to treat all tenants equally and with respect in terms of access to housing and housing services.
- There were calls for any information provided to be accessible to all individuals; both in terms of the language used and availability. While there may be a preference from some individuals to use digital means of accessing information, this is not the case for all. As such, some individual tenants would like information to be presented in a range of different formats, utilising a range of different information channels.
- While communication is seen to have improved over the last five years, some respondents felt that the quality of this is variable, with some respondents wanting to see further improvements, both in terms of the amount of communication from landlords and the different communication channels that are used. Allied to this, there were some requests for contact information on landlords so that when queries arise, individual tenants know who to contact.
- Some respondents pointed to the need for transparency, independent monitoring and investigation, and complaints resolution. There were also some requests for enforcement of the Charter when landlords fail to meet commitments.
- There were calls for the Charter to be updated across all relevant policy areas, including EESSH2, Housing to 2040, the Heat in Buildings Strategy and the recommendations of the ZEST taskforce.
- There were a few calls for clarity over some of the terms and definitions used in the Charter; for example, what constitutes 'value for money' or what is covered by service rent.
Impact of the current Charter (Q1)
Most respondents answering this question felt the quality of landlord services has improved because of the Charter. Key improvements have included tenant satisfaction levels, responsiveness to tenants' needs, better communication from staff, and increased landlord accountability and transparency. The Annual Return (ARC) is perceived as having provided a consistent framework for all social landlords to work towards, as well as benchmarking their performance. The establishment of Tenant Scrutiny Panels is felt to be a positive move.
The few respondents who were negative about the impact of the current Charter were mostly individual tenants, some of whom felt there has been no or little improvement. Some of these respondents also identified a lack of opportunities to have their views taken into account.
Main Findings: Current Outcomes and Standards
Equalities (Charter outcome 1) (Q2)
There was widespread agreement that this outcome should be kept exactly as it is. A key issue emerging to this question was of a need to include housing as a human right and there were a few references of a need to treat all tenants equally and with respect in terms of access to housing and housing services.
There were a small number of references to the need for enforcement of the Charter and to the need to ensure that positive changes introduced by the pandemic are recognised and built upon.
Communication (Charter outcome 2) (Q3)
A majority of respondents supported keeping this outcome exactly as it is. While there was general agreement that communication has improved, some individual tenants were unhappy with the quality and level of communication they receive from their landlords. There were some references to the wording of the outcome as being too vague.
A key issue raised by respondents was a need for a broad range of communication channels, comprising both digital and non-digital formats, to be utilised, to meet the needs of tenants. Linked to this, there were also requests for all information to be accessible and for contact information on staff. A few respondents highlighted the need for transparency, independent monitoring and investigation and complaints resolution.
Participation (Charter outcome 3) (Q4)
A majority of respondents wanted this outcome to be kept exactly as it is; this view was particularly strong among local authorities. Again, there were some references to the need for enforcement of this outcome and for the indicators that are used to measure this outcome to be expanded and for language used to be accessible to all tenants. There were also some calls for clarity in definitions.
Main Findings: Housing Quality and Maintenance
Quality of Housing (Charter outcome 4) (Q5)
A higher number of respondents outlined a need for change to this outcome, than for keeping it as it is; organisations were more supportive of change than individuals. The key change outlined by respondents was for the outcome to reflect EESSH2. Respondents also outlined various other changes to be incorporated into the Standard; these included ARC reporting regarding SHQS and EESSH, the Heat in Buildings Strategy, the recommendations of the ZEST taskforce, Housing in 2040, the Scottish Accessible Homes Standard, fire safety, green energy and zero carbon.
A key issue for individual tenants was the need for enhanced repairs and maintenance of properties, prior to and during a tenancy.
Repairs, Maintenance and Improvements (Charter outcome 5) (Q6)
A majority of respondents supported keeping this outcome as it is. Comments from individual tenants included the need to involve tenants and to take their preferences into account. Again, there were references to the need to update this outcome to reflect legislative changes such as EESSH2, ZEST recommendations and so on.
Main Findings: Neighbourhood and Community
Estate management, anti-social behaviour, neighbour nuisance and tenancy disputes (Charter outcome 6) (Q7)
Slightly greater numbers of respondents supported change than wanted to keep this outcome exactly as it is. A number of comments referred to improved partnership working. There were also references to the role played by other organisations in that there will be occasions when the landlord will not be responsible for dealing with a specific issue. Once again, there were a few references to the need for enforcement.
There were some comments in favour of splitting this outcome into two.
Main Findings: Access to Housing and Support
Housing Options (Charter Outcomes 7, 8 and 9) (Q8)
A majority of respondents wanted to keep this outcome exactly as it is. Key comments were that the sections about getting information and homelessness advice need to be strengthened. A few respondents raised issues over the practical applications of these outcomes, citing a lack of resources, limited capacity of local authority housing options teams, a lack of places where individuals can access tailored advice, and problematic delivery to clients with language, reading or computer skills issues. There were also requests for more about property health checks, and the need for these to be regular and conducted by trained individuals.
Access to Housing (Charter outcome 10) (Q9)
A majority of respondents were in favour of keeping the outcome exactly as it is. The key issue was of a need to ensure there are reasonable opportunities for all people, to get into social housing. A few respondents felt this outcome fails to happen in practice.
Tenancy Sustainment (Charter outcome 11) (Q10)
A large majority of respondents were in favour of keeping this outcome as it is; a large minority of whom wanted more references to be made to health or other vulnerability issues necessitating extra tenancy sustainment support. A small number of respondents noted a need for more emphasis on obligations to monitor tenancy sustainment, including the reasons for failures. A few respondents felt that tenancy sustainment support does not happen in practice; and there were also a few requests for early or timely support.
Homeless People (Charter outcome 12) (Q11)
A large majority of respondents were in favour of keeping this outcome as it is; although there were comments about a need to include or emphasise the importance of more speed within the rehousing system. A minority of respondents wanted to see greater priority given to the prevention of homelessness, to reduce the number of applicants for homelessness support or to support sustaining tenancies in line with the Housing First Model. Several respondents felt there should be more coverage given to the duties, actions or obligations of RSLs or Housing Associations.
Main Findings: Getting Good Value from Rents and Service Charges
Value for Money (Charter outcome 13) (Q12)
A majority of respondents were in favour of keeping this outcome as it is. A key comment from respondents was complaints about rents or a perceived lack of value for money; along with queries on what constitutes value for money, which can be a subjective term and can be interpreted differently by landlords and tenants.
Rents and Service Charges (Charter outcomes 14 and 15) (Q13)
Once again, a majority of respondents were in favour of keeping this outcome as it is. The main theme raised by respondents was the need for clarity, transparency and accessibility of expenditure and income information. There were also some requests for this outcome to be more prescriptive in terms of how landlords should consult their tenants on rents. There were some comments from individual tenants implying that this outcome is not successfully delivered in practice and some felt there is a lack of clarity about what services rent covers. As such, there were some requests for a consistent rent-setting approach across the social housing sector; also for higher levels of tenant representation at all stages of rent consultations and reviews.
Main Findings: Other Customers
Gypsies / Travellers (Charter outcome 16) (Q14)
A large majority of respondents were in favour of keeping this outcome as it is. In general, comments referred to the need to ensure more sites are available.
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