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SP Paper 560   LGC/S3/11/R02

2nd Report, 2011 (Session 3)

Stage 1 Report on the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill

CONTENTS

Remit and membership
Report
INTRODUCTION
BACKGROUND
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION
COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION
OVERALL VIEWS ON THE BILL

Landlord Registration
HMO Licensing
Overcrowding
Miscellaneous

FINANCIAL MEMORANDUM
SUBORDINATE LEGISLATION
CONCLUSION

ANNEXE A: EXTRACTS FROM THE MINUTES OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND COMMUNITIES COMMITTEE

ANNEXE B: SUBORDINATE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE REPORT

ANNEXE C: CORRESPONDENCE FROM THE FINANCE COMMITTEE

ANNEXE D: ORAL EVIDENCE AND ASSOCIATED WRITTEN EVIDENCE

Please note that all oral evidence and all written evidence is published electronically only, and can be accessed via the Local Government and Communities Committee’s webpages at:

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/committees/lgc/inquiries/PrivateHousing/index.htm

10 November (26th Meeting, 2010 (Session 3))

Written Evidence

Scottish Rural Property and Business Association Limited

Oral Evidence

Stephen McGowan, Housing Strategy Manager, Glasgow City Council;
Alistair Somerville, Head of Section, HMO Inspection Team, City of Edinburgh Council;
Cathie Fancy, Group Manager, Housing Strategy and Services, Scottish Borders Council;
John Blackwood, Director, Scottish Association of Landlords;
Sarah-Jane Laing, Head of Policy, Scottish Rural Property and Business Association;
Brian Adair, Former Chairman of Scottish District and National Council Member, Association of Residential Lettings Agents

Supplementary Written Evidence

Glasgow City Council
Scottish Borders Council

17 November (27th Meeting, 2010 (Session 3))

Written Evidence

CIH Scotland
Consumer Focus Scotland
Scottish Council for Single Homeless
Shelter Scotland

Oral Evidence

Natalie Sutherland, Policy and Practice Officer, Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland;
Douglas White, Senior Policy Advocate, Consumer Focus Scotland;
Robert Aldridge, Chief Executive, Scottish Council for Single Homeless
Rosemary Brotchie, Policy Officer, Shelter Scotland.

1 December (29th Meeting, 2010 (Session 3))

Written Evidence

Oral Evidence

Alex Neil MSP, Minister for Housing and Communities, Scottish Government;
Lisa Wallace, Team Leader, Private Housing Unit: Policy and Consumers, Scottish Government;
Colin Affleck, Policy Officer, Private Housing Unit: Policy and Consumers, Scottish Government.

Supplementary Written Evidence

Scottish Government (Overcrowding)
Scottish Government (HMOs)

ANNEXE E: OTHER WRITTEN EVIDENCE

Age Scotland
Amelia Andrzejowska
Confederation of St Andrews Residents Associations
Crisis
Electrical Safety Council
Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum (GWSF)
Hillhead Community Council
Mark Andrew
NUS Scotland
Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance
Sustainable Communities Scotland

Remit and membership

Remit:

To consider and report on (a) the financing and delivery of local government and local services and planning; and (b) housing, regeneration, anti-poverty measures and other matters falling within the responsibility of the Minister for Housing and Communities.

Membership:

Bob Doris (Deputy Convener)
Patricia Ferguson
Alex Johnstone
Duncan McNeil (Convener)
Alasdair Morgan
Mary Mulligan
Jim Tolson
John Wilson
David McLetchie (Member from 13/06/2007 until 22/12/2010)

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee
Susan Duffy

Senior Assistant Clerk
Katy Orr

Assistant Clerk
Ian Cowan

Committee Assistant
Fiona Sinclair

Stage 1 Report on the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows—

introduction

1. The Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill (SP Bill 54) (“the Bill”) was introduced to the Parliament on 4 October 2010 by Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing. The Bill was accompanied by Explanatory Notes (SP Bill 54-EN) which included a Financial Memorandum and a Policy Memorandum (SP Bill 54-PM) as required by the Parliament’s Standing Orders. The Local Government and Communities Committee was designated the lead committee to consider the Bill. Under Rule 9.6 of Standing Orders, it is for the lead committee to report to the Parliament on the general principles of the Bill.

2. The Policy Memorandum states that the Bill’s principle policy objectives are “to improve standards of service for consumers in private rented housing and enable continued sustainable growth in the sector.” It aims to achieve this by “…measures to strengthen the regulation of the private rented sector; improve the working of the private sector tenancy regime and related matters; address more effectively the problems caused by rogue landlords; and deal with the worse effects of overcrowding.”1

3. The Bill covers three main areas – landlord registration, licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and overcrowding. It also makes a number of miscellaneous amendments relating to the private sector tenancy regime.

BACKGROUND

4. The Anti-Social Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 (“the 2004 Act”) included provisions for a private landlord registration scheme. The primary objective of the 2004 Act was to make provision for measures to tackle anti-social behaviour and within the context of addressing such behaviour, the Act introduced a compulsory registration scheme for private landlords. This scheme subsequently came into force in April 2006.

5. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 (“the 2006 Act”) restated, amended and extended provisions relating to licensing of HMOs and these provisions are due to come into force on 31 August 2011.

6. In 2007, the Scottish Government published Firm Foundations2a discussion document about the future of housing in Scotland. This document set out the Scottish Government’s support for a thriving private rented sector and announced that there would be a review of the private rented housing sector. The results of this review were published in March 2009.

7. The Scottish Government subsequently established the Scottish Private Rented Sector (PRS) Strategy Group in October 2009. Its membership was as follows—

Association of Residential Letting Agents

Chartered Institute of Housing

Citizens Advice Scotland

Consumer Focus Scotland

Cosla

Crisis

Local Authority representatives (Scottish Borders and City of Edinburgh)

National Association of Estate Agents

National Federation of Property Professionals

National Union of Students

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

Scottish Association of Landlords

Scottish Council for Single Homeless

Scottish Rural Property and Business Association

Shelter Scotland

8. The PRS Strategy Group’s remit was to “advise the Scottish Government on how it can support tenants, landlords and others to grow a professional, high quality Private Rented Sector equipped to provide sustainable housing solutions for Scotland in the 21st century”.3 It was intended that the group should provide initial recommendations for legislative change to the Scottish Government by December 2009 to inform a consultation for a proposed Private Housing Bill. The Group’s recommendations were published in January 2010. The Scottish Government then issued a consultation paper in March 2010.

9. The Housing (Scotland) Bill was introduced on 13 January 2010 and included a number of measures on the regulation of the private sector. The Policy Memorandum for the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill states that the intention behind this was to “take forward some relatively straightforward proposals as quickly as possible, while more complex measures were developed in discussion with the PRS Strategy Group”4. The issues contained in the Housing (Scotland) Bill covered landlord registration and HMO licensing.

10. In its Stage 1 report on the Housing (Scotland) Bill, the Committee expressed concerns about this approach stating—

“that it would have been preferable to have consolidated as many of the provisions contained in the current Bill with those proposed in the private sector bill that the Minister has indicated will be introduced “during this Parliamentary session”. The Committee is of the view that this would have been a far simpler approach as opposed to the one being pursued by the Scottish Government, which will introduce further layers of new and amending legislation. The Committee remains unconvinced that the urgency to amend some aspects of the legislation relating to private landlords and HMO licensing justifies introducing the provisions in two separate bills. The Committee would have preferred to consider changes to the existing legislation in their totality, rather than being asked to consider some provisions in the current Bill without knowing what will subsequently be introduced in the private sector bill.”5

11. The Scottish Government subsequently included the sections from the Housing (Scotland) Bill relating to the private rented sector in the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill with some amendments. The relevant sections were then taken out of the Housing (Scotland) Bill by amendment at Stage 3.

12. According to the Bill’s Policy Memorandum, there will be further consideration of issues related to the private rented sector by the PRS Strategy Group. It also notes than an evaluation of landlord registration is currently being carried out and is expected to be completed in March 2011. The Policy Memorandum suggests that further measures may be forthcoming as a result of these pieces of work but it is not clear whether this would involve further legislative change. However, Rosemary Brotchie from Shelter commented that “we have been led to expect further legislation.”6

13. The Memorandum states “Ministers believe that it is appropriate to bring forward the measures in the Bill without further delay so that local authorities have these powers to deal with bad landlords.”7

14. The relationship between this Bill and the further work being carried out by the PRS Strategy Group is discussed in more detail later in the report.

scottish government consultation

15. As set out above, a number of issues related to the private sector were contained in the Housing (Scotland) Bill as introduced. The Scottish Government carried out a consultation on private sector housing issues for possible inclusion in that Bill between July and September 2009 and subsequently published a report on the consultation responses in December 20098. The consultation paper included questions relating to landlord registration, HMO licensing and local authority powers to deal with disrepair in private houses.

16. In addition, a consultation on the PRS Strategy Group’s recommendations for a proposed private housing bill was carried out in March and April 2010. Apart from proposals on landlord registration, HMO licensing, overcrowding and the tenancy regime, this consultation also covered two issues which are not being taken forward in this Bill. These are: issues relating to the 20 year rules on standard securities (which was inserted into the Housing (Scotland) Bill by amendment at Stage 2) and the licensing of mobile home sites. This latter issue is to be considered further, but in the meantime, the Scottish Government will develop secondary legislation to update terms used in contractual agreements between site owners and residents.

17. The Policy Memorandum states that “Ministers decided that, in addition to the existing proposals [in the Private Rented Housing Bill consultation], further measures were needed to address the serious problems caused by rogue landlords and unscrupulous agents, such as those identified during Stage 1 of the Housing (Scotland) Bill.”9 The Memorandum goes on to state that “there was not sufficient time for a public consultation on the small number of new proposals, but the PRS Strategy Group was asked to consider and provide comments on them.”10

18. Minutes of the PRS Strategy Group state that the group “was strongly concerned that the Bill now had a different focus and was not the Bill it recommended. It felt that the ‘tackling rogues’ agenda is important but only one, relatively small part of the group's wider remit of growing and developing the PRS”.11

19. This was echoed by the Scottish Council for Single Homeless in their written submission. However, they also stated that legislation in the private sector was overdue and they welcomed the main provisions in the Bill.

20. The Committee notes that consultation has been carried out both in relation to this Bill and to the Housing (Scotland) Bill. The Committee also notes that there was no public consultation on the provisions to deal with rogue landlords, although it recognises that a number of the concerns which led to these provisions arose during Stage 1 of the Housing (Scotland) Bill. The Committee notes that members of the PRS Strategy Group expressed concern that the revised focus of the Bill only concentrated on one, relatively small part of their remit to grow and develop the private rented sector, but were generally content with the further provisions being proposed.

COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION

21. Recognising there was limited time within which to seek written evidence, the Committee issued a general call for evidence soon after the Bill was introduced. It subsequently agreed a detailed approach to its scrutiny of the Bill at its meeting on 27 October 2010. This included seeking evidence from members of the PRS Strategy Group and all those who gave written or oral evidence on the Housing (Scotland) Bill.

22. The Committee took evidence on 10 November 2010 from the following witnesses—

City of Edinburgh Council

Glasgow City Council

Scottish Borders Council

Association of Residential Letting Agents

Scottish Association of Landlords

Scottish Rural Property and Business Association

23. It then took evidence on 17 November 2010 from—

Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland

Consumer Focus Scotland

Scottish Council for Single Homeless

Shelter Scotland

24. Finally, the Committee took evidence from Alex Neil MSP, the Minister for Housing and Communities on 1 December 2010.

25. The Committee would like to thank all those who gave oral and written evidence on the general principles of the Bill.

26. The Subordinate Legislation Committee (SLC) considered the delegated powers under the Bill and reported to the Parliament. The SLC’s report is attached at Annexe B.

27. The Finance Committee considered the Bill’s Financial Memorandum and agreed to adopt “level one” scrutiny which involves seeking written submissions and passing these onto the lead committee. The submissions received by the Finance Committee are attached at Annexe C.

overall views on the bill

Landlord Registration

Introduction

28. Part 1 of the Bill makes changes to system of landlord registration which was established by the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004 and which came into effect in April 2006.

