PART 1: WHAT INFORMATION SHOULD BE CONTAINED WITHIN A PACK
The Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Act 2011 gives Ministers the power to specify the documents that must be provided in a TIP, through secondary legislation. It is proposed that this might include documents containing information about:
- the tenancy
- the house
- the landlord
- the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.
However, it is recognised that good information may already be available to tenants and the new TIP is not intended to replace this, but to provide a minimum standard of information available across the whole sector. It is also intended that the Government strikes an appropriate balance between giving tenants the information they need whilst not overloading them with large quantities of complex documents.
Q1: Do you agree that the following information should be included in a pack about the tenancy?
- The difference between assured and short assured tenancies?
- What an AT5 form is?
- What to do if you want to end a tenancy?
Q2: Please list any other types of information you think should be included about the tenancy.
Difference between assured and short assured tenancies
2.1 Participants in focus groups, the interviewees and written consultees generally supported the inclusion of information on the type of tenancy in the TIP. It was remarked that some leases do not make the type of tenancy clear. One written consultee (LA) suggested that leases should state simply and upfront which type of tenancy is operating. For several of the tenants and a few of the small landlords, the information provided was new to them and useful.
2.2 The majority view in focus groups and amongst interviewees was that the TIP should provide information on only the tenancy type relevant to the tenant receiving the TIP, in most cases a short assured tenancy. This contrasted with the majority view amongst written consultees for including details of both types of tenancy.
2.3 The main argument against including both short assured and assured tenancies was that this could create confusion. Comments included:
"For people who don't understand that there are different types of tenancies or for people for whom English is not their first language, this could be quite confusing" (agent 2).
"We are just little landlords - we don't need any hassle so things need to be very clear" (small landlords)
"We believe that it could be confusing for some tenants to be given the information about both tenancies in the information pack. The way the information is currently presented leaves the tenant to read over the information and work out which type of tenancy applies to them. We believe it might be less confusing for tenants if 2 separate information packs were created, one for each type of tenancy" (Oth).
Other arguments in favour of removing reference to assured tenancies were:
- will make the document briefer (tenants)
- will reduce the likelihood of a tenant arguing that they had an assured tenancy (small landlords)
- reduces "clutter" in the document (Rep).
2.4 Arguments in favour of including information on both types of tenancy included:
- makes the process more transparent (LA)
- to educate tenants and landlords (LA)
- even if a tenant does not have an assured tenancy it is still relevant for them to know about them (LA).
One consultee (Agent) suggested a compromise of including a full explanation of short assured tenancies, but briefer details on assured tenancies. 2 consultees (both individual respondents) recommended that it be made clear that the short assured tenancy is just one form of an assured tenancy and the rules applying to the latter are also applicable.
Other comments on the information on type of tenancy
2.6 A few of the student tenants considered the use of the word "home" in the bullet points under "Assured Tenancy" to be potentially ambiguous, particularly for foreign students.
"This should be explained - that this is possible and what happens at the end of a joint tenancy. For example, if someone passes away does the tenancy pass to the surviving partner or not?" (large landlord 3)
One agent noted that a type of tenancy which they used, that of joint and several liability, was omitted from this section.
2.8 A few participants queried the placement of the information on "Grounds for repossession" under the "Assured Tenancy" section, arguing that it would be more logical to place it under "Ending the Tenancy". One agent praised in particular the web link to the full details of the grounds and the procedure to be followed.
Inclusion of information on the AT5 form
2.9 The inclusion of reference to the AT5 form and the link to the sample form was well received overall. Only 2 (Ind; Agent) of the written consultees stated specifically that they did not favour its inclusion.
2.10 A few of the student tenants claimed not to have heard of the AT5 form previously. Calls were made (Oth; Agent) for more information on its purpose.
2.11 The section on Tenancy Agreement was given much praise from focus group participants. Tenants including students in particular liked what they perceived to be a checklist format which gave them confidence about what to look out for in their lease, and a yardstick against which they could assess whether their landlord was meeting requirements. One commented:
"It reassures me that my landlord is genuine" (tenant).
Another remarked that this section made the lease seem less complicated than they had originally thought. The potential usefulness of this information prompted debate amongst tenants as to the most helpful time to be provided with the TIP. The consensus was that it seemed logical to have details of what the lease should contain prior to signing the lease.
2.12 One large landlord queried why "Tenancy Agreement" and "Ending the Tenancy", were both subheadings within a section titled "Types of Tenancy".
2.13 Many suggestions were made in written responses as to other types of information which could be included about tenancies:
- good practice on dealing with abandoned tenancies
- duty of care for tenant and landlord to maintain safety devices and safety provisions in an effective working order
- unfair fees and charges/charges which can legally be levied
- list of termination rights
- information on the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP)
- where to seek advice on housing costs including benefit payments
- within the tenancy agreement section: property address; emergency contacts; access arrangements for landlords and agents; management arrangements including inspection visits; information on type of tenancy; information on whether a HMO licence applies; occupancy arrangements; responsibility for household bills; local amenities; responsibilities regarding cleaning; how to report repairs.
