|Printable version||E-mail this to a friend|
Safeguarding tenants' rights
A two-pronged initiative to ensure private rented homes are kept in a decent state of repair by landlords was announced today.
A new Repairing Standard, which extends existing legal requirements, will set the benchmark for what tenants can expect. For example, it will mean that, for the first time, all private rented properties will have to be fitted with smoke alarms.
And tenants who cannot agree with their landlord about whether or not the standard is being met will be able to take their case to the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP). This new organisation will in most instances try to resolve issues by mutual agreement or mediation, but it will have the power to back this up with enforcement if necessary.
Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell said:
"The introduction of the Repairing Standard and the Private Rented Housing Panel represents a significant step forward for tenants and landlords alike.
"Although the vast majority of landlords already maintain their properties to the standards we all want to see - and which tenants deserve - the new measures are aimed at making sure the minority of 'rogue landlords' meet their responsibilities.
"The PRHP will be there as a point of recourse for tenants when they think their properties don't measure up to the Repairing Standard.
"It's designed to give tenants peace of mind, by ensuring all private rented properties reach a certain standard. This is a vital step in giving people confidence in the private rented sector. And that's good for landlords too, as more people will see private renting as an attractive option."
The introduction of the new Repairing Standard and the PRHP has been widely welcomed by groups representing both tenants and landlords.
Kaliani Lyle, chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said:
"We welcome any moves to drive up standards and bring clarity to what can be expected from letting agreements, and to give tenants in private rented accommodation more protection.
"Many problems brought to Citizens Advice Bureaux concern issues with the management of the tenancy and the physical condition of the property."
James Alexander, NUS Scotland President, said:
"This is a really good development which will increase the protection for students and others in rented accommodation across Scotland. It is also good news for the communities students live in, as it minimises the number of properties falling into disrepair because of neglectful landlords."
Douglas McAdam, Chief Executive of the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA), said: "Hopefully most tenants will not need to resort to the Panel but it is necessary to ensure that a satisfactory standard of accommodation applies across the private rented sector. This is important if the sector is to operate to its full potential."
John Blackwood, Director of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said:
"The Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL), in promoting good landlord practice throughout Scotland, welcomes any initiative that recognises the need to address the minority of landlords who fail to maintain their properties in line with the basic legal requirement.
"Mediation is a proven route to offering both landlords and tenants an opportunity to resolve their disputes in an informal and non judgemental manner; which is a welcome alternative to the long and costly process of court proceedings."
Archie Stoddart, Director of Shelter Scotland, said:
"Shelter Scotland wholly welcomes the new PRHP. Private tenants will no longer have to put up with inadequate standards of housing as the PRHP will have the right to ensure that decent levels of repair are met."»
If tenants think their property does not conform to the Repairing Standard, and cannot resolve the problem by talking to their landlord, they will be able to apply to the PRHP by completing an application form, available from the PRHP website, detailing their case.
The Panel will usually try to resolve the issue through mutual agreement between the landlord and tenant, for example by using fair and impartial mediation. If this approach does not work, and the PRHP decides that the landlord has failed to comply with the duty, an enforcement order can be made requiring the landlord to do the work. Penalties would apply if the landlord then failed to do so.