29. The Bill also includes four of the provisions (with amendments) on landlord registration that were contained in the Housing (Scotland) Bill. These provisions—

  • give local authorities the power to obtain information to enable, or assist, them to carry out their functions in relation to the registration of landlords
  • increase the fine for acting as an unregistered landlords to £50,000 (this is an increase on the fine of £20,000 that was originally proposed in the Housing (Scotland) Bill)
  • give local authorities the power to charge a registered landlord a fee if they subsequently nominate an unregistered agent
  • allow the public to see additional information from the landlord register

30. The Bill also brings forward new provisions to—

  • clarify issues that local authorities should consider when a landlord is applying for registration such as sexual and firearms offences and anti-social behaviour
  • put landlord registration numbers on a statutory footing and requires local authorities to provide landlords with their registration number when advising them their registration has been completed
  • require all adverts for properties to include the landlord registration number or to notify that a registration is pending
  • require the Private Rented Housing Panel to pass details about a landlord and their property to local authorities and requires local authorities to “have regard” to any guidance issued by Scottish Ministers in respect of landlord registration

Fit and proper person test

31. Section 1 amends the 2004 Act to expand the list of offences to be declared by an applicant for landlord registration to include firearms offences and sexual offences. It also amends the 2004 Act by specifying certain examples of information that a local authority may take into account when making a decision about whether an applicant is fit and proper. For example, this could include whether an anti-social behaviour order has been served on the landlord or tenant or whether a landlord had breached the Repairing Standard, which is a basic level of repair that all private rented accommodation must reach.

32. Section 2 of the Bill would give local authorities the power to require a landlord to provide a criminal record certificate if it deemed it was necessary.

33. There was general support for these measures. In written evidence, the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland suggested that the fit and proper person test could be further expanded to comply with forthcoming tenancy deposit duties.

34. Alistair Somerville from the City of Edinburgh Council made the point that, regardless of what is contained in legislation, local authorities will take a number of factors into account when assessing an application for registration. However, local authorities also recognised that having issues in statute gave a focus and an impetus to gather that information. He went on to state—

“The bill provides a useful focus and direction to local authorities on what issues they should take into account, but the important point of which we should be aware is that the lists are not exclusive…Therefore, a landlord’s fitness and propriety will be assessed against not only the issues that are listed in the bill, but potentially other issues as well.”12

35. The local authorities who gave oral evidence also agreed that other issues might be identified in the future. Cathie Fancy from Scottish Borders Council noted that the PRS Strategy Group had agreed to consider, in the next few months, whether there were any such additional issues, but that “at the moment, those that are in the bill are the most pertinent ones.”13

36. Both Consumer Focus Scotland and the Scottish Council for Single Homeless (SCSH) raised concerns about how anti-social behaviour orders are likely to be taken into account, stressing that there needs to be a balance between dealing with anti-social behaviour and protecting tenants. SCSH remarked—

“it is important to recognise that it is hoped to make more use of the private rented sector in housing more vulnerable individuals who could include people against whom ASBOs have been granted. This element [of the bill] should not be able to be used to restrict the use of the private rented sector from housing a broad range of households or from assisting in meeting the objectives of housing people with a variety of needs.”14

37. The Committee supports the expansion of the fit and proper person test as a means of providing focus and direction to local authorities regarding the issues that they must take into account when assessing a landlord’s registration. The Committee notes the comments that have been made regarding the balance that needs to be struck when taking into account anti-social behaviour orders and asks the Scottish Government to clarify how it anticipates this will be achieved.

Landlord Registration Numbers

38. When landlords register with their local authority, they are given a landlord registration number. Section 3 of the Bill puts such registration numbers on a statutory footing and local authorities would be required to provide landlords with their registration number when advising them that their registration has been completed.

39. Section 6 requires all written advertisements for properties to let to include the landlord registration number or, in the case of landlords whose application is yet to be determined, the phrase “landlord registration pending”. Reusable “To Let” boards are exempt from this. If a registered landlord does not include their number, they could be removed from the register.

40. There was general agreement over the principle of confirming landlord registration in advertisements. However, some concerns were raised over how this would work in practice.

41. John Blackwood from the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) expressed concern over the practicality of including landlord registration numbers in advertisements. He noted that such a number is “like a credit card number. It is a long series of digits”15 and went on to highlight that it might not mean anything to a member of the public unless there was an explanation. He also stated—

“A bigger concern is that two or three people could own a property, such as a husband and wife or various members of a family. Does that mean that every registration number would need to be printed against the advert?...An advert could appear in a newspaper that said “Two-bedroom flat £450, with a phone number to call, then the next three lines would just be registration numbers.”16

42. Sarah-Jane Laing from the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA) suggested that an unregistered landlord who sees a number routinely appearing in the paper could use that number when placing an advert themselves.

43. Some witnesses suggested that it might be preferable to have a symbol or kite mark to denote registration rather than using the number itself. However, witnesses also noted that, like registration numbers, there would need to be an explanation of what the symbol meant.

44. This was echoed by Douglas White from Consumer Focus Scotland who stated that whatever method was used, it had to be accompanied by an awareness-raising campaign “so that tenants are aware of the fact that the number or kite mark that appears in an advert means that the landlord is registered, and that they should look out for that, be extremely wary of approaching any advert that lacks such a mark and, possibly, report such adverts to their local authority.”17

45. Concerns were also raised over how the system would be enforced. As set out above, SRPBA raised the issue of an unregistered landlord using someone else’s number and in doing so, raised the question as to who would check that this was a valid number. It is arguable that a similar issue could arise with a symbol or kite mark as there would need to be a check that the landlord was entitled to use the symbol.

46. Sarah-Jane Laing from SRPBA noted that—

“a couple of local authorities are proactive and go through the local papers every week to check up on such matters…but difficulties arise in other local authorities due to factors such as the wide areas that they cover and the fact that local papers do not fit neatly into local authority areas.”18

47. However, it was also noted that such advertisements are not just placed in newspapers, but in local shops and particularly, online. Brian Adair from ARLA confirmed that his company does not advertise in newspapers and instead everything is done online.

48. The Bill proposes that “to let” boards should be exempt from the requirement to display a landlord registration number. John Blackwood explained that the PRS Strategy Group thought that it would be “completely impractical” to put numbers on “to let” boards, explaining that—

“The landlord registration number is specific to a particular landlord, not to a property or agency, and it is also specific to the local authority, which means that a landlord who got a few to let boards printed would potentially have to have different numbers on different board – for an agent, that would be horrendous.”19

49. The Minister was asked why the Scottish Government had opted to use landlord registration numbers in advertisements rather than a symbol or kite mark. It was also suggested that if a symbol or kite mark were used then perhaps it would not be necessary to exempt “to let” boards. The Minister explained that the rationale behind the proposal was that a number could be easily checked and would be unique to each landlord as opposed to a kite mark which would, in his view, be easy to copy.

50. However, the Minister also stated that he would not “go to the barricades”20 over the issue and that he would be open to examining any suggestions that the Committee might wish to make.

51. The Committee appreciates the point that there needs to be a system which is not, or is less likely to be, abused by unregistered landlords. However, it also notes the concerns that have been raised about the practicality of using only a registration number. The Committee notes that a number of trade bodies use kite marks to denote registration but that this is backed up by a list of registered organisations who will be given unique registration numbers. The Committee therefore recommends that the Scottish Government considers using a combination of a kite mark and registration system as used by other trade bodies and examines whether, by using such a system, it would not be necessary to exempt “to let” boards from these requirements.

Fees for appointment of agents

52. Section 4 of the Bill would allow a local authority to charge a registered landlord a fee when the landlord seeks to add an agent following registration. No fee would be payable if the fit and proper test had already been carried out on the agent. This section would also allow Ministers to make regulations to set the level of fees and how fees would be calculated. These provisions were contained in section 133 of the Housing (Scotland) Bill as introduced. The Committee supported these proposals in its Stage 1 report on that Bill.

53. Section 4 also contains a provision that was not in the Housing (Scotland) Bill. This provision creates an offence if a landlord does not notify a local authority that they have appointed an agent with a maximum fine at level 3 on the standard scale (currently £1,000).

54. In its written submission, the SRPBA agreed there should be a fee for the appointment of unregistered agents. However, it was opposed to this fee having to be paid by the landlord and stated it would prefer to see a requirement for all agents to register and “thereby pay their own fee.”21

55. This was echoed by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland who argued that there should be some legislative responsibility for agents to notify local authorities when they are acting on behalf of landlords. CIH suggested the position regarding letting agents was unclear and that to avoid confusion, letting agents should be required to register in their own right.

56. The Minister explained that there were issues around whether it would be legislatively competent to make provision with regard to letting agents. He explained that his understanding was that this issue had been considered by the previous Scottish Executive and that legal advice at that time suggested that registration of letting agents was a reserved matter under consumer legislation. However, he also noted that the penalties for letting agents under this Bill do not fall into this category. He further noted that the registration of property factors as provided for in the Property Factors (Scotland) Bill had been deemed legislatively competent and therefore he could “see no reason why the registration of letting agents should not be in the same position.”22

57. However, the Minister went on to say that regardless of whether it could be argued that such provisions would be legislatively competent, it was not realistic to include the issue in this Bill.

58. The Committee notes the Minister’s comments regarding the requirement for letting agents to register in their own right and recognises that further discussion is likely to be required on the issue. The Committee therefore recommends that this issue be included in the further review of the private rented sector which is being taken forward by the PRS Strategy Group.

Access to the register

59. Section 5 amends the provisions in the 2004 Act in relation to access to the register to allow additional information on applications to be given out in certain circumstances. It also requires local authorities to keep and provide information on whether an application has been received but not yet decided. It places an obligation on a local authority to note in its register any person that has been refused entry or removed from the register on the grounds that they – or their agent – are not fit and proper to act as a landlord. Any such note must be removed after 12 months if a subsequent registration of that landlord is completed.

60. These provisions were contained in section 134 of the Housing (Scotland) Bill as introduced and were supported by the Committee in its Stage 1 report.

Penalties for acting as an unregistered landlord

61. Section 7 of the Bill increases the penalty for acting as an unregistered landlord from level 5 on the standard scale to £50,000. The Housing (Scotland) Bill as introduced had proposed that the fine be increased to £20,000. This maximum fine is the same as is proposed for HMO licensing offences.

62. In its Stage 1 report, the Committee supported increasing the penalty as it would help to act as a deterrent to landlords who operate without registering.

63. However, the Committee also expressed concerns that at that time, no landlords had been prosecuted for not registering and concluded that the lack of prosecutions had effectively allowed bad landlords to continue operating outwith the system and had had limited effect on protecting the most vulnerable tenants.

64. In evidence on this Bill, the City of Edinburgh Council confirmed that they had successfully prosecuted an unregistered landlord in October 2010. However, the Committee noted that the landlord in question had failed to register three of his seven properties and was only fined £65 for each property. When asked how much it had cost the authority to bring the prosecution, Alistair Somerville from the council responded that it had probably cost between £2,000 and £3,000.23

65. There are two financial penalties available to local authorities if someone rents out a property but is not registered. A late application fee can be levied and/or a Rent Penalty Notice can be served which would suspend a tenant’s liability to pay rent to the landlord. In correspondence, the Minister for Housing and Communities confirmed that as at November 2010, 2,049 late application fees had been applied and 1,398 Rent Penalty Notices had been served.24

66. The local authorities who gave oral evidence welcomed the increase in the maximum fine to £50,000 and thought that as well as acting as a deterrent, it would send a signal to the courts about the seriousness of the issue. Alistair Somerville from the City of Edinburgh Council commented that—

“there is a feeling that the courts do not give weight to the landlord registration and HMO licensing schemes. Our impression is that they are simply seen as licensing and registration schemes, not as systems for controlling safety in properties and antisocial behaviour. The proposals to increase the fine levels would, I hope, get the message across.”25

67. However, in their written submission, Hillhead Community Council stated that “increasing fines to £50,000 is all very well”26 but that this has to be contrasted with the levels of fines which have actually been imposed by the courts.

68. John Blackwood from SAL agreed that having a court impose a minimal fine was demoralising for “the wider sector and for local authority staff”27 He also thought that the measures in the Bill might encourage courts to increase the fines they impose. However, he also raised concerns about the process that has to be gone through to take cases to court.