2.14 Other pertinent comments were:
- It should be made clear that landlords may provide their own style of lease which is still legally binding (Ind).
- It could be helpful for the tenancy agreement to make clear what information is obligatory and what is additional (Rep).
- It should be highlighted that a lease is a contract between the tenant and the landlord and not between the tenant and the agent (Agent).
- There should be an emphasis on the legality of the tenancy agreement, with encouragement to seek legal advice if there are queries (Rep).
- Even if the tenant has not been provided with a lease they should be made aware that they still have rights and should be advised on what to do to acquire a lease (Oth).
Ending the Tenancy
2.15 There was much support for the inclusion in the TIP of information about ending a tenancy. Only 5 (2 Individuals; 2 Agents and one Other) of the written consultees opposed its inclusion, their main argument being that different tenancy agreements stipulate different arrangements and duplication in the TIP could create confusion.
2.16 A few of the written consultees (Legal; LA; Rep) urged that more recognition is given to the differences between the types of tenancies in terms of how they end. The information provided was seen to refer to short assured tenancies only.
2.17 The prevailing view from large landlords and agents interviewed was that this section required further work to enhance its clarity. Two main concerns emerged repeatedly in both the interviews and in the written responses:
- There needs to be clearer advice that if the tenant leaves the property before the duration stipulated by their short assured tenancy, then they are still wholly responsible for paying the rent and the good order of that property for the length of the tenancy.
- The section on minimum notice needs to make it clearer that a tenant cannot simply give 40 days or 28 days notice if they still have longer than that left of their short assured tenancy period.
One large landlord suggested that clarity could be enhanced by providing examples. This landlord highlighted what they perceived to be the vagueness of phrases like "coincide with agreed termination date" and recommended that a specific example along the lines, "so for a short assured tenancy that began on this date, and ended on this date, then this notice is required....." could help to minimise any confusion.
2.18 Other information highlighted for inclusion in relation to ending tenancies included:
- More information on the formal notices (notice to quit; AT6; s33), what they are, how they should be served, what they need to contain (LA).
- If the lease stipulates what will happen at the end of the initial short assured tenancy term then automatic renewal will not necessarily apply (Legal).
- State more clearly that the landlord is entitled to terminate the short assured tenancy at the end of the contractual period (Legal).
- Include information about tacit relocation (LA; Rep).
- What constitutes unlawful eviction and how to seek advice on this (LA).
2.19 A recurring theme in the written responses was that although the TIP clearly had to be accessible and simple, this should not be at the expense of providing accurate, legal information. One comment was:
"It should be noted that by producing this document and making it a statutory requirement to supply it, many consumers will afford it authoritative status" (Legal).
Several of the written respondents highlighted areas which they perceived to be inaccurate, the most common being that notice AT6 no longer needs to be served to end a short assured tenancy (s33 notice suffices) unless there is a breach of the tenancy agreement.
2.20 A common theme amongst interviewees was that some of the information duplicated that contained in the lease. There were mixed views on whether this was helpful:
"The more opportunity there is to read this information the more likely it is that it will be understood" (agent 1).
"It doesn't bode well to bombard people with the same information written in different ways. This can create confusion" (agent 2).
2.21 One suggestion was for the information on different tenancies to be presented in diagrammatic format (LA). Another local authority respondent suggested heading the section "before a tenancy starts", followed by the procedures which landlords and tenants should undertake at this stage.
2.22 Another suggestion was for the TIP to contain templates of the different notices referred to (LA).
2.23 One consultee (Rep) called for information to be inserted on the additional rights that disabled people have with regard to the tenancies and the protection provided by the Equality Act 2010.
- There was broad support for the inclusion of information on the type of tenancy in the TIP.
- Views were mixed on whether the TIP should provide information only on the type of tenancy relevant to the recipient.
- The inclusion of reference to the AT5 form was well received.
- The section on Tenancy Agreement was praised in particular by tenants who liked the bulleted, checklist style format.
- Suggestions were made for additional items about tenancies to include in the TIP.
- There was much support for the inclusion of information about ending a tenancy in the TIP. However, calls were made for improvements in the clarity of the relevant section.
- Some written respondents suggested that further work is required before the TIP achieves an acceptable balance between being accessible and simple, yet also conveying accurate, legal information.
3. INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROPERTY
Q3: Do you agree that the following information should be included in a pack about the property?
- Gas and electrical safety
- Energy Performance Certificate
- Council tax information
- Permitted level of occupancy
- Repairing standard
3.1 Forty-six of the 80 written respondents from a range of sectors gave broad support to the inclusion of such information in the TIP. Typical comments were:
"This information will make tenants aware of the standard that the property must meet and assist them in increasing their understanding of the safeguards in place to protect them. The proposed pack covers all areas of importance" (LA).
"It is extremely useful to include the proposed information about the property. For most students who move into a shared flat during their first few years at university it will be their first time living in private rented accommodation and they will be completely unfamiliar with some of this" (Rep).
Other written respondents supported the inclusion of particular aspects of the information. Two respondents (Legal; Ind) argued that the pack should signpost to the relevant information which can be found elsewhere, rather than host the information itself.
