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Publication - Research Publication

Energy efficiency and condition standards in private rented housing: consultation analysis

Published: 14 Nov 2017
Part of:
Housing, Research
ISBN:
9781788513906

This report presents an analysis of responses to the consultation on energy efficiency and condition standards in private rented housing.

147 page PDF

1.2MB

147 page PDF

1.2MB

Contents
Energy efficiency and condition standards in private rented housing: consultation analysis
Summary findings

147 page PDF

1.2MB

Summary findings

This summary gives an overview of some of the key themes to emerge from the analysis of responses to Part 2 consultation and also sets out the overall balance of opinion at some of the key questions asked.

Overall themes

  • Overall, there was relatively strong support for a number of the proposals, with a majority of respondents agreeing at 14 out of the 22 questions asked.
  • Support tended to be strongest in relation to the proposals covering overall property condition and the safety of kitchens, access and common areas, the water supply and heating systems. However, there was sometimes less support for the specific approaches being suggested.
  • There tended to be much less support for minimum standards for food storage or requirements to provide white goods or floor coverings. These types of issues tended to be seen as going beyond what is reasonable for a condition standard.
  • There was broad support for the proposed timescales for introducing a standard and the approach to allowing exceptions to the standard.

Scope of the repairing standard

Views were mixed as to whether agricultural tenancies, rented crofts and small landholdings should be covered by the repairing standard (45% of those answering the question thought they should not, 40% thought they should). A majority of respondents, 64% of those answering the question, thought that the Scottish Government needs to clarify whether holiday lets should be subject to the repairing standard.

Proposals around harmonising housing standards

A majority of respondents, 87% of those answering the question, agreed that the tolerable standard (the basic minimum standard for all housing) should be made a part of the repairing standard for private rented sector properties. Further comments included that any property should meet a safe, habitable standard if it is to be let. It was also suggested that a single, clear standard would be the preferred and most straightforward option.

An alternative perspective was that it is not clear how many of the proposals, for example those around food storage, relate to disrepair and property condition and that some of the proposed timescales are inappropriate for some properties. There was also a concern that the cumulative effect and additional cost burden of the proposals could affect business viability in some cases.

Proposals around safety

A clear majority (70% or more of those answering) agreed that there should be a minimum standard for safe kitchens, including that private rented housing should be free of lead pipes from the boundary stopcock to the kitchen tap. A clear majority also agreed with the proposals that private rented housing should meet a minimum standard for safe access and safe use of common facilities provided with the tenancy and should meet a minimum standard for safe and secure common doors. A majority (64% of those answering) thought that electrical installations in private rented housing should be fitted with residual current devices, while 66% of those answering agreed that the standard should be amended to include a specific reference to safety of heating systems using other fuels in addition to gas and electricity.

Respondents were more evenly divided on the other safety-related proposals. A small majority (55% of those answering) agreed that private rented housing should have a fixed heating system, while 53% of those answering thought that the repairing standard should include a duty around risk assessment of the supply and annual water quality testing where there is a private water supply.

More respondents disagreed with there being a minimum standard for food storage space than agreed (48% and 44% respectively). A small majority (52% of those answering) did not think capacity for a fridge/freezer storage should be a requirement and a clear majority (88% of those answering) did not think that private landlords should be required to provide cookers, fridges and freezers.

Views were mixed as to whether asbestos surveys should be carried out in private rented housing (48% thought they should not and 41% thought they should). A majority (66% of those answering) did not think that baths and bidets in private rented housing should be fitted with thermostatic mixing valves.

Further comments tended to be made by those who disagreed with one or more of the safety-related proposals and included that a one-size-fits-all approach is likely to be problematic. There were associated comments that the Scottish Government should provide evidence that such measures are necessary before implementing changes to the repairing standard and that there should be exceptions for some types of property, and particularly older, traditional properties.

However, it was also suggested that any exceptions must be laid out in a clear, concise format and that the onus should be on the landlord to prove that any exception is appropriate. Some respondents thought that there should be no exceptions.

Timing, costs and enforcement

The Scottish Government thinks that the costs associated with the proposals will be relatively low provided that sufficient lead in time is allowed. However, they think there will be some exceptions - for example, it could be costly for landlords of agricultural tenancies to bring them up to the existing repairing standard.

A clear majority of respondents thought that there should be a lead-in time of at least 5 years for landlords to comply with any changes to the repairing standard and that rules on exceptional circumstances should be revised to ensure situations such as technically infeasible work, unreasonable costs and withheld consents are covered (83% and 82% of those answering respectively).

On the timing of proposed measures, suggestions included that a longer lead-in time is required to enable landlords to plan for implementation – particularly for those with rural and agricultural properties. An alternative perspective was that the proposed 5-year lead-in time should be shortened, particularly for urgent items such as residual current devices.

With regard to whether different lead-in times for different measures would cause any issues, the most commonly-raised difficulty was the potential to cause confusion for tenants and landlords. It was suggested that any confusion could increase the risks of landlords inadvertently failing to comply. Specific difficulties identified for tenants included extended and on-going disruption associated with undertaking the required works. A number of respondents also suggested that staged lead-in times will provide challenges for the local authorities responsible for enforcement.

Views were mixed as to whether the timetabling of any changes should be linked to wider government milestones on climate change (43% thought it should not and 33% thought it should).

A majority of respondents, 56% of those answering, thought the current enforcement routes via the housing tribunal are appropriate for the proposed new measures in the repairing standard.

Comments about enforcement of the proposed measures included that consistency of enforcement across local authority areas will be important and that the proposals will have a potentially significant impact on resourcing requirements for enforcement agencies. More "proactive" enforcement including random checks, and more enforcement of "rogue" landlords was seen as important.

Economic, regulatory and equalities impact

Comments tended to divide into one of two positions. One viewpoint was that the proposals will have a positive impact on health and wellbeing and that raising the basic standard of repair will benefit all private tenants, including those with protected characteristics. The other perspective was that there could be a negative impact if landlords leave the sector or increase rent charges as a result of the changes.

Many of the other comments focused specifically on potential economic impacts. Generally positive comments included that, in the longer term, the health and economic impacts of investing in improving the quality of private rented homes are likely to outweigh any short-term costs. It was also suggested that the proposals could provide opportunities for a range of building and other trades who would be involved in delivering any improvements required.

In terms of potential negative impacts, the most frequently made suggestions were increased costs to landlords, with increased rental prices to offset those additional costs or as a result of reducing supply, particularly in rural areas. Other concerns included that the estimated costs set out in the consultation paper fall far short of the likely sums involved.

The remainder of this chapter sets out a question-by-question analysis for Part 2 of the consultation.


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