69. Local authorities themselves recognised there were issues around bringing cases to court. Alistair Somerville from the City of Edinburgh Council made the point that not all enforcement was formal and therefore “a significant amount of enforcement work is undertaken that is not formal and does not result in prosecution but still results in compliance.”28 However, he also recognised there were problems with cases that did come to court, notably the amount of time it can take for a case to be heard. He stated—

“My concern is about the number of cases that do not even make it to prosecution and the ability of the courts to deal with cases timeously. We still have an appeal hearing for a refusal of a licence that happened two years ago. There is a constant deferring of actions. Various pleading diets have to be held before we get to a trial date. We still have a case that is to be heard this month that started more than a year ago.”29

70. The Minister also recognised the difficulties in prosecuting cases, noting that “many local authorities tell me that they often do not pursue legal action because the know what the result will be”.30 He also noted that in his review of the court system, Lord Gill had recommended introducing a dedicated housing court. The Minister went on to say that his personal view was that rather than introducing a dedicated housing court, there should perhaps be a dedicated housing panel that would incorporate the current private rented housing panel. In effect, it would constitute a housing tribunal.

71. The Committee hopes that an increased fine will act as a deterrent but it is concerned that the current level of fine imposed is significantly less than the current maximum and that difficulties persist in being able to take cases to court. These two issues mean that whatever the maximum fine, there is some doubt as to whether it can act as an effective deterrent, but if courts were to take cognisance of the higher fines and impose them, then this could act as an incentive for local authorities to take forward cases. However, the Committee does support the increase in the maximum fine as one part of the solution and an initial step in the right direction.

72. The Committee concurs with the views expressed by local authorities that it is vital courts give sufficient weight to both the landlord registration and HMO licensing schemes. The Committee believes that having either a dedicated housing court or a housing tribunal may be worthy of further consideration and suggests that the Scottish Government examines these issues further.

73. Concerns were raised during Stage 1 scrutiny of the Housing (Scotland) Bill regarding the consistency and effectiveness of enforcement across all local authority areas. For example, the Private Rented Housing Forum argued that “it makes no difference to an unregistered landlord whether they are fined £5,000 or £20,000 if no-one enforces it in the first place.”31 Such concerns were highlighted again during scrutiny of this Bill.

74. The three local authorities who gave oral evidence to the Committee all had established systems in place to deal with landlord registration. However, other evidence suggested this might not be the case across the country. John Blackwood from SAL stated—

“Part of the problem is that properties that landlords own and manage are spread over local authority boundaries. Landlords say “The scheme is great in this authority, but a mile away, over the boundary, nothing is happening.”32

75. He went on to suggest that there should be a national scheme, administered nationally with local authority input to ensure consistency across the country.

76. The Minister made it clear that he did not favour a national scheme, however he also acknowledged that while there have been some good examples of enforcement there were also some local authorities which “to be frank, have taken a more laissez-faire approach to enforcement than is desirable.”33

77. This was echoed by Alistair Somerville from the City of Edinburgh Council who stated—

“the main incentive for taking prosecutions is probably having high calibre private rented service enforcement officers who are well trained and experienced in prosecution work. We would hope that they would not be discouraged, but Scottish Government guidance on enforcement policies and activities is a more appropriate way in which to ensure that prosecutions take place.”34

78. The Minister confirmed that the review of the private rented sector which is being undertaken would look specifically at issues like enforcement. In addition, the Bill gives Scottish Ministers power to issue statutory guidance (this is discussed in more detail later in the report). The Minister noted that currently there is no statutory guidance procedure and stated that such a procedure—

“would allow us to build in best practice, and that will be possible once we have received in March the conclusions and recommendations of the review of the specifics of the landlord registration scheme.”35

79. The Committee commends those local authorities who gave oral evidence over their approach to enforcement. However, it remains extremely concerned that there is a lack of consistency across the country and that this lack of consistency undermines confidence in the landlord registration scheme. While the Committee welcomes the PRS Strategy Group’s further consideration of enforcement, having this ongoing work does suggest that the provisions in this Bill will, not in itself, make improvements to the consistency of approach.

Civil versus criminal proceedings

80. Prosecutions are taken through the criminal courts and the proceeds from fines go to the UK Treasury. During Stage 1 scrutiny of the Housing (Scotland) Bill, the Minister confirmed that he was not inclined to introduce civil rather than criminal offences, stating “the weight of the evidence that I have received, as a minister, suggests that it is much better to keep that provision in the criminal sphere, rather than under the civil law.”36 He added—

“For some people there is an argument that, if the provisions came within the civil law sphere, the money would not go to the Treasury but would come back into the coffers here. I do not think that the amounts that would be involved outweigh the other arguments against making such a change.”37

81. Additionally, there was a difference of opinion over whether it would be appropriate for local authorities to receive the fines or a proportion of the fines. Cathie Fancy from Scottish Borders Council agreed that local authorities should receive a proportion of the fines to offset the costs of a prosecution. Whereas Alistair Somerville from the City of Edinburgh Council stated that he would be “fundamentally uncomfortable about a fine being linked as a sort of incentive to generate income.”38

82. The Minister was asked whether, as an alternative to fines going directly to local authorities, the proceeds could be given to the Scottish Government instead. The Minister responded that he had raised this issue with the UK Government and that he would continue to press the case although he regarded the prospects of agreement as slim39.

Disqualification orders

83. Section 8 gives courts the power to make a disqualification order banning someone from acting as a landlord in any local authority area for up to 5 years where the person is convicted for acting as a unregistered landlord. This is similar to the power given to courts by the 2006 Act in relation to HMO licensing offences.

84. Both the CIH Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations raised concerns about this proposal. CIH Scotland was concerned that a ban could mean a landlord being prevented from operating across the whole of Scotland and that this in turn could have consequences for landlords and tenants who could become homeless. Natalie Sutherland from CIH Scotland further commented —

“the whole idea of the ban came in at the last minute. It was not something that the private rented sector strategy group considered and it is an area that we have concerns about.”40

85. The Policy Memorandum confirms that this provision was not part of the original consultation on the Bill, but was one of the proposals developed in response to concerns raised during Stage 1 of the Housing (Scotland) Bill and which was referred to the PRS Strategy Group for comment. The Policy Memorandum also stated “whilst some stakeholders say the proposal to disqualify unregistered landlords for up to five years is disproportionate to the offence committed, there was agreement that the potential five year ban could act as an effective deterrent.”41

86. The Committee notes the concerns raised over the proposal to ban landlords. However, it also recognises that a range of measures will be required to tackle bad landlords and to ensure effective deterrents are in place. On balance, therefore, the Committee is content with this proposal.

Interaction with other systems

87. It emerged in evidence to the Committee that some local authorities conducted cross-checks to establish whether tenants in receipt of housing benefit were living in properties where there was a registered landlord but that there was no systematic approach to drawing on existing data - whether it is council tax or housing benefit data - to establish whether properties were let by an unregistered landlord. One reason given for this was data protection provisions.

88. The Minister confirmed that two or three local authorities, including the City of Edinburgh Council were working with the Department of Work and Pensions on this issue. He confirmed that those authorities were comparing their databases, looking at landlord registration and claims for housing benefit and that “both the DWP and we are keen to roll that sharing of information out across the country because it has proved to be very effective in the two or three authorities that are doing it at the moment.”42

89. He also noted that the procedure for paying housing benefit had changed in the previous 18 months and that benefits are now paid directly to the tenant and not to the landlord. He went on to say that there was anecdotal evidence that this change had contributed to increasing the bad debt ratio for landlords and on that basis, a number of landlords were considering withdrawing from the rental market. However, he understood that these procedures were being reviewed. It was suggested that if the DWP reverted to the previous regime, then it might be possible only to pay housing benefit to a Registered Social Landlord or to a registered landlord. The Minister agreed this could be useful and recognised that there would need to be close working between the Scottish Government, local authorities and the DWP to make this happen.

90. The Committee considers that, whatever system of payment is in place, it is essential that local authorities work together with the DWP to ensure a linkage between databases to enable further information to be made available to identify unregistered landlords. The Committee reiterates the conclusion that it reached in its Stage 1 report on the Housing (Scotland) Bill that it believes considerable progress could be made in enforcing landlord registration by identifying unregistered landlords through council tax or housing benefit data. The Committee believes that greater enforcement could be achieved through this route than by giving local authorities the power to obtain information on landlords from third parties. It therefore calls on the Scottish Government to continue to work with the Department of Work and Pensions and to support and facilitate this work by local authorities as a means of reinforcing the enforcement provisions proposed in the Bill.

Power to obtain information

91. Section 9 gives local authorities the power to obtain information to enable, or assist it to carry out its functions in relation the registration of landlords. The local authority would be able to serve a notice on specified people to require them to provide information on the nature of their interest in the house, specify information about other people who have an interest in the house or other people that the local authority may reasonably request. The purpose of this provision is to help the local authority obtain information that will allow it to identify the landlord. A fine of £500 can be imposed on a person who does not comply with this requirement.

92. These provisions were contained in section 136 of the Housing (Scotland) Bill. In its Stage 1 report, the Committee expressed reservations about the provisions to provide local authorities with the power to obtain information. While the Committee noted that the Minister had emphasised in evidence that the power was discretionary, it questioned how a local authority official would be able to ascertain which tenants might be colluding with a landlord and who might be fearful of the landlord ending the tenancy if they provide information on the landlord. The Committee also considered that the provision might be impracticable; for example, it considered that it was not outside the realms of possibility that a “rogue” landlord might pay a £500 fine if the tenant was prepared not to reveal the information. The Committee further stated that it believed improvements in landlord registration and tackling “rogue” landlords could be better achieved by other means.

93. The Bill’s Policy Memorandum acknowledges the concerns raised about vulnerable tenants who declined to provide information due to fears of retaliation. It goes on to state that—

“The Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill gives Ministers power to issue statutory guidance on the discharge of local authorities’ landlord registration functions, to which local authorities must have regard. This will allow Ministers to take account of these concerns about local authorities requiring information from tenants when issuing guidance.”43

94. The Committee’s initial concern was echoed by the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance which said “we have concerns about Section 9 of the provisions which makes an individual guilty of an offence if they withhold information about a property if approached by the Local Authority regarding their landlord.”44

95. The guidance referred to by the Policy Memorandum is contained in section 10 of the Bill as is discussed below.

Guidance

96. Section 10 introduces a requirement for local authorities to have regard to any guidance issued by Scottish Ministers when carrying out their functions in respect of landlord registration, including, as outlined above, the use of the power to require information in relation to tenants.

97. As outlined earlier in this report, the Minister indicated that such statutory guidance would allow best practice in relation to landlord registration to be disseminated and put on a statutory footing.

98. The Committee is pleased to note that the concerns it raised in its Stage 1 report on the Housing (Scotland) Bill over the provisions for tenants to provide information have been acknowledged by the Scottish Government. The Committee further notes the Scottish Government’s commitment to include such issues in statutory guidance and that Scottish Ministers must consult local authorities and “such other persons as they think fit”. The Committee also notes the Minister’s comments that statutory guidance will play a role in improving the effectiveness and consistency of enforcement. Given the importance of this draft guidance, the Committee asks the Scottish Government to make it available to the Committee as soon as practicable to enable the Committee to assess whether the potential benefits envisaged by the Minister are likely to be achieved.

Information from the Private Rented Housing Panel

99. Section 11 proposes that the Private Rented Housing Panel would be required to pass onto the relevant local authority details about a landlord and a property where the Panel considers a dispute in relation to the landlord’s obligations to meet the Repairing Standard [as defined in the 2006 Act]”.

100. The Policy Memorandum states that currently “whilst the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP) receives referral from tenants and landlords it does not check whether a landlord is registered when it receives an application relating to the Repairing Standard.

101. The Committee believes that this proposal will assist local authorities to identify unregistered landlords and therefore is supportive of it.