Gas and electrical safety
3.2 Few substantive comments were made by written consultees or by participants in focus groups and interviews on the inclusion of the section on gas safety other than to caution that including the hyperlink to the Health and Safety Executive could "overload" the document (agent 3), and contact with the relevant local authority should be encouraged if the necessary checks appear to have been overlooked (LA).
3.3 Suggested additions were:
- When the gas safety certificate needs to be reviewed (large landlord 1, Oth).
- How to get a copy of the gas safety certificate and how to read it (large landlord 1, HA).
- Specify that it is in the best interests of the tenant to allow access for gas safety to be checked (agent 4).
3.4 There were mixed views from a range of written consultees and participants in focus groups and interviews alike on the inclusion of information about testing electrical appliances, considering that this is not a legislative requirement. Whereas some agents and landlords welcomed this information as representing good standards, others felt that this could create difficulties for landlords who were not required by law to undertake such tests. One written consultee expressed a common view thus:
"Whilst it may be a benefit to have a PAT, given that it is not a statutory requirement it seems inappropriate to include this here. The TIP should be a reflection of the present legal position and not used as an attempt to implement standards of best practice on a statutory basis" (Legal).
3.5 Student tenants and other tenants also considered the wording to be contradictory, on the one hand stipulating that landlords must ensure electrical wiring and appliances are safe, and on the other stating that responsible landlords only will carry out tests on appliances and hold safety certificates. Some, however, argued for retention of this section on the grounds that this would prompt them to query whether electrical testing had been done when looking at properties in future. Student tenants suggested that the wording be changed along the lines of:
"Some landlords will carry out testing of electrical appliances. Ask your landlord about this."
3.6 One large landlord suggested making clearer the distinction between testing wiring (which they understood to be mandatory) and testing appliances (which is not a legislative requirement). One agent also proposed alternative wording to aid clarity:
"Electrical testing is not mandatory but best business practice suggests that credible landlords and agents will have these tests done" (agent 2).
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
3.7 The inclusion of a separate section on the EPC received little support from landlords large or small nor from agents. The majority of those who responded had failed to recognise that the provision of an EPC was a legal requirement and that the costs must be borne by the building owner. The majority had never investigated the potential of installing energy efficiency measures, and had reported that tenants showed little interest in this topic. This view was backed up by the lack of interest in this aspect of the TIP displayed by tenant participants in the focus groups. Landlords perceived the cost of producing the certificate to be prohibitive, with small landlords suggesting that if they got this done they would need to pass on the costs to their tenants. One suggestion was to subsume this section under general electrical safety issues.
3.8 Few written consultees addressed the issue of inclusion of the EPC. Whilst one (Oth) strongly supported the inclusion of this information on the grounds that private rented dwellings tend to have poor energy efficiency and relatively high energy bills, others argued that this represented unwanted bureaucracy (Ind; Ind), and the display of the EPC within properties should suffice (LA; Agent).
Council tax information
3.9 There was agreement across all sectors that this section should be included in the TIP. Landlords reported this as being a confusing area for students; student tenants welcomed the information, one stating that this emphasised that responsibility lay with the tenant to find out about exemptions rather than leaving this to the landlord.
3.10 Suggested additions were:
- Need to make clearer where to seek advice if students and non-students share a tenancy (student tenants):
"I went to the estate agent and on-line to try to find the information but it was too general. I couldn't find the information I needed. There is information about what students have to pay, and what non-students have to pay, but not about when there is a mix" (student tenant).
- Explain what Revenues and Benefits is along with contact information (large landlord 1)
- Inform your landlord if you are in receipt of benefits in order to give them an overview of your situation (large landlord 3).
- State simply that everyone who signs a lease is required to pay council tax unless exempt (agent 1).
Written consultees made little specific comment on the inclusion of this information other than to agree that Revenue and Benefits requires explanation (LA), and to suggest that landlords are given the option to insert details of the relevant council tax band for each property (Vol; Rep).
Permitted level of occupancy
3.11 A recurring view across tenants, landlords and agents was that this section appeared to be targeted more towards landlords than tenants. Some felt that with a re-focus and slight simplification it could be more useful in terms of providing tenants with information on an issue which had cropped up in many tenancies. Several written consultees also perceived the section to be overly complex and requiring greater clarity. A few suggested simply referencing the relevant legal provisions rather than including the detail in the TIP (LA; LA).
A view from student tenants was that the section appeared to imply that people who share a room always do so under duress. It was remarked that some people, like partners, may not be married but may choose to sleep in the same room.
3.12 Suggested detailed additions were:
- Change term "husband and wife" to reflect other partnerships who choose to sleep in the same room (agent 3; student tenants).
- State simply that only those listed on the lease can occupy the property (agent 2; agent 4).
- Each landlord should specify for each property the permitted level of occupancy rather than detailing the room and space standards, which are confusing (Rep).
