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Policy actions 2 of 3

Private rented regulation

To meet our aim of a more professionally managed, better quality private rented sector (PRS), we are supporting the development of a more targeted and effective regulatory framework.

Regulation and robust enforcement plays an important role in the effective functioning of the PRS. Recent legislation has put in place firm foundations, including:

Regulation of letting agents including letting agent registration

The letting agent industry in Scotland has grown in recent years and is varied, comprising solicitors, estate agents and accommodation agencies.

Letting agents have an important role in providing a wide range of services and support to both landlords and tenants, that is why the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 introduced a regulatory system for letting agents.

It includes compulsory letting agent registration, a statutory code of practice with a means of redress, and effective enforcement. These measures will give landlords and tenants confidence in the standard of service they should expect from an agent.

The first letting agent code of practice is due to come into force on 31 January 2018. It sets out the standards of practice that letting agents must meet in how they deliver their services and will give tenants and landlords the ability to challenge poor practice.

Alongside joining a mandatory register of letting agents, key individuals in a letting agency will be required to have met a minimum level of training. Letting agent registration regulations currently with the Scottish Parliament set out the details of the training requirement and the additional information required for registration.

We are working with interested parties, including council landlord registration teams, membership bodies and housing advice agencies to implement this framework.

Landlord registration

The landlord registration scheme aims to:

  • provide a register of all private landlords for public inspection (with the added assurance that the council has conducted a 'fit and proper person' test)
  • provide a regularly updated register that can be used to help communication between councils and landlords
  • ensure that landlord registration enforcement action is focused on tackling the worst landlords in the sector, including those who fail to act to minimise their tenants' anti-social behaviour

We provide a landlord registration website for Scotland's 32 councils, who have operational responsibility for implementing landlord registration.

Private landlords must register with their council to ensure that minimum legal requirements are met. There is a maximum £50,000 fine for not registering.

Guidance for councils

Houses in multiple occupation licensing

Mandatory licensing applies to houses or flats occupied by three or more unrelated people, who share bathroom or kitchen facilities.

HMOs must meet physical standards set by the licensing local authority under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, part 5.

The owner of an HMO must have a licence from the local authority where the property is situated. Licensing helps ensure that accommodation is safe, well managed and of good quality.

Before granting a licence the local authority must be satisfied that:

  • the owner and any manager of the property is 'fit and proper' to hold a licence
  • the property meets required physical standards
  • the property is suitable for use as an HMO (or could be made so by including conditions in the licence)

HMOs are also covered by fire safety legislation.

The local authority sets the standards required and also sets the fees charged for a licence application. Scottish Ministers have issued guidance to local authorities on the licensing of HMOs.

It is a criminal offence to operate an HMO without a licence. The maximum fine is £50,000. Local authorities have a range of other enforcement options, including power to vary the terms of a licence or revoke it. An HMO licence can also be revoked if the owner or agent, or the living accommodation, is no longer suitable.

Tenancy deposit schemes and tenant information packs

Landlords have a legal duty to pay any tenancy deposit they receive into an approved tenancy deposit scheme to protect deposits until they are due to be repaid.

Landlords also have a legal duty to provide new tenants with a tenant information pack (revised December 2016). Further information for landlords and letting agents about tenant information packs is available.

Repairing Standard

The Repairing Standard, in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, covers the legal and contractual obligations of private landlords to ensure that a property meets a minimum physical standard. Further information on landlords' responsibilities in relation to the Repairing Standard is available.

If, after a landlord has been notified of any problem, it is not resolved satisfactorily, or if there is disagreement about whether or not there is a problem, tenants have the right to refer the matter to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland Housing and Property Chamber for help with dispute resolution.

A Scottish Government public consultation 'Energy efficiency and condition standards in private rented housing' is considering changes to the repairing standard. Responses should be submitted by 30 June 2017.

Enhanced enforcement areas

The Enhanced Enforcement Areas Scheme (Scotland) Regulations 2015 enable councils to apply for additional discretionary powers so that they can target specific areas with particularly poor conditions for tenants.

In 2015, we approved an EEA application by Glasgow City Council to designate an area of Govanhill as being of 'enhanced status'.