Effectiveness of registration

102. A number of witnesses questioned whether the existing system of registration was working effectively. John Blackwood from SAL stated —

“The Scottish Association of Landlords had high hopes for landlord registration in weeding out the rogue landlords. I have to be honest and say that we have not seen that happen, much to the dismay of our members”45

103. He went on to outline that a number of his members had become disillusioned with the system and that in some local authority areas, “only 50 per cent of landlords who are already in the system are reregistering. Landlords – non-members as well as members – say to us, “Nobody seems to do anything about ti anyway, so why should we bother?””46

104. The Minister confirmed there was anecdotal evidence of landlords failing to register and that work undertaken by the Scottish Government suggested about 20 per cent of landlords had not registered. However he also stated—

“we are talking about the big landlords who tend to reregister in bulk and, as a result, we do not think that there is the kind of big problem that has been suggested to the Committee.”47

105. However, John Blackwood went on to say that his organisation advocated abolishing the scheme altogether. Sarah-Jane Laing from the SRPBA and Brian Adair from ARLA agreed with this view. However, both John Blackwood and Sarah Jane Laing also stated that they supported the aims of the provisions in this Bill which had been carried forward from the Housing (Scotland) Bill and John Blackwood stated that “anything that enforces or strengthens the current legislation is useful and we have no objection to any of the proposals.”48

106. In its written submission, Shelter Scotland made clear that it did not support the abolition of the current scheme and that in their view “the “genie” of regulation is out of the bottle and we do not agree with suggestions that registration should be scrapped.”49

107. The Committee notes that the PRS Strategy Group will be evaluating the effectiveness of the current registration scheme and that, as Shelter Scotland commented, “the measures in the bill only go so far.”50 While witnesses recognised that this gave an opportunity to undertake a more fundamental review of landlord registration in particular, some commented that this would lead to further fragmentation and confusion. Natalie Sutherland from CIH Scotland commented—

“I am interested to see the outcome of the review, but it is a shame that it has come now and not before the bill was introduced. The timing is unfortunate.”51

108. In responding to concerns that reforms were being undertaken on a piecemeal basis and that it would have been better to have a focused review of registration leading to one piece of legislation, rather than several, the Minister for Housing and Communities stated that the forthcoming review by the PRS Strategy Group would focus on the effectiveness of the landlord registration scheme but that this Bill “is about more than landlord registration; it is about the consequences and conclusions of the very substantial review that was undertaken last year. Some of the bill’s measures on overcrowding, for example, arose from those consultations” 52

109. The Committee does not agree that the registration scheme should be abolished. However, it does not believe the scheme is working as effectively as it should be and it is concerned by evidence that some landlords might not re-register. Notwithstanding the fact that failing to re-register while continuing to let our properties would be an offence, the Committee’s view is that it is extremely important that landlords re-register to ensure there is continued pressure on ‘rogue’ landlords.

110. The Committee recognises that this Bill will make some improvements to the scheme but that issues such as consistency of approach and enforcement remain unresolved. The Committee notes that the PRS Strategy Group will evaluate the current scheme and it is likely that further legislation could be introduced as a result of this review.

111. The Committee agrees that it would have been preferable if such a review had been undertaken and completed before the introduction of this Bill to avoid further confusion and fragmentation. However, this is not the case and therefore the Committee has had to focus on the provisions in the Bill. The Committee is generally supportive of these provisions but recognises that they only go so far and that there is an expectation that subsequent statutory guidance will assist in improving enforcement and consistency. The subsequent work of the PRS Strategy Group will also be crucial in making further, much needed improvements to the registration scheme and enforcement of the scheme.

Awareness raising

112. There was agreement among witnesses that it was essential to raise awareness among tenants and landlords about their rights, responsibilities and the regulations to which landlords are subject.

113. Natalie Sutherland from CIH made the point that given the current housing market and general economic climate, it was likely that more people would become landlords and therefore it was incumbent on all housing professionals, local authorities, mortgage lenders and insurance companies to make landlords aware of the need for them to become registered.

114. Rosemary Brotchie from Shelter Scotland agreed and suggested that what had been missing from the focus on regulation and registration was the role of tenants and consumers in the process. When asked who should have the responsibility to raise awareness, she suggested—

“Picking out just one body to do the work will probably not be the answer. We envisage a sector-wide response. Yes, there is potential for leadership from the Government and local authorities, but we would like all organisations across the sector that have a stake or interest in the private rented sector to contribute to the awareness raising.”53

115. Natalie Sutherland from CIH also made the point that tenants themselves needed to recognise they had a responsibility to check whether their landlord was registered and therefore, it was vital that easy and accessible means of checking registration were put in place to enable this to be done.

116. Witnesses recognised that much of the necessary information could be incorporated into the tenant information pack proposed by the Bill and this is discussed later in the report. However, it was also recognised there was a need to increase awareness before people become tenants and therefore before they receive a tenant information pack.

117. The Minister confirmed that he would talk to the PRS Strategy Group about how awareness can be increased and that such awareness raising would be done on an on-going basis and not on the basis of a one-off advertising campaign. However, he also stated that “one constraining issue for everybody will, of course, be budgets.”54

118. The Committee believes it is essential to increase awareness among both tenants and landlords. While the tenant information pack will perform much of that function for those who become tenants, it is crucial that prospective tenants are also aware of their rights and responsibilities. The Committee will be keen to monitor the work that is carried out in this area.

HMO Licensing

Introduction

119. Part 2 of the Bill deals with HMO licensing and includes two of the provisions that were contained in the Housing (Scotland) Bill. These provisions—

  • allow the HMO system to be extended to regulate categories of multi-occupancy property that present problems, but are not currently subject to licensing.
  • give local authorities a power to address the issue of HMOs operating in breach of planning control

120. Additionally, the Bill—

  • increases the maximum fine for HMO offences to £50,000
  • amends the 2006 Act so that local authorities only need to provide a statement of reason for an HMO decision where it is requested
  • enables Scottish Minister to give guidance over the use of information relating to HMO licensing as provided for in the 2006 Act

121. In its Stage 1 report, the Committee expressed the view that “it would have been more helpful if it could have considered the totality of the proposed amendments to the 2006 Act, rather than considering some in the knowledge that further amendments might be introduced later in an additional bill. The Committee is not currently in a position to ascertain whether the provisions in the Bill will address the concerns about HMOs that were raised in evidence. It also believes that it would have helped stakeholders with an interest in HMO licensing legislation to have a complete picture of the Scottish Government’s intentions in relation to amending the HMO licensing regime”55.

122. In its report, the Committee also noted that the Scottish Government’s consultation on this Bill would include proposals to allow tenants and local authorities to claim back rent paid in an unlicensed HMO and a proposal that failure by the landlord of a property to provide information when required would lead to the presumption that a property is an HMO. These proposals were not taken forward in the Bill as introduced.

123. The Minister for Housing and Communities was asked why this proposal had not been taken forward in this Bill. He replied that it was “dropped because after consultation, we were advised that it was unworkable – difficult to implement and enforce.” He noted that the Part 5 of the 2006 Act which comes into force in August 2011 will give local authorities the ability to “prevent rent from being payable for an unlicensed HMO without the need to go to court.”56 However, the Committee recognises this is did not go as far as allowing rent to be returned that had already been paid.

124. In supplementary correspondence, the Minister stated that issues were raised during the consultation on the Bill, “particularly in relation to how rent repaid to tenants would interact with Housing Benefit and the impact repayment would have on any subsequent entitlement to Housing Benefit. Use of the Rent Repayment Orders would also give practical difficulties around who was entitled to the repayment where Housing Benefit covered some of the rent paid.”57

125. During Stage 1 of the Housing (Scotland) Bill, the Committee heard a number of views from witnesses on extending the definition of HMOs to include short-term and holiday lets. It concluded that given the problem with so-called “party flats” appeared to be limited to urban areas, the Scottish Government should consider providing local authorities with discretionary powers to take action to tackle this problem under anti-social behaviour legislation.

126. The Bill’s Policy Memorandum notes that the Scottish Government considered including such lets within this Bill, but concluded that the potential changes would have “unnecessarily brought a wide range of types of accommodation within the scope of HMO licensing.”58

127. However, the Scottish Government confirmed its intention to introduce a Scottish Statutory Instrument (SSI) to deal with this issue. The Minister for Housing and Communities further confirmed that such an SSI will amend Part 7 of the 2004 Act and will be introduced “by the end of this Parliament”59 The instrument will be subject to affirmative procedure and its development is being assisted by “ongoing dialogue with City of Edinburgh Council officials”60.

128. Given that the more substantive changes in relation to HMO licensing were included in the Housing (Scotland) Bill, the written submissions received on this Bill tended to concentrate on those areas and on other concerns regarding HMOs that submitters believed the Bill should address. During its Stage 1 consideration of the Housing (Scotland) Bill , the Committee took oral evidence from a number of organisations in relation to HMOs and this evidence is replicated in this report, where appropriate.

Amendment of HMO licensing regime

129. Section 13 of the Bill amends the licensing regime for HMOs contained in the 2006 Act. It amends section 125 of the 2006 Act to provide Scottish Ministers with the power to specify by order any additional categories of multi-occupancy living accommodation as licensable HMOs. This will allow Ministers to extend HMO licensing – which is designed to protect the occupant by setting conditions for physical occupancy, safety and tenancy management – to types of multi-occupancy accommodation that currently fall outside the definition of a licensable HMO.

130. The amendments change the provisions in relation to living accommodation in order that it does not need to be a house or premises or the only or main residence of the occupants in terms of the 2006 Act. This responds to concerns expressed by local authorities that landlords were avoiding HMO licensing of properties where the occupants lived in the property only for a short time and that their principal residence was elsewhere (or the landlord claimed that this was the case). These provisions were contained in section 141 of the ousHouHousing S9Housing (Scotland) Bill.

Amendment of HMO licensing regime – breach of planning control

131. Section 13 also introduces a new section into the 2006 Act on preliminary refusals of breaches of planning control. This gives local authorities a discretionary power to refuse to consider an application for an HMO if it believes that the occupation of the accommodation as an HMO would constitute a breach of planning control. The purpose of this amendment is to allow local authorities, where they decide that HMOs in their area require planning permission, to require planning permission. This will prevent the anomalous situation whereby an HMO can continue to have a licence even when it is operating in breach of planning law.

132. In oral evidence on the Housing (Scotland) Bill, NUS Scotland expressed concerns about this provision. It stated—

“The paramount concern for NUS Scotland centres around proposals to mix safety and planning legislation. The proposal to give local authorities the power to refuse to consider an application for an HMO licence, if they feel that the occupation of the property as an HMO would be a breach of planning control, is very worrying. The key aim of HMO licensing is to protect tenants from harm and exploitation by ensuring HMOs are of a certain standard and tenants are treated fairly. By giving local authorities the ability to make HMOs secondary to planning legislation, tenants, including students, could be very vulnerable to decreasing levels of safety and to poor treatment in the private rented sector.”61

133. On the other hand, organisations such as Hillhead Community Council and Sustainable Communities Scotland welcomed the linkage between planning and HMO licensing, although they felt that the provisions did not go far enough.

Penalties

134. Under Part 5 of the 2006 Act which comes into force on 31 August 2011, the maximum fine for offences in relation to HMO licensing would increase from £5,000 to £20,000. Section 14 of this Bill would increase this maximum fine to £50,000. This is the same maximum fine as that proposed for offences in relation to landlord registration.

135. In a similar vein to concerns raised about landlord registration, submissions questioned whether increasing the maximum fine would be a sufficient deterrent, given the actual level of fines likely to be imposed and concerns about enforcement.

Reasons for decisions

136. Under the current HMO licensing regime, local authorities must provide reasons for decisions on HMO licensing within 10 days of it being requested by an applicant or objector. The Policy Memorandum notes that some local authorities raised concerns that under the 2006 Act, they would be required to provide such a statement whether it had been requested or not. Therefore, section 15 of the Bill amends the 2006 Act to clarify that a statement of reasons only needs to be provided when it is requested by any person who receives the decision. The recipient would have 14 days from receipt of the notice to request reasons for the decision.

Guidance

137. Section 16 enables Scottish Ministers to give guidance, to which a local authority must have regard, over the use of the information gathering powers contained in section 186 of the 2006 Act. Section 186 of the 2006 Act allows a local authority to require certain people to provide information relating to the land or premises to help it carry out its functions under HMO licensing. Any person who is required to provide such information and fails to do so, or knowingly or recklessly provides false or misleading information is guilty of an offence with a fine on summary conviction not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale (currently £500).

138. The Policy Memorandum states that this guidance “will include the use of the section to obtain information from tenants in HMOs and guidance could set out how a local authority will be expected to take account of the circumstances of a tenant”62 This seeks to address the concerns raised by the Committee in its Stage 1 report on the Housing (Scotland) Bill over vulnerable tenants providing information both in relation to HMOs and landlord registration.

Enforcement

139. In evidence on the Housing (Scotland) Bill, the Committee heard a number of concerns about the powers that local authorities had in relation to HMOs and the enforcement of the existing legislation. This was also reflected in written submissions on this Bill.