3.13 Tenants in focus groups (students and others) were strongly of the view that information on the Repairing Standard should be included in the TIP. Speed of repairs was an issue which had emerged for many over the last year. Views of agents, landlords and written consultees varied. Some felt that the including this information in the TIP is important, whereas others argued that this information is already contained in the lease and should not be duplicated.
3.14 Suggested additions were:
- Further explanation of "reasonable time" at the end of the first paragraph (student tenants; large landlord 3).
- Expand on the information on the PRHP to include details of how and when to approach the panel (7 written consultees from a range of sectors).
- Definition of "reasonable state of repair" in bullets 2- 4. Perhaps insert examples (large landlord 1).
- Clearer delineation between the responsibilities of the landlord and those of the tenant (student tenants).
- Some idea of prioritisation of repairs, with examples which could be along the lines of "a squeaky door is routine, but a door fallen off is urgent" (large landlord 2).
- Cross reference to section 4 (large landlord 3).
- Expand bullet 6 to refer to smoke detectors and interlinked smoke alarms if the property is over 2 floors (large landlord 3; agent 1).
- Under "Repairs and Maintenance" a definition of "reasonable access" (LA).
- Greater emphasis that if repairs are needed then the tenant should inform the landlord promptly (LA).
3.15 This section was welcomed in general. Some tenants in the focus groups had experienced problems relating to inventories over previous years. The web link to a sample inventory was praised by some large landlords in interviews and local authority written consultees. It was commented that the detail of this section will need to be amended to accommodate latest information on the deposit schemes. A recurring view from large landlords and agents was that reference to tenants developing their own inventory and using an independent witness should be removed.
3.16 Suggested additions were:
- More emphasis on the importance of the checking the inventory in conjunction with the landlord, especially in light of its link with future deposit schemes (agent 1; large landlord 5; tenants; LA)
- More emphasis of the importance of taking photographs to record state of repair at the start of the tenancy (tenants; large landlord 1).
- Cross-reference to information on deposit schemes (agent 1; agent 3; small landlords).
Q4: Please list any other types of information you think should be included about the property.
3.17 Written consultees proposed additional types of property information to be considered for inclusion. These are summarised below:
- details of utilities companies
- meter readings at the start and end of the tenancy
- potential health risks: details of the water supply; presence of lead piping; asbestos
- fire safety including details of the fire alarm installation and maintenance schedule, fire drills, fire risk assessment, means of escape
- location of stop cock
- details relating to electrics and heating management including the location of the fusebox, location of meters; instruction manuals; heating controls
- information about waste management including where and when to put out different forms of waste
- delineation of land belonging to the property (e.g. drying green)
- out of hours emergency contacts
- sound proofing including the impact of different floor coverings
- common area cleaning arrangements
- details of rights of tenants with a disability regarding adaptations; signpost to local Scheme of Assistance.
Q5: Do you think the pack should include more detailed information about the condition and safety of the electrical installation in the property?
3.18 The prevailing view from written consultees across many sectors was that the information should be focused on ensuring tenants receive the latest safety certificates, are given help in understanding the information they contain, and are provided with recommended dates for re-testing. A common view was that any more information would over-complicate matters for both tenants and landlords.
Q6: Do you think there should be more information included about the condition and safety of electrical appliances in the property?
3.19 Participants in focus groups and interviewees tended to concentrate largely on the issue of electrical appliance testing. Recurring comments were:
- Need for more information on what constitutes portable electrical appliances. For example, are kettles, toasters and hairdryers included? If an appliance is built into a kitchen should this be included? (small landlords; student tenants).
- More emphasis is required to make clear testing relates to appliances supplied with the property (large landlord 4).
- Information is required on the frequency with which testing should take place (small landlords; student tenants).
- Information should be available on the age of appliances and when they were last checked (student tenants).
- The section should inform that testing is not required for properties under 3 years old (large landlord 2).
3.20 Written respondents were more concerned with the practicalities and legalities of providing more information. Whilst some (several local authorities in particular) considered the inclusion of further information on the condition and safety of the properties' electrical appliances to be desirable, others (from a variety of different sectors) argued that this is not statutory, and could prove to be cumbersome for landlords in terms of keeping information up-to-date and useful. A few respondents questioned whether tenants will wish to be provided with information over and above the PAT.
Q7: Do you think there should be more information included about the general safety of the property?
3.21 Student tenants requested that the TIP include a section on personal safety, encompassing the security of their building (communal door entry system, condition of locks, hallway, lighting, and so on). Other tenants also highlighted personal safety as an issue which had arisen during the last year (e.g. the entry system buzzer not working and not being mended). Large landlords, however, commented that responsibility for communal safety issues was not directly within their remit. One remarked that tenants should check whether they are happy with the personal safety aspects of a property before signing the lease. Agents described how their remit extended only so far as to giving advice on personal safety such as not opening the communal door to strangers and keeping communal exits clear.
3.22 A recurring recommendation from the written responses was for the TIP to include more information about fire safety. Local authorities, agents and fire bodies in particular highlighted what they saw as the need to include details on:
- provision and location of smoke detectors
- location and inspection of fire blankets
- responsibility to test smoke detectors
- fire escapes and exits
- fire drill protocol
3.23 Another common recommendation was for the inclusion of more information on carbon monoxide detectors although it was pointed out the differences between HMOs and other properties should be highlighted in this respect, as detectors are compulsory in the former but not in the latter.
3.24 Other recommendations for additional information on general safety were for:
- safety of drinking water (in some rural areas) (tenants)
- presence of asbestos (LA)
- furniture safety regulations (LA).
- There was majority support from a range of sectors for the inclusion in the TIP of information on gas and electrical safety; the Energy Performance Certificate; Council tax information; permitted level of occupancy; Repairing Standard; and inventories. It was felt that this information will be of particular help to make tenants aware of property standards and safeguards.
- There were mixed views on whether information on testing electrical appliances should be included considering that this is not a legislative requirement. It was suggested that this could be addressed by improving the clarity of the draft to highlight that this is not mandatory.
- Little support was received for the inclusion of a separate section on the EPC.
- Some students had experienced difficulties in accessing information about council tax and they welcomed the inclusion of this information in the TIP.
- A recurring view was that the information about permitted level of occupancy appeared more targeted towards landlords than to tenants. However, it was felt that with a re-focus and slight simplification the section could be made more useful for tenants.
- Tenants in particular welcomed the inclusion of information on the Repairing Standard as the issue of speed of repairs had emerged as problematic for many over the previous year.
- The information on inventories was broadly welcomed, with the acknowledgement that this will need to be updated to accommodate the latest information on tenant deposit schemes. More emphasis was requested on the importance of the tenant checking the inventory along with the landlord, particularly in light of the introduction of these schemes.
- The prevailing view was that information on condition and safety of the electrical installation in the property should be restricted to safety certificates and recommended dates for re-testing.
- A need for greater clarity on what is within scope of "portable electrical appliances" was called for.
- Student tenants requested that the TIP include a section on personal safety. Large landlords, however, felt that this was generally outwith their remit and more a responsibility of the tenant.
- A recurring recommendation was for the TIP to cover fire safety issues, including the location of fire safety equipment and fire escape routes, more comprehensively. Another common safety recommendation was for the inclusion of more information on carbon monoxide detectors.
4. INFORMATION ABOUT THE LANDLORD
Q8: Do you agree that the following information should be included in a pack about the landlord?
- Landlord registration information
- HMO licence information
Landlord registration information
4.1 Tenants and student tenants in focus groups supported the inclusion of landlord registration information in the TIP. They felt that this would enable them to undertake a discreet check to see if their current or prospective landlord had registered, saving them the embarrassment of asking directly. Likewise, most of the written respondents agreed that the TIP should contain this information. Some provided reasons to support their response: the information will contribute to good practice in ensuring landlords do actually register (HA); thus ensuring the success of the scheme (LA); necessary as registering is a specific legal process (Legal).
4.2 Landlords and agents were more circumspect about this information remaining in the pack. They were content for its inclusion on the condition that registers are kept up-to-date and are easy to search. This had not been the experience of several of the large landlords to date.
4.3 Although a few written respondents recommended that the specific landlord registration number be included in the TIP, others argued that this would duplicate the information in the lease. One agent requested that a copy of the landlord registration approval letter be included within the TIP.
4.4 Written respondents recommended the following additional information be included about landlord registration:
- what to do if your landlord is not registered (Rep; Rep; Oth; Oth; Vol; Agent)
- information regarding the voluntary landlord accreditation scheme (LA, LA, Rep)
- trade/professional memberships of landlord (Landlord; Agent)
- why the landlord registration was introduced (Agent)
- reference to some landlords and properties being exempt from the requirement for landlord registration (LA)
- whether the tenancy is managed by a landlord or the landlord's agent (Rep)
- registration details for the agent (LA).
HMO licence information
4.5 Several consultees commented that the abbreviation HMO had appeared earlier in the draft pack without any explanation and this omission should be rectified. A few of the written respondents (Ind; LA; Legal) questioned the accuracy of the current definition of an HMO property, suggesting that it should read instead, "more than 2 people from more than 2 families". One respondent (LA) recommended that "houses" be inserted along with the other examples of HMOs listed in section 3.2, first paragraph.
4.6 Most participants in focus groups had never come across HMO licensed properties, and there were mixed views on whether this section should be in the pack. Tenants in general thought that for the sake of completeness the information should be documented. Many agents and landlords large and small agreed that despite having no experience of HMO properties, the information should still be covered. A few agents, however, recommended removal of this section for non-HMO tenancies. One remarked:
"We don't have any HMO licensed properties. This bit is not relevant. There is no point in me giving a tenant this. Would I be able to take it out without invalidating the pack? What is the point of them seeing it? It takes enough time to get a tenant signed into a flat without having extra information which they don't need. They only want to read stuff relevant to them" (agent 1).
The majority of written respondents supported the inclusion of this information. However, a few agreed that information on HMO licensing should be provided only for those tenants living in such properties.
4.7 The hyperlink to more information was praised by small landlords who welcomed the brevity of the section but appreciated that some tenants may need more information.