140. In relation to HMOs, the Committee noted in its Stage 1 report that Part 5 of the 2006 Act will also provide greater powers to local authorities but that this will not come into force until 31 August 2011. Some of the main changes will be as follows—

  • the test of whether a landlord is a “fit and proper person” will be aligned with the test for landlord registration as set out in the 2004 Act
  • Ministers will have a power, by order, to prescribe mandatory conditions for HMOs.
  • Ministers will have a power, by order, to direct the manner by which fees are determined by all authorities or by particular authorities
  • Local authorities will have a power to require HMO landlords to undertake certain works to their properties (through HMO amenity orders)
  • Local authorities will be able to issue a temporary exemption order, which will allow the owner of an HMO that does not have a licence to take steps to stop it from being an HMO, for example, by reducing the occupancy rate. The local authority will be able to specify steps the landlord must take to ensure the safety or security of occupiers in the meantime
  • Local authorities will be able to suspend rent payments to landlords of HMOs that are unlicensed or where conditions are breached

141. In oral evidence on the Housing (Scotland) Bill, Hillhead Community Council stated that enforcement did not work “because local authorities do not have the powers that they need and the enforcement powers have no teeth.”63 It further explained that—

“Houses in multiple occupation officers tell us that they desperately need powers to close the properties of persistent offenders and HMOs in which serious breaches of the rules have occurred. They also tell us that the cost of taking an enforcement case to court is £2,000; that fines are derisory—they are less than a week's rent for an HMO; and that bringing a case to court is almost impossible because of the level of serious crime cases that sheriffs are hearing.”64

142. Hillhead Community Council was of the view that the HMO provisions in the Housing (Scotland) Bill did not provide enough power to local authorities, stating that, “There is nothing in the legislation that enables local authorities to use powers to correct that situation.”65 It explained that enforcement orders where “simply ignored” and fines “not necessarily paid” and not always pursued. Where an HMO was taken to court “the fine has been £400 or the court has simply admonished a landlord who has been fined before.” Hillhead Community Council concluded that, “Failings in how the system operates could be addressed.”66

143. In its written submission, Sustainable Communities Scotland concurred with this view, stating—

“At present, enforcement is not well resourced and local authorities are understandably reluctant to engage on costly enforcement practices.”67

Subdivision of properties and concentration of HMOs

144. The subdivision of properties to accommodate more tenants in an HMO was a particular issue raised in oral evidence on the Housing (Scotland) Bill and again in written evidence on this Bill. This included adaptations which incorporated services into new areas of tenemental properties and, as a result, caused additional disturbances to neighbours. In written evidence, Hillhead Community Council identified three areas in which properties were adapted for the purposes of letting as an HMO. These were the: “relocation of stacked services (kitchens, bathrooms, drainage); subdivision of main rooms to increase rental; [and] installation of extra kitchens and bathrooms to avoid HMO legislation.” Sustainable Communities Scotland called for this to be addressed in legislation—

“Measures should be enacted to prevent the adaption of flats in traditional tenement properties which involve sub-division of rooms and relocation of services (such as water supplies to toilets, sinks and showers) which increase flooding risks for downstairs tenements and produce noise problems which adversely affect living conditions and amenity for neighbours.”68

145. The National Union of Students suggested that students and tenants groups shared the same views on the adaptations and subdivision of tenemental properties, but pointed out that a ceiling on the proportion of HMOs in an area might further encourage this—

“Students and tenants groups more generally are probably at one with people who do not want overcrowded properties that are subdivided too much. It is quite interesting—or perhaps ironic—that some of the proposals for capping or reducing the number of HMOs in a given area would increase both the pressure on the remaining HMOs and the benefit of making such subdivisions. If… we do not want overcrowding and oversubdivision of properties, we therefore do not want to reduce the number of and increase the pressure on the remaining HMOs in a given area.”69

146. One particular issue that emerged in evidence was the concentration of HMOs in certain areas. Sustainable Communities Scotland outlined its concerns about concentrations of HMOs in oral evidence to the Committee—

“…no matter where they are, concentrations of HMOs are detrimental to a community. They change its nature. There is often a progression from reasonable numbers of HMOs to overwhelming numbers of HMOs, as they tend to congregate together. If you live in a tenemental property—or, indeed, in any other kind of property—and your neighbours are being replaced by short-term and in some cases seasonal residents with an average tenancy of 10 months, the "pride of place" in that community begins to evaporate, as our submission says. People who live there permanently have few or no long-term neighbours. The community starts to deteriorate in a number of different ways, including those that we heard about earlier, such as the difficulty of maintaining a property if there are absentee landlords.”70

147. Hillhead Community Council observed that, “A lot of people who live below undesirable HMOs would agree that there should not be any HMOs in tenements”71 and that Glasgow City Council had approached this issue by imposing a 5% restriction on the number of tenements in a close, a block or a street. However, this did not address “existing situations in which there is a high density of HMOs, nor does it address situations in which landlords have got away with operating an illegal HMO for 10 years and have automatically got planning consent.” Hillhead Community Council suggested that the latter point should be addressed when the HMO licence came up for renewal.72

148. The NUS Scotland disputed the views about “concentrations of HMOs overwhelming other residents or bringing a monoculture to a particular area.” It argued that—

“There is a great deal of diversity in HMOs. Of course, there is the example of the archetypal, traditional student, but there are also increasing numbers of young professionals and couples living with others in shared flats, and of people who cannot afford to buy their first property—there are even more of them in the current economic downturn. The idea that HMOs bring with them a particular group of people and many negative aspects is not necessarily true. That perception needs to be dealt with, but not by reducing or putting caps or limits on the number of HMOs.”73

149. The NUS Scotland also warned about the potential risks associated with adapting HMO legislation to deal with issues other than safety—

“The overriding point for us is that HMOs are about safety, not social engineering. HMO licences were brought in and made mandatory after two young students died in a fire in Glasgow. If we start to mix safety with social issues around services, as important as those issues are, we start to threaten the integrity of the safety legislation. Above all, to us that is the last thing that needs to be done. There are other ways of tackling the issues, perceptions or assertions that are being made, but risking tenants' safety is not the way to do it.”74

Conclusions

150. As stated in its Stage 1 report on the Housing (Scotland) Bill, the Committee welcomes the amendments to the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 introduced by section 13 to provide Scottish Ministers with the power to specify by order any additional categories of multi-occupancy living accommodation as licensable HMOs. The Committee considers that this will help reduce the grounds on which landlords avoid HMO licensing and protect groups such as migrant workers. It will also support local authorities in enforcement. The Committee is firmly of the view that this order should be subject to the affirmative procedure.

151. The Committee welcomes the insertion of a new section into the 2006 Act allowing for the refusal of a licence where the occupation of the living accommodation concerned as an HMO would constitute a breach of planning control. The Committee believes that this establishes an important link between the issuing of a licence and the existence of planning permission for an HMO property. It considers that this will help to address the problem of subdivision and new services in tenemental properties. The Committee calls on local authorities to use these powers in order that the legislation can be effective in addressing the problems recounted by witnesses in relation to HMO properties.

152. The Committee welcomes the recognition of the concerns it raised previously regarding vulnerable tenants who refuse to provide information and the assurance that guidance will set out how a local authority will be required to act. As with the guidance to be issued in relation to landlord registration, the Committee ask the Scottish Government to make available a copy of this guidance as soon as practical and preferably before Stage 3 takes place.

153. The Committee recognises the concerns raised by witnesses about the effect that a concentration of HMOs can have on a community and is conscious of the need to find a balance which can allow communities to be sustainable for all residents. It acknowledges that the profile of many areas within cities have been altered as a result of an increasing number of HMOs as the size of the student population expands. However, it believes that it is also important for young people to have access to safe and secure accommodation. The Committee considers that local authorities must use housing and planning legislation and policies to support sustainable communities and the maintenance of private sector housing.

Overcrowding

Introduction

154. Part 3 of the Bill introduces powers to enable local authorities to deal with overcrowding in the private rented sector.

155. The Scottish Government’s Review of the Private Rented Sector identified a number of studies highlighting a particular problem of overcrowding among migrant workers. Additionally, petition PE1189 was lodged with the Parliament which highlighted particular problems in the Govanhill area of Glasgow.

156. There are already provisions contained in existing legislation that can be used to deal with overcrowding. Part VII of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 provides the legal definition of overcrowding. A house is regarded as overcrowded if it fails either of two tests. The first is the room standard, based on which and how many people have to a share a room. The second test is space standard which is based on the total number of people occupying a house relative to the number and size of rooms. The HMO licensing system allows local authorities to address overcrowding by specifying the maximum number of occupants permitted in a licensed HMO.

157. The Bill’s Policy Memorandum suggests that existing legislation is not adequate to deal with the issue of overcrowding. According to the Memorandum, “the enforcement provisions in Part VII [of the 1987 Act] were only ever brought into effect in two localities and are now inoperable and archaic…there are currently very limited means for local authorities to take action to address overcrowding in properties that are not HMOs.”75 With regard to the provisions in the HMO licensing system, the Memorandum notes that it can be difficult for a local authority to identify that the dwelling is an HMO if occupants claim to be members of the same family.

158. Section 17 of the Bill gives local authorities the power to serve an overcrowding statutory notice on the landlord of a house which is overcrowded (in terms of the 1987 Act) where a local authority considers that the overcrowding is having “an adverse effect on the health or wellbeing of any person” or “an adverse effect on the amenity of the house or its locality.”76

159. Section 18 allows local authorities to provide advice and assistance to the occupants of a house where an overcrowding statutory notice has been served. Sections 19 to 26 make further provision about the content and duration of notices and the procedure for making them, outline the appeals procedure and provide that failure by a landlord to comply with a notice will be an offence not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale (currently £1,000). A local authority may revoke a notice at any time.

Impact on homelessness and social housing

160. A number of significant concerns were raised over these proposals both in written and oral evidence. For example, the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance stated it had “grave concerns”77 and suggested that further research should be carried out before any legislation is put in place. Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations welcomed the provisions but suggested they were very broadly framed, that some provisions should be strengthened and questioned whether the level of fines would be sufficient to act as a disincentive.

161. Organisations such as Shelter Scotland and the Scottish Council for Single Homeless accept that overcrowding is a significant issue that needs to be dealt with, but were concerned that unless local authorities had a duty to deal with those who were displaced, that the problem of homelessness would be exacerbated.

162. SCSH stated—

“The main areas of concern we have are about how the people displaced by an overcrowding order will be treated under related legislation. Given that our homelessness framework in Scotland seeks to provide a safety net for all, SCSH believes it is important that the legislation makes clear that a household displaced by such an order could not be found ‘intentionally homeless’ simply because they had been in that situation.”78

163. Similarly, Shelter Scotland in its written submission stated the proposals would result in “increased homelessness or simply moving the problem from one property to another.”79 In oral evidence, Rosemary Brotchie from Shelter Scotland went on to say that further work should be undertaken before attempting to legislate on the basis that “we simply do not know enough about the circumstances of the people who live in those conditions, what their alternatives are and why local authority action is not working to known whether the powers in the bill will solve the problem.”80

164. Shelter Scotland went on to say that if the proposals in the Bill were accepted that they would suggest “at the very least the power to provide advice and assistance should become a duty and that there should be a duty to rehouse displaced households.”81

165. This point was echoed by Douglas White from Consumer Focus Scotland who stated—

“Local authorities will need clear guidance and support on when they should issue such notices and what factors they must take into account in determining what an overcrowding situation looks like…We want to see those criteria in guidance to ensure that tenants in such situations are treated in a fair and consistent manner.”82

166. However, concern was also raised about the pressures that might place on local authorities and on social rented housing and whether landlords might breach the legislation in the knowledge that their tenants would then become the responsibility of local authorities.

167. The local authorities who gave evidence to the Committee explained that the power to serve an overcrowding notice is discretionary and that it is likely it would be used as a weapon of last resort. Stephen McGowan from Glasgow City Council acknowledged that authorities did not “want to solve one crisis only to create another.”83

168. In evidence, the Minister for Housing and Communities rejected the suggestion that local authorities should have a duty to rehouse anyone displaced by an overcrowding statutory notice. He reiterated the point that local authorities wanted powers only to deal with the most severe cases and that “it is neither my intention, nor is it that of local authorities to ask for powers to swoop in and make people homeless.”84

169. He explained local authorities would have to have regard to guidance issued by Scottish Ministers (which would be produced in consultation with stakeholders) as well as taking into account the particular circumstances of a case before deciding whether to issue on overcrowding notice.