4.8 The final paragraph under 3.2 came under scrutiny from 5 local authority respondents who commented that this appeared to confuse registering with licensing.
4.9 Written respondents recommended the following additional information be included about HMO licensing:
- copy of license (Rep; LA)
- penalty for not having an HMO license (LA)
- conditions of license (LA).
Q9: Please list any other types of information you think should be included about the landlord.
4.10 The prevalent recommendation amongst written respondents was for the contact details of landlord and agent if appropriate to be included in the TIP. Another common recommendation was for the inclusion of emergency contact numbers for approved contractors. One respondent (LA) called for contact details for factors to be inserted in the pack. Another suggested contact details of the Scottish Government and the relevant local authority by incorporated (LA). Two respondents (LA; Rep) cautioned against trying to include too much information as they envisaged that this will deter landlords from producing the pack and tenants from reading it.
4.11 One respondent (Ind) queried why the section is headed "Information about the landlord" when some tenants deal only with an agent.
- There were mixed views on the inclusion of landlord registration information in the TIP. Whereas students and other tenants felt that this would help them to identify if their landlord is registered, landlords and agents were anxious that landlord registration databases should be kept up-to-date and be easy to search. Some respondents argued that this information duplicated that in the lease.
- Information was requested on what tenants should do if they find their landlord is not registered.
- There were mixed views on whether information about HMO licenses should appear in the TIP. Whilst the balance of views favoured its inclusion, some felt that it should be provided only for those tenants living in such properties.
- A prevalent recommendation amongst written respondents was for the contact details of landlord and agent to be included in the TIP. Emergency contact numbers for approved contractors were also commonly requested.
Q10: Do you agree that the following information should be included in a pack about the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords?
- Tenants' and landlords' responsibilities
- Harassment and unlawful eviction
- Information about the tenancy deposit scheme(s)
- Tenants' obligations under antisocial behaviour legislation
Q11: Please list any other types of information you think should be included about the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.
Tenants' and landlords' responsibilities
5.1 With little exception, these sections were welcomed as bringing together, in a simple way, important information about what is expected from tenants and landlords. They were considered to be particularly helpful for first time tenants and also for inexperienced landlords who need to understand their commitments in letting out property. One written respondent (Vol) described the section as "vital". Another commented:
"It is particularly important for private rented tenants that they are aware of not only their rights during the tenancy but also of what can reasonably be expected of them by landlords. Young students and those who are first-time private rented tenants can be especially vulnerable to improper conduct or unfair treatment due to lack of experience" (Vol).
5.2 It was noted that some of the information proposed for the TIP overlaps with that contained in the lease. This created some concern from student tenants in the focus group and one agent interviewed that if the information about tenants responsibilities differed from that set out in the lease, this could cause confusion. A small minority of written consultees (Ind; Landlord; Oth; Rep) expressed the same concern, one commenting that the TIP might indeed undermine the lease (Landlord). One solution suggested was to insert a sentence in the TIP to say that the lease should be referred to for more specific information (agent 4).
5.3 One large landlord queried the validity of the heading of "rights and responsibilities" which led into a list detailing "responsibilities" only.
5.4 A few of the written consultees concerned themselves with the language and presentation of the sections on tenants' and landlords' main responsibilities. Legal representatives urged that the draft achieve the balance of being wholly legally accurate yet presented in non-legal language in digestible "bites". For example, it was suggested that the phrase, "to occupy the property as your principal home" is not common terminology. One respondent (Oth) requested that these sections be moved towards the start of the pack to reflect their importance, but be presented more logically in sub-sections, perhaps headed: "before", "during" and "after" a tenancy. Another (Agent) recommended keeping the information concise and free from technical and legal detail by signposting to more detailed information rather than inserting it into the TIP.
5.5 Suggested amendments to the list of tenants' responsibilities (see Annex 3, section 4.1) were:
Suggested revisions to bullets
- Bullet 3: expand on what is meant by "damage" (differentiating between this and wear and tear) (student tenants). Add information on responsibility for repairs when the damage is caused by the tenant (LA).
- Bullet 4: consulting the landlord was not considered sufficient. Alternative wording along the lines of, "not to make alterations to the property without written permission from your landlord" was suggested (several large landlords). Several calls were made from agents and landlords for this bullet to be removed. One written consultee (Rep) however, requested an expansion of information on what constituted reasonable adjustments to features, local authority duties in relation to assisting with adjustments and responsibility for maintenance and removal of adjustments.
- Bullet 5: insert "promptly" or "as soon as repairs are identified" (several large landlords).
- Bullet 8: there was considerable criticism of this bullet which was perceived to be suggesting that sub-letting tenancies is acceptable.
- Bullet 9: define more clearly what is meant by "proper notice" (large landlord 3). Insert "written" between "proper" and "notice" (LA).
- Bullet 10: reword to, "Take your turn in washing the stairs and maintaining the garden and other communal areas if the maintenance is not included in your rent" (LA).
- Bullet 11: one view was that reference to insuring your personal property should be removed as this is not obligatory (agent 2).
- Bullet 12: amend to "put out bins at the appropriate place for collection" (large landlord 5). Add "and recycling" after "bins" (LA).
- Insert new bullet: "Contact your landlord immediately if you are having difficulty paying the rent" (large landlord 1).
- Insert new bullet relating to responsibilities relating to fire safety (Fire).
- Insert new bullet to emphasise that the property should not be used for illegal purposes (Rep).
- Insert new bullet on rights regarding the times the property requires vacating (e.g. for renovation) (Rep).
- Insert new bullet to prompt tenants to consult their lease for the policy on keeping pets (large landlords 2 and 3; agent 5).
- Insert new bullet about personal safety issues such as avoiding letting strangers in via the door entry system (agent 3).
- Insert new bullet to prompt tenants to abide by the policy in their lease on smoking in their property (large landlord 2).
- Insert new bullet covering responsibilities for communal areas and tasks such as stair cleaning, window cleaning, gardening, use of communal storage area (several agents; large landlord 5, LA).
- Insert new bullet encouraging tenants to alert their landlord if they plan to be away from the property for an extended length of time (several large landlords).
- Insert new bullet for tenants in rural areas: "Arrange for septic tank to be emptied regularly" (large landlord 4).
- Insert new bullet relating to paying bills such as council tax, utilities, TV license (large landlord 4; agent 4; agent 5).
- Insert new bullet: "arrange for regular sweeping of your chimney" (landlord 4).
- Insert new bullet on electoral registration responsibility (Oth).
- Insert new bullet on responsibility to preventing condensation build up and keeping heating at adequate levels to prevent frost damage (Rep).
- Insert new bullet to inform about the legality of charges which can be made by landlords and agents (Rep).
- Insert new bullet on the responsibility of the tenant to claim housing benefit (or housing support in universal credit) (LA).
5.6 Suggested amendments to the list of landlords' responsibilities (see Annex 3, section 4.2) were:
Suggested revisions to bullets
- Bullet 3: many landlords commented that rent books are a thing of the past, superseded by on-line banking, standing orders and direct debits.
- Bullet 5: some landlords do not provide written notice, preferring to email the notice, or telephone their tenant instead. Clarification of "proper notice" was requested (large landlord 1; large landlord 2; LA).
- Bullet 7: change "outside of property" to "exterior of property" (large landlord 3).
- Bullet 9: there is no legal requirement for a landlord to insure a property (Legal).
- Bullet 13: small landlords felt that being responsible for informing tenants of the function of the PRHP overstepped their role. They preferred to direct to websites for advice such as this, rather than be seen as advice providers in their own right.
- Bullet 14: this bullet was viewed as ambiguous. Further clarification of "within reason" was sought (agent 2; small landlords).
- Insert new bullet relating to providing tenant with main contacts (large landlord 1).
- Insert new bullet relating to responsibility for rodent and other infestations (small landlords).
- Insert information about rights if a tenant does not pay their rent or causes criminal damage to the property (Landlord).
- Insert more information on the service level expected from landlords in respect to repairs (LA).
- Insert new bullet outlining responsibility to advise tenants in writing on ways in which complaints can be registered (LA).
- Insert new bullet on rights and responsibilities relating to retention of keys and the use of keys by landlords and agents (LA; Oth; Ind). One comment was:
"Clearly obstructive tenants continually refusing access would have to be dealt with, but too many letting agents use their keys with no regard for a tenant's privacy and security" (Ind).
5.7 One additional topic emerging in the written responses (Landlord; Vol; Rep) was to stress the responsibility on both landlord and tenant to maintain good relationships and resort to law about the tenancy only as a last resort. It was suggested that more emphasis be placed on highlighting organisations which can help in this regard (such as Shelter, CAB, Ombudsman).
Harassment and unlawful eviction
5.8 Participants in interviews and focus groups generally agreed that the information is useful and will help tenants to identify if their landlord is acting unlawfully. One written consultee (Landlord) however, commented that this information is usually freely available at many advice centres and could be omitted from the TIP.
5.9 A general view emerging from the written responses was that greater clarity is required on what constitutes "harassment" and "unlawful eviction". It was suggested that the section be turned around with the last 2 paragraphs moved to the start (Rep), and examples provided (e.g. does changing the locks constitute physically removal) (Rep). It was recommended that "or threaten to physically remove" be inserted in the last sentence (LA).
5.10 Another broad theme in the written responses was the need to include more information on sources of help from local authority services (social work, environmental health, anti-social behaviour team) to CAB, housing support, PRHP and Shelter.
Tenancy Deposit Schemes
5.11 Participants in interviews and focus groups acknowledged that further details of schemes will emerge later in the year.
Tenants' obligations under antisocial behaviour legislation
5.12 Antisocial behaviour was not an issue which had emerged as a major issue for any of the tenants, landlords or agents interviewed. However, all considered it important to retain this section. Amongst the written consultees it was the representative bodies who gave this topic most attention. One key theme was that more stress should be placed on the importance of maintaining good relations with neighbours and trying to resolve differences informally, with legal options being the last resort. Further details on where to seek help on neighbour relations (such as community mediation schemes) were recommended (Rep), with another respondent (Rep) referring to the Scottish Government leaflet "Problems next door" as a potential source of help.