170. If a notice were served, it would require a landlord to take specified steps to ensure the house is no longer overcrowded and it would also set out the period within which such steps have to be taken and completed. Such a period must be at least 28 days. The Minister suggested that typically, overcrowding situations would be addressed by local authorities managing down the numbers by finding alternative accommodation and that in many cases, such alternative accommodation would be in the private rented sector.

171. The Minister also stated—

“It is certainly not the intention that the provision should become a fast track for tenants to get on to social housing lists, although local authorities’ statutory homelessness duties will apply in some cases.”85

172. The Committee notes the Minister’s comments that overcrowding situations would be addressed by managing down the numbers. However, it also notes evidence given by Robert Aldridge of the SCSH who questioned whether the serving of notices would be practical and legal in certain circumstances—

“I point out that for people who do not have formal short assured tenancy notice, the legal default is an assured tenancy, under which overcrowding is not a ground for eviction. As a result, a landlord would be unable to reduce numbers. We must ensure that there is some means of employing an overcrowding statutory notice legally, that the people who are displaced by it are not left homeless or destitute and that before any such notice is imposed people are aware of the implications of such a move.”86

173. The Committee asks the Scottish Government to provide further clarification regarding situations where there is no formal short assured tenancy and in particular, to clarify how landlords can be expected legally to reduce overcrowding.

Relationship with homelessness duties

174. Scottish Government officials confirmed that tenants who live in overcrowded accommodation can already apply as being homeless and may be eligible for local authority assistance if all the other criteria are met—

“The serving of the overcrowding statutory notice does not affect the existing position. The local authority does not have to serve a notice and, if it does not, the position is not altered. The people could apply for housing on the ground of being homeless because of overcrowding affecting their health. What we are doing here is giving local authorities an additional power that does not affect existing rights with regard to homelessness.”87

175. The Minister was asked to clarify further the relationship between the provisions on overcrowding in this Bill and existing duties in relation to homelessness. There are a number of factors which could have a bearing on whether current homelessness duties would apply.

176. In supplementary correspondence, the Minister acknowledged that the particular steps that a local authority sets out in an overcrowding statutory notice could have different implications for homelessness. The first example given was where a notice stated that no additional tenants were allowed and existing tenants were not to be replaced as they left until the occupancy level fell to the statutory maximum. The Minister stated that this situation “should not lead to anyone being treated as legally homeless.”88

177. A different example was given of a notice which specified that to reduce the number of occupants to the permitted maximum level, the excess tenancies should not be renewed when they reached their contractual end. In this situation “this could mean that some of the occupants would be able to apply to the local authority as being threatened with homelessness. If an occupant were found to be threatened by homelessness, the local authority may in certain circumstances have to ensure that accommodation – not necessarily social housing – was available at the point when they had to leave their present accommodation.”89

178. The reasons for serving an overcrowding notice are also relevant. For example, if a notice was served because the overcrowding was adversely affecting the health of the occupants this could imply that the occupants were already statutorily homeless under section 24(3)(d) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 which in turn would mean that local authorities would have to ensure that accommodation was available.

179. The circumstances of the occupants will also determine their rights. Some groups are not entitled to assistance with homelessness (including people who are subject to immigration control and asylum seekers as well as some European Economic Area (EEA) nationals). Additionally, local authorities need to decide whether occupants should be regarded as being in priority need or unintentionally homeless. The supplementary correspondence notes that the priority need test will be abolished in 2012.

Scale of the problem

180. The Minister’s view was that when local authorities had to find alternative accommodation for people who had been displaced, such accommodation would not necessarily be in the social rented sector. Section 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act gives local authorities the power to request housing in the social rented sector where a homelessness duty exists. Therefore, the Minister was asked whether and how these provisions would apply to occupants in an overcrowding situation.

181. Supplementary correspondence from the Minister states—

“If the service of an OSN [overcrowding statutory notice] resulted in occupants being found to be unintentionally homeless and in priority need, the local authority could use a Section 5 referral to have those people housed by a registered social landlord.”90

182. In a submission to the Finance Committee, Glasgow City Council stated that in Govanhill alone, there was a “12 block radius with high density private rented sector housing” and that many of these flats “would meet the new overcrowding criteria due to the number of residents in each unit and the conditions therein.”91

183. The Minister was therefore asked to clarify how many statutory notices were likely to be issued and how many occupants might be entitled to social rented housing as a consequence. In supplementary correspondence, the Minister estimated that under 100 notices would be issued annually throughout Scotland. On the specific issue of Govanhill, he stated—

“ it is known that many people in Govanhill do not have homelessness rights, but not how many of them living in conditions that would permit the service of an OSN.”

184. The letter goes on to state that it is not possible to say how many additional cases of homelessness across Scotland would result from the serving of overcrowding notices. However, the Scottish Government expects the numbers “to be minimal”. The letter states that in 2008-09 and 2009-10, 2% of all homelessness applications were on the grounds of overcrowding (1,266 and 1,119 households respectively)

Conclusions

185. The Committee recognises that overcrowding is a significant and serious issue and that steps have to be taken now to address this. In general, it supports the provisions in the Bill but has concerns about their practical application.

186. The Committee notes the Minister’s reassurances that these provisions are neither intended to increase levels of homelessness nor to use social housing stock as a means to address overcrowding in the private sector. However, it also recognises that the current position in relation to homelessness and local authority duties in that regard is already complex. For example, the Minister confirmed that he had to issue a letter of clarification to local authority housing conveners regarding a perceived link with homelessness legislation and anti-social behaviour. This suggests there is already confusion within local authorities and the provisions of this Bill have the potential to confuse the situation further.

187. In addition, as it is not currently possible to predict with any certainty how many cases of homelessness there are likely to be across Scotland, it is difficult to assess whether there is likely to be sufficient capacity in the private and social rented sector to house people who have been displaced.

188. The Committee recognises that the powers are discretionary, likely to be used as a last resort and that local authorities will need to take a number of factors into account (including guidance from the Scottish Government) before deciding to issue an overcrowding notice. However, it is also concerned that, for the reasons outlined above, it is difficult to predict the likely consequences arising from the provisions in relation to levels of homelessness and impact on housing stock.

189. The Committee therefore recommends that the Scottish Government consults widely on the guidance to be issued in relation to overcrowding; that it monitors the number of overcrowding notices that are issued by local authorities and the circumstances leading to their issue and that it reviews the provisions to assess how effective they are in dealing with overcrowding and to assess their impact on levels of homelessness and on housing stock.

Miscellaneous

190. Part 4 of Bill makes a number of miscellaneous amendments to legislation relating to the private sector tenancy regime. It contains provisions that aim to clarify rights and responsibilities for tenants, landlords and agents in the private rented sector. It also includes a proposal to allow landlords to seek assistance from the Private Rented Housing Panel to exercise the right of entry in relation to the Repairing Standard.

Pre-tenancy charges

191. Section 28 seeks to clarify the situation regarding pre-tenancy charges made by landlords or letting agents. It would give Scottish Minister powers to specify, by order, charges than can be allowed in connection with the grant, renewal or continuance of a tenancy. Scottish Minister could also specify maximum levels for such charges.

192. Brian Adair from ARLA welcomed the proposal to “make pre-tenancy charges lawful…because it is a grey area”92 He went on to say that “Reputable agents incur costs before a tenancy is taken in obtaining references, carrying out credit checks and so on, so it is only reasonable that such costs be charged to tenancy applicants.”93

193. Robert Aldridge from the Scottish Council for Single Homeless acknowledged that “certain administrative charges can be defensible” but he also outlined the difficulties that people currently face in putting together a pre-tenancy deposit and that “it is important that we do not exclude from the private rented sector people who would otherwise be in the social rented sector.”94

194. The Minister concurred that charges such as a deposit and a charge for a credit check would be legitimate, but that “to say “We are going to charge you £400 for keeping this place open for you” would not be legitimate.”95 The order will list legitimate charges and therefore, any charges that are not listed will be deemed to be illegitimate. The Minister confirmed that the order will not only deal with the issue of legitimacy but also the level and reasonableness of the charge.

195. The Committee is supportive of these proposals as they will bring much needed clarity to the issue of charges that can reasonably and legitimately be levied.

Tenant information packs

196. Section 29 requires private landlords to provide tenants with specified documents (a tenant information pack) at the start of the tenancy. Scottish Ministers would be given powers to specify, by order, the documents that must be provided. Failure to supply these documents, without reasonable excuse, would be an offence attracting a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale (currently £500).

197. There was strong support for the introduction of tenant information packs, particularly as a tool to raise awareness about rights and responsibilities and the regulation of the sector, although witnesses recognised that such packs would not be panacea.

198. The Scottish Rural Property and Business Association thought there should be a duty on Scottish Ministers not only to specify what goes into the packs but “to provide the statutory standard information, so that the administrative burden on the landlord is reduced.”96

199. However, Crisis, in its written submission stated that the packs “should be promoted as best practice but not necessarily legislated for. We would ideally like to see a proactive drive to encourage all landlords to provide important information to the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy period. However, if this becomes a statutory duty we are not convinced that it will be practical or enforceable.”97

200. The Minister explained that he saw the Scottish Government’s role to provide “almost a checklist of the minimal information”. He envisaged it would include basic information on tenants rights and responsibilities, such as how to complain, health and safety issues and what to do in the case of any disputes over rent or tenancy deposits. The Minister also explained that an order would be issued which would set out a list of what packs must contain and that, as an order, it would be subject to consultation. However, he stated that his view was “if in doubt put it in”98

201. The Minister was asked whether there would be a requirement for assurances to be given about the safety of gas or electrical appliances and his response was that landlords and agents should already be giving out such information and that if a landlord were not complying with health and safety legislation and other legislation covering gas and electricity connections, they may be subject to prosecution.

202. In a written submission, the Electrical Safety Council suggested that the Scottish Government should “when making provisions about the form of documents and the information to be included in them” “require a Periodic Inspection Report (PIR) to be included and confirmation of whether an RCS [Residual Current Device which protects against electric shocks and reduces the risk of electrical fires] has been installed in the consumer unit”99. This written evidence was not received until after the Minister had given evidence to the Committee and therefore, the Committee would be interested to know the Scottish Government’s views on the suggestion made by the Electrical Safety Council.

203. The Committee is of the view that tenant information packs will have an extremely important role to play in raising awareness in the sector and is supportive of their introduction. It calls on the Scottish Government to keep the Committee informed on the consultation.

Notices required for termination of short assured tenancy

204. Section 30 seeks to clarify matters relating to notices required for the termination of a short assured tenancy. It would clarify that, under the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988, a notice of proceedings does not have to be served on short assured tenancies that have come to the end of their contractual agreement.

205. No concerns were raised over this proposal and therefore, the Committee is content to support it.

Landlord applications to the Private Rented Housing Panel

206. Section 31 would allow a landlord to apply to the Private Rented Housing Panel for assistance to enter a property in order to comply with the Repairing Standard (as defined in the 2006 Act). Currently, a landlord can seek court action if they cannot gain access to meet the Repairing Standard. An application to the Private Rented Housing Panel would be considered by a single member of the Panel. Scottish Ministers would be given a power to make regulations to specify further detail about the making or deciding of applications, which could include a power to prescribe a fee for an application to the Private Rented Housing Panel.

207. Some concerns were raised about this proposal in particular the possibility that a landlord might be charged a fee for applying to the Private Rented Housing Panel. Brian Adair from the Association of Residential Letting Agents commented—

“It is depressing that under the bill a landlord will have to apply to the private rented housing panel to get access to his property to carry out a repair, because the tenant will not let him in. Furthermore, the landlord will have to pay the fee. Why on earth should the landlord be landed with paying a fee to get in to carry out a repair to his own property, which is very likely to help the tenant and the property”100

208. The Policy Memorandum confirms that where a tenant does not grant access to a landlord, the landlord can seek a court order but that some landlords “advise this can take months to obtain”. It also notes that tenants can currently apply to the Private Rented Housing Panel to enforce the landlord’s duty to ensure the housing meets the Repairing Standard but that the landlord has no such rights. On the issue of fees, the Memorandum states—

“Given the present economic situation, Ministers may consider it appropriate that landlords, who will be saved the time and cost involved in court action, should pay a fee for access to the PRHP…It is likely that any such fee would be set at the average additional cost to the PRHP of dealing with applications from landlords.”101

209. The Committee notes the concerns raised by the Association of Residential Letting Agents but also recognises that applying to the Private Rented Housing Panel may be a less expensive and less time-consuming process than having to take court action. The Committee supports the objective of the proposal which is to encourage landlords to maintain and repair their houses, but would ask the Scottish Government to respond to the concerns raised by the Association of Residential Letting Agents.

financial memorandum

210. The Finance Committee decided to adopt what is known as “level one” scrutiny which involves seeking written evidence from organisations upon whom costs will fall and forwarding this evidence to the lead Committee. The Finance Committee received 3 submissions and these, together with correspondence from the Convener of the committee, are attached at Annexe C.

211. The Financial Memorandum indicates that in those areas where it has been able to make an estimate, that costs to local authorities are likely to be minimal or negligible. In relation to the power to serve an overcrowding notice, the Memorandum states that costs are “likely to be very low”102

212. However, as noted earlier in this report, Glasgow City Council was of the opinion that the Bill’s overcrowding provisions would cover a number of residents particularly in Govanhill and that these provisions would require additional resources to be given to councils. For its part, Glasgow suggested it would require 1 new member of staff to carry out inspections and liaise with the landlord registration unit in the short-term and that an additional 0.5 FTE (full-time equivalent) would be required in the landlord registration team.

213. The two other authorities who responded to the Finance Committee were Orkney Islands and Fife councils, both of whom suggested that they could deal with the Bill’s provisions from within existing resources.

214. The Committee notes that Glasgow City Council believes additional resources will be required to deal with overcrowding and asks the Scottish Government to respond to these concerns.

SUBORDINATE LEGISLATION

215. The Subordinate Legislation Committee (SLC) considered the delegated powers under this Bill and its report is attached as Annexe B.

216. The Committee notes that the SLC determined that it did not need to draw this Committee’s attention to the delegated powers in sections: 1, 4, 10, 13, 16, 17(7), 17(8), 28(2), 29, 31(4) (so far as relating to insertion of section 28C(11) into the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006) and 3.

217. The Committee notes that the SLC was initially concerned by the power under section 31(4) in relation to a landlord’s application the Private Rented Housing Panel. The SLC was concerned that regulations under this power could cover a wide range of matters, going beyond matters of administrative detail, yet are to be subject to negative procedure only. It noted that they could, for example, specify the circumstances in which a panel member must decide to reject an application or stop assisting a landlord. The SLC considered this could be a matter of some significance in relation to the overall scheme of the landlord application process. It also noted that the provision made at section 28B(2) is not exhaustive, and that the Scottish Ministers could make further provision, by regulations, around the fairly wide subject area of the “making of applications under section 28A”. The Scottish Government was therefore asked if it was not the case that this power could be used to deal with a wide range of matters, potentially involving more than administrative detail, and whether it would be appropriate that they be subject to affirmative procedure.

218. In its report, the SLC notes that in its reply, the Scottish Government agrees that there are aspects which could potentially address more than administrative detail. It further notes the indication given by the Scottish Government that it is reviewing the position with a view to bringing forward amendments to the Bill to address the SLC’s concerns about the range of matters that could be covered by regulations under this power.

219. The Committee notes that the SLC has welcomed the indication that the Scottish Government is reviewing the position with a view to bringing forward amendments to the Bill to address the concerns expressed by the Committee. It further notes that the SLC will reconsider this power in section 31(4), relating to inserted section 28B, after Stage 2.

CONCLUSION

220. The Committee recognises that the landlord registration scheme is not having the impact that was intended and that improvements need to be made to the scheme. The Bill sets out a number of intended improvements, albeit with a reliance on subsequent, statutory guidance to assist with issues such as enforcement. The Committee has set out a number of concerns with some of the provisions related to landlord registration.

221. Similarly, the Committee recognises that the issue of overcrowding has to be addressed, but is concerned that the current position in relation to homelessness and local authority duties will be made even more complex by the Bill’s provisions, that it will be difficult to predict with any certainty how many cases of homelessness there are likely to be and whether there will be sufficient capacity in the private and social rented sector to house displaced people.

222. With these caveats, the Committee recommends that the general principles of the Bill be agreed to.

Annexe a: extracts from the minutes of the local government and communities committee

23rd Meeting, 2010 (Session 3), Wednesday 6 October 2010

1. Decision on taking business in private: The Committee agreed to take items 5 and 6 in private. The Committee agreed to consider a detailed approach to proposed legislation in private at its next meeting.

5. Proposed legislation (in private): The Committee considered its initial approach to proposed legislation.

24th Meeting, 2010 (Session 3), Wednesday 27 October 2010

Decision on taking business in private: The Committee agreed to take item 4 in private. The Committee also agreed to consider the evidence heard and its draft reports on the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill, Local Electoral Administration (Scotland)

6. Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill (in private): The Committee agreed its approach to the scrutiny of the Bill at Stage 1. The Committee also agreed to delegate to the Convener the responsibility for arranging for the SPCB to pay, under Rule 12.4.3, any expenses of witnesses during the Stage 1 scrutiny of the Bill.

26th Meeting, 2010 (Session 3), Wednesday 10 November 2010

Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill: The Committee took evidence on the Bill at Stage 1 from—

Stephen McGowan, Housing Strategy Manager, Glasgow City Council;

Alistair Somerville, Head of Section, HMO Inspection Team, City of Edinburgh Council;

Cathie Fancy, Group Manager, Housing Strategy and Services, Scottish Borders Council;

John Blackwood, Director, Scottish Association of Landlords;

Sarah-Jane Laing, Head of Policy, Scottish Rural Property and Business Association;

Brian Adair, Former Chairman of Scottish District and National Council Member, Association of Residential Lettings Agents.

Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill (in private): The Committee discussed the main themes arising from the evidence heard to date.

27th Meeting, 2010 (Session 3), Wednesday 17 November 2010

Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill: The Committee took evidence on the Bill at Stage 1 from—

Douglas White, Senior Policy Advocate, Consumer Focus Scotland;

Rosemary Brotchie, Policy Officer, Shelter Scotland;

Natalie Sutherland, Policy and Practice Officer, Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland;

Robert Aldridge, Chief Executive, Scottish Council for Single Homeless.

Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill (in private): The Committee discussed the main themes arising from the evidence heard to date.

29th Meeting, 2010 (Session 3), Wednesday 1 December 2010

Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill: The Committee took evidence on the Bill at Stage 1 from—

Alex Neil MSP, Minister for Housing and Communities, Lisa Wallace, Team Leader, Private Housing Unit: Policy and Consumers, and Colin Affleck, Policy Officer, Private Housing Unit: Policy and Consumers, Scottish Government.

Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill (in private): The Committee considered the main themes arising from the evidence heard to date.

32nd Meeting, 2010 (Session 3), Wednesday 22 December 2010

Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill (in private): The Committee considered a draft Stage 1 report.

1st Meeting, 2010 (Session 3), Wednesday 12 January 2011

Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill (in private): The Committee considered and agreed a draft Stage 1 report.

Annexe b: SUBORDINATE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE REPORT

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows—

introduction

1. At its meetings on 9 and 23 November 2010, the Subordinate Legislation Committee considered the delegated powers provisions in the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill at Stage 1. The Committee submits this report to the Local Government and Communities Committee as the lead committee for the Bill under Rule 9.6.2 of Standing Orders.

overview of the bill

2. The Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill (“the Bill”) was introduced in the Parliament on 4 October 2010 by the Cabinet Secretary for Health & Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon MSP.

3. The Scottish Government provided the Parliament with a memorandum on the delegated powers provisions in the Bill (“the DPM”).103

4. Correspondence between the Committee and the Scottish Government is reproduced in the Annexe.

5. The Committee determined that it did not need to draw the attention of the Parliament to the delegated powers in sections: 1, 4, 10, 13, 16, 17(7), 17(8), 28(2), 29, 31(4) (so far as relating to insertion of section 28C(11) into the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006) and 33.

Delegated powers provisions

Section 31(4) (inserts section 28B into the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006) – Landlord application to private rented housing panel: further provision

Power conferred on: The Scottish Ministers

Power exercisable by: Regulations made by statutory instrument

Parliamentary procedure: Negative resolution of the Scottish Parliament

6. This power takes the form of provision inserted into the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. In terms of the context for this power the Committee notes firstly, that inserted section 28A enables a landlord to apply to the private rented housing panel for assistance under new section 28C, in exercising the landlord’s right of entry to the house concerned. Section 28A sets out a detailed process in that regard. Under the power in section 28B, the Scottish Ministers can make further provision about the making or deciding of applications under section 28A.

7. The Committee was concerned that regulations under this power could cover a wide range of matters, going beyond matters of administrative detail, yet are to be subject to negative procedure, only. It noted that they could, for example, specify the circumstances in which a panel member must decide to reject an application or stop assisting a landlord. The Committee considered this may be a matter of some significance in relation to the overall scheme of the landlord application process. It also noted that the provision made at section 28B(2) is not exhaustive, and that the Scottish Ministers could make further provision, by regulations, around the fairly wide subject area of the “making of applications under section 28A”. The Scottish Government was accordingly asked if it was not the case that this power could be used to deal with a wide range of matters, potentially involving more than administrative detail, and whether it would be appropriate that they be subject to affirmative procedure.

8. The Committee notes that the Scottish Government, it its reply, agrees that there are aspects which could potentially address more than administrative detail. It further notes the indication given by the Scottish Government that it is reviewing the position with a view to bringing forward amendments to the Bill to address the Committee’s concerns about the range of matters that could be covered by regulations under this power. As commented upon in the Committee’s letter to the Scottish Government, those concerns focus on the choice of procedure.

9. The Committee welcomes the indication that the Scottish Government is reviewing the position with a view to bringing forward amendments to the Bill to address the concerns expressed by the Committee. It will reconsider this power in section 31(4), relating to inserted section 28B, after Stage 2.

Section 35 – Commencement

Power conferred on: The Scottish Ministers

Power exercisable by: Order made by statutory instrument

Parliamentary procedure: None

10. The commencement power contained in section 35(3) of the Bill, enables provisions to come into force on such day as the Scottish Ministers by order appoint. In terms of section 35(4), an order under subsection (3) can include transitional, transitory or saving provision. Such an order would not be subject to Parliamentary procedure. A separate power under section 33 enables the Scottish Minister to make “such consequential, supplementary, incidental, transitional, transitory or saving provision as they consider necessary for the purposes of, or in consequence of, or for the purposes of giving full effect to, any provisions of this Act”. Such an order is subject to negative procedure, unless it textually amends primary legislation in which case an order must be approved by the Parliament.

11. The Committee contrasted the difference in procedural treatment under sections 33 and 35. It asked the Scottish Government why an order made under section 35, where that order includes transitional, transitory or saving provision, should be subject to no procedure, whereas an order containing such provision where made under section 33 would be subject to either negative or affirmative procedure. The Scottish Government was therefore asked whether an order under section 35, in circumstances where it deals not simply with matters of commencement, but also includes transitional, transitory or saving provision, should be subject to negative procedure, rather than no procedure.

12. The Committee notes that the Scottish Government considers the approach taken within section 35 to be appropriate. The Government indicates that transitional, transitory or saving provision is by its very nature temporary and time- limited. It also makes clear that, in its view, any such provision made under these powers must be closely related to the section to be commenced, which the Parliament has already closely scrutinised. As regards the choice between the use of powers under section 33 or 35 when making transitional, transitory or saving provision, the Scottish Government states that the powers in section 33 “will tend to be for more substantive matters where the negative procedure is more appropriate”.

13. The Committee’s particular interest is concerned with ensuring that the subordinate legislation making powers in this Bill are subject to an appropriate level of scrutiny.

14. The Committee accepts that ancillary provision in an order is likely to be temporary, time-limited and closely related to the section being commenced. Nonetheless, the Committee recognises that the Bill offers the Government a choice between using the ancillary power in conjunction with commencement or on a stand-alone basis. The choice made impacts on the ability of Parliament to scrutinise the provision made. The present Government has offered some assurance as to how the choice would be made. While this is not binding, the principle that the more substantive the effect of the order is, the more likely the Government would be to select section 33, accords with the Committee’s view. It therefore will adopt in future this approach in scrutinising future use of these powers.