5.13 Two consultees (LA, Rep) stressed that in circumstances where tenants are on the receiving end of anti-social behaviour, there should be an explicit responsibility set out in the TIP that the landlord should, as an absolute minimum, have to recognise its existence and receive reports from tenants, and liaise with others (e.g. local authority and police) to tackle it. It was felt that the final paragraph of the section should be expanded to reflect the distress which anti-social behaviour can cause, with reference to "nearest Citizen Advice organisation" being replaced with local authority (LA) and also to the HMO unit (if applicable) (LA). In general respondents considered that signposting to further advice could be clearer.
5.14 A few further amendments were suggested:
- Emphasis should be made on contacting the police rather than the landlord regarding antisocial behaviour of neighbours (agent 4). Contact details of the local police should be inserted (Rep).
- Make clear that landlords are not responsible for tenants' behaviour (agent 3).
- Insert an additional bullet highlighting that pets can cause nuisance (large landlord 3).
- Emphasise more that tenants are responsible for the behaviour of visiting family or friends (agent 1).
- Emphasise in penultimate paragraph that one outcome of antisocial behaviour amongst the tenant's family or friends is the landlord ending the tenancy (LA).
- Regarding the final bullet relating to "the sale of drugs or drug abuse" it was emphasised that a tenant with addiction issues should be supported, and any addiction problems do not necessarily translate directly to neighbourly bad behaviour. A request was made for this bullet to be re-written (LA).
- The information on rights and responsibilities was welcomed as bringing together in one place, simple information on what is expected from tenants and landlords.
- Some expressed concern about what they perceived to be the overlap of information with that contained in the lease, and it was recommended that this be addressed by referencing the lease for more specific information
- Many suggestions were made for minor amendments to the list of tenants' and landlords' responsibilities.
- There was general agreement that the information on harassment and unlawful eviction is useful and will help tenants to identify if their landlord is acting unlawfully.
- Although antisocial behaviour had not been experienced as a major issue for respondents, it was considered important to retain this section. A key theme was to place stress on the importance of maintaining good relations with neighbours and trying to resolve differences informally.
The final section of the pack contains suggestions for key contacts for help and advice. Views on these were invited from tenants, landlords and agents in focus groups and interviews.
6.1 A common view was that the usefulness of the contacts could be enhanced by inserting information on the reason for making contact. This applied particularly to contacts which were not generally familiar to tenants such as the PRHP. One large landlord urged that advice be kept very simple, such as stating, "If you smell gas, contact........" (large landlord 1).
6.2 Student tenants recommended that rather than list contacts alphabetically, a more logical approach may be to group them by sector/topic/trade. One written respondent (Rep) suggested re-ordering under sub-headings: Getting advice with your tenancy; Gas and electrical enquiries; Condition of property; and so on.
6.3 Many respondents commented that CORGI is now called Gas Safe. A few (Oth, LA) requested that the contact details for PRHP are updated.
6.4 Student and other tenants in particular considered that both national and local contacts should be included. Large landlords agreed that it would be helpful to add local, emergency contacts for out of hours, such as emergency plumbers. One suggestion was for the list to contain an area left blank specifically for tenants to add contacts useful to them (large landlord 4).
6.5 Suggested additions to the list were:
- landlord contact details (large landlord 1; agent 3; Vol)
- agent contact details (large landlord 3)
- details of the tenancy deposit scheme (in due course) (large landlord 1)
- Scottish Landlord Estates (large landlord 3)
- other landlord associations (Rep; LA; LA)
- letting agents bodies (Rep)
- Association of Residential Letting Agents (agent 2)
- local council (many respondents in interviews, groups and written responses)
- an electricity body to balance the inclusion of CORGI (or Gas Safe) (agent 3)
- contact details for housing related welfare benefits (Rep)
- organisations which provide advice and assistance to people with disabilities, for example, Disabled Persons Housing Services; Care and Repair Services; Housing Options in Scotland (Rep).
- Law Society of Scotland (Legal).
Another suggestion was for inserting signposting to "useful leaflets" (landlord 1).
6.6 In interviews a few agents expressed concern that by including such contacts, the importance of the role of the landlord as first point of call may be diminished, and this needed to be addressed. One typical comment was:
"What we should be encouraging is increased communication between landlords, agents and tenants. This section seems to exclude the best lines of communication. If people contact those listed they are going to get very general advice when perhaps the situation could have been addressed quite quickly without escalating. This should say that the first point of contact for advice should be the landlord or letting agency. After that it should be the local authority or CAB" (agent 2).
- A common view was that the usefulness of contact information could be enhanced by inserting details on the reason for making contact.
- A few respondents recommended re-ordering the list of contacts to make it more topic focused and logical.
- A recurring request was for the provision to be made for customising the pack to include local contacts.
- Some agents recommended that more emphasis be placed on the role of the landlord as the first point of call rather than wider contacts.
Email: Alix Rosenberg
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