ANNEXE

Correspondence with the Scottish Government

Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill at Stage 1

Section 31(4) (inserts section 28B into the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006) – Landlord application to private rented housing panel: further provision

Q. The Scottish Government is asked whether the power to make further provision about the making or deciding of landlord applications could be used to deal with a range of matters, potentially involving rather more than administrative detail, and that it would be appropriate that it be subject to affirmative procedure?

The Scottish Government notes the Committee’s concerns about the range of matters that could be covered by regulations under this power and agrees that there are aspects which could potentially address more than administrative detail. The Scottish Government is therefore reviewing the position with a view to bringing forward amendments to the Bill to address this.

Section 35 – Commencement

Q. The Scottish Government is asked why an order made under section 35, where it includes transitional, transitory or saving provision, should be subject to no procedure, in contrast to an order containing such provision where made under section 33, which would be subject to negative procedure? Should an order under section 35, in those circumstances where it deals not simply with matters of commencement, but also includes transitional, transitory or saving provision, be subject to negative procedure, rather than no procedure?

The Scottish Government notes the Committee’s comments. However, the Scottish Government considers that it is appropriate to include transitional, transitory or savings provision with commencement orders which take no procedure on the basis that such provision is by its very nature temporary and time-limited and is closely related to the section to be commenced, which the Parliament has already closely scrutinised.

The use of such powers in the context of section 33 will tend to be for more substantive matters where the negative procedure is more appropriate.

Annexe C: CORRESPONDENCE FROM THE FINANCE COMMITTEE

Finance Committee – consideration of the Financial Memorandum of the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill

As you are aware, the Finance Committee examines the financial implications of all legislation, through the scrutiny of Financial Memoranda. The Committee agreed to adopt level one scrutiny in relation to the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Bill. Applying this level of scrutiny means that the Committee does not take oral evidence or produce a report, but it does seek written evidence from affected organisations.

The Committee received two submissions on the FM, which are attached to this letter. If you have any questions about the Committee’s scrutiny of the FM, please contact the clerks to the Committee via the contact details above.

Andrew Welsh MSP
Convener

Submission from Glasgow City Council

Consultation

1. Did you take part in the consultation exercise for the Bill, if applicable, and if so did you comment on the financial assumptions made?

A response was submitted in respect of the Private Rented (Scotland) Housing Bill and the financial implications.

2. Do you believe your comments on the financial assumptions have been accurately reflected in the Financial Memorandum?

Yes in respect of landlord registration provisions

3. Did you have sufficient time to contribute to the consultation exercise?

Yes.

Costs

4. If the Bill has any financial implications for your organisation, do you believe that these have been accurately reflected in the Financial Memorandum? If not, please provide details.

Yes in respect of landlord registration provisions.

In terms of overcrowding we do not feel that the Financial Memorandum has sufficiently addressed the costs associated with the implementation and indirect affects of these new provisions. In Govanhill we have a 12 block radius with high density private rented sector housing;many of these flats would meet the new overcrowding criteria due to the number of residents in each unit and the conditions therein e.g. severe cockroach and bedbug infestations. This legislation will allow this issue to be addressed, however, there is going to be a potential knock on effect on, for example, the Council’s homeless unit should tenants be evicted or the legal team in case of appeals.

Consideration of extra resources needs to be given to Councils with overcrowding issues; at least 1 new member of staff would be required to carry out inspections and liaise with the landlord registration unit in the short term (1-2 years) before the workload would stabilise. The landlord registration team may also require an additional 0.5 FTE to directly respond to overcrowding enforcement and concerns.

5. Are you content that your organisation can meet the financial costs associated with the Bill? If not, how do you think these costs should be met?

There are changes within the Bill which are difficult to place financial values on. It is however noted that cases which lead to refusal or revocation of landlord registration could cost as much as £500 per case. It is possible for these costs to be met through an increase in registration fees. This should be considered in the course of the Landlord Registration review which is ongoing.

Further scrutiny of resource requirements within Glasgow City Council to meet these new demands regarding overcrowding requires to be carried out. Any additional resources required could be allocated via grant application or other appropriate funding stream as required. These new powers could not be covered under existing resources.

6. Does the Financial Memorandum accurately reflect the margins of uncertainty associated with the estimates and the timescales over which such costs would be expected to arise?

Yes in respect of landlord registration.

In terms of overcrowding the Financial Memorandum does not reflect the true costs and resource requirements for implementing these new powers. Within certain parts of Glasgow overcrowding is a serious issue which needs to be addressed to improve health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities.

Wider Issues

7. If the Bill is part of a wider policy initiative, do you believe that these associated costs are accurately reflected in the Financial Memorandum?

Not applicable.

8. Do you believe that there may be future costs associated with the Bill, for example through subordinate legislation or more developed guidance? If so, is it possible to quantify these costs?

There may be additional costs where Scottish Ministers make further provisions. Such costs cannot be quantified at this time.

Brian Carroll, Landlord Registration Manager, Glasgow Community & Safety Services

Submission from Orkney Islands Council

Consultation

1. We were invited to take part in the consultation on the Private Rented Housing Bill but chose, ultimately, not to respond.

2. N/A.

3. There was ample time, in our view, to permit a measured response had we so desired.

Costs

4. We think that what is set out in the Financial Memorandum accurately reflects the increased costs for the Scottish Government in relation to IT upgrading and the possible increased costs for local government of the changes in verification and so forth.

At this stage it is difficult to be precise in relation to increased costs but we consider, as a relatively small authority, they are likely to be fairly minimal. However, there will be a need for us to keep costs under close scrutiny and Ministers need to be advised if costs spiral as a result of the changes in the law.

The relatively small numbers of HMOs in our area mean that costs for changes in this activity are also likely to be minimal and manageable.

5. We are confident that we will be able to meet any additional financial costs associated with the Bill and anticipate that these are likely, in our local context, to be minimal.

6. We think the Financial memorandum covers both cost estimates and timescales very comprehensively.

Wider Issues

7. Yes.

8. Very difficult to anticipate potential future costs at this stage. Any future guidance development would need to consider, in the same way as the Bill has done, potential implications for local government especially given the current, and probable, future financial climate where authorities may well be seeking to deliver improved services with fewer resources.

Submission from fife council

Consultation

9. Did you take part in the consultation exercise for the Bill, if applicable, and if so did you comment on the financial assumptions made? Yes, there was a response from Fife but it did not include comment on financial assumptions.

10. Do you believe your comments on the financial assumptions have been accurately reflected in the Financial Memorandum? Not Applicable.

11. Did you have sufficient time to contribute to the consultation exercise? Not Applicable.

Costs

12. If the Bill has any financial implications for your organisation, do you believe that these have been accurately reflected in the Financial Memorandum? If not, please provide details. Yes. Although there will be additional work arising from these proposals as well as work which potentially could be expected of the Local Authority dependent entirely on the resources being able to be applied to such activities.

13. Are you content that your organisation can meet the financial costs associated with the Bill? Yes. It is expected that any additional costs can be borne within, or offset by additional, fee income. If not, how do you think these costs should be met?

14. Does the Financial Memorandum accurately reflect the margins of uncertainty associated with the estimates and the timescales over which such costs would be expected to arise? Yes, although one or more individual authorities may have over estimated the potential costs for individual elements of the Bill, e.g. linking planning permission and HMO licensing (paragraph 73).

Wider Issues

15. If the Bill is part of a wider policy initiative, do you believe that these associated costs are accurately reflected in the Financial Memorandum? Yes.

16. Do you believe that there may be future costs associated with the Bill, for example through subordinate legislation or more developed guidance? Not aware of any. If so, is it possible to quantify these costs? No.


Footnotes:

1 Policy Memorandum, paragraph 2

2 Scottish Government. (2007) Firm Foundations: The Future of Housing Scotland. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/201716/0053780.pdf [Accessed 15 December 2010

3 Scottish Government. Scottish Private Sector Strategy Group remit. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-environment/Housing/privaterent/government/prsreview/strategy
[Accessed 14 December 2010]

4 Policy Memorandum, paragraph 13

5 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. 5th Report 2010 (Session 3). Stage 1 Report on the Housing (Scotland) Bill (SPP 456)

6 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 17 November 2010, Col 3729

7 Policy Memorandum, paragraph 19

8 Scottish Government (2009) Private Sector Housing Issues: Housing (Scotland) Bill: An Analysis of Consultation Responses, Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/12/02095414/0 [Accessed 14 December 2010]

9 Policy Memorandum, paragraph 22

10 Policy Memorandum, paragraph 22

11 Scottish Government. Scottish Private Rented Sector Strategy Group, minutes 20 July 2010. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/Housing/privaterent/government/prsreview/strategy/Meetings/Julyminutes010
[Accessed 14 December 2010]

12 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 10 November 2010, Col 3702

13 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 10 November 2010, Col 3702

14 Scottish Council for Single Homeless. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee

15 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee, Official Report, 10 November 2010, Col 3705

16 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee, Official Report, 10 November 201010 November 2010, Col 3705

17 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee, Official Report, 17 November 2010, Col 3731

18 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee, Official Report, 10 November 2010, Col 3713

19 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee, Official Report, 10 November 2010, Col 3712

20 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 1 December 2010, Col 3876

21 Scottish Rural Property and Business Association. Written submission

22 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3875

23 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 10 November 2010, col 3694

24 Correspondence from the Minister for Housing and Communities. November 2010

25 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 10 November 2010, Col 3692

26 Hillhead Community Council. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee

27 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 10 November 2010, Col 3709

28 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3690

29 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3698

30 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3877

31 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,14 April 2010, Col 2983

32 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3712

33 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3860

34 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3694

35 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3861

36 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,28 April 2010, Col 3103

37 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,28 April 2010, Col 3103

38 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3693

39 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3872

40 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,17 November 2010, Col 3743

41 Policy Memorandum, paragraph 70

42 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3871

43 Policy Memorandum, paragraph 50

44 Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee

45 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3706

46 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3708

47 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3875

48Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3710

49 Shelter Scotland. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee

50 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,17 November 2010, Col 3727

51 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,17 November 2010, Col 3728

52 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3861

53 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,17 November 2010, Col 3732

54 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3864

55Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. 5th Report 2010 (Session 3). Stage 1 Report on the Housing (Scotland) Bill (SPP 456)

56 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3869

57 Scottish Government. Supplementary correspondence, December 2010

58 Policy Memorandum, paragraph 98

59 Written answer to PQ S3W-37150

60 Written answer to PQ S3M-37180

61 NUS Scotland. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

62 Policy Memorandum, paragraph 94

63 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 21 April 2010, Col 3029.

64Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 21 April 2010, Col 3029.

65 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 21 April 2010, Col 3051.

66Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 21 April 2010, Col 3030.

67 Sustainable Communities Scotland. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee

68 Sustainable Communities (Scotland). Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee.

69 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 14 April 2010, Col 2993.

70Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 14 April 2010, Col 2991.

71 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 21 April 2010, Col 3032.

72 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report, 21 April 2010, Col 3032.

73 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report 14 April 2010, Col 2993.

74 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report 14 April 2010, Col 2994.

75 Policy Memorandum, paragraph 116

76 Explanatory Notes, paragraph 28

77 Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee

78 Scottish Council for Single Homeless. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee

79 Shelter Scotland. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee

80 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,17 November 2010, Col 3734

81 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,17 November 2010, Col 3735

82 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,17 November 2010, Col 3741

83 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3700

84 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010,Col 3859

85 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3859

86 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,17 November 2010, Col 3734

87 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3867

88 Scottish Government. Supplementary correspondence to the Local Government and Communities Committee, December 2010

89 Scottish Government. Supplementary correspondence to the Local Government and Communities Committee, December 2010

90 Scottish Government. Supplementary correspondence to the Local Government and Communities Committee, December 2010

91 Glasgow City Council. Written submission to the Finance Committee

92 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3711

93 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3711

94 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,17 November 2010, Col 3746

95 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3863

96 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3714

97 Crisis. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee

98 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,1 December 2010, Col 3869

99 Electrical Safety Council. Written submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee

100 Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee. Official Report,10 November 2010, Col 3717

101 Policy Memorandum, paragraph 157

102 Financial Memorandum, paragraph 76