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Publication - Consultation Paper

Private rented housing energy efficiency and condition standards: consultation

Published: 7 Apr 2017
Part of:
Housing
ISBN:
9781786528636

Consultation on proposals to improve the energy efficiency and amend the repairing standard in the private rented sector.

84 page PDF

1.2MB

84 page PDF

1.2MB

Contents
Private rented housing energy efficiency and condition standards: consultation
Part 2 - Condition of Private Rented Housing in Scotland

84 page PDF

1.2MB

Part 2 - Condition of Private Rented Housing in Scotland

Outline of this part of the consultation

This part of the consultation looks at condition standards for private rented housing. In this part we:

  • provide a short background covering:
    • the Scottish Government's Manifesto commitment,
    • the work of the Common Housing Quality Standard Forum,
    • current standards for house condition (including the repairing standard for private rented housing) and
    • plans to consult on standards affecting housing generally later this year;
  • seek views on proposals to minimise the impact of changes to the repairing standard by allowing landlords sufficient time to factor improvements into their planned investment in their stock;
  • seek views on proposals to use existing routes of enforcement;
  • seek views on changes to the repairing standard to bring it closer to the standard required in social rented housing:
    • meeting the tolerable standard (minimum standard for all housing),
    • safe kitchens,
    • food storage,
    • central heating,
    • lead free pipes,
    • safe access to common facilities,
    • safe and secure common doors, and
    • adding oil (and other fuels) in line with existing safety standards for gas and electricity;
  • seek views on changes to the repairing standard to make homes safer by reducing the risks from scalding, electrocution, asbestos, unwholesome water, or the impact of noise, and also whether homes should have fridges and freezers (or the capacity for fridges and freezers) so that people can preserve food;
  • seek views on extending the scope of the repairing standard applying to private rented housing to include some types of rented housing that are currently not included; and
  • seek views on the impact of these proposals.

Section 1 - Background

147. The growth of the private rented sector in recent years from 170,000 homes in 2005 to 350,000 in 2015 has been impressive with the sector providing a valued housing option for many. Private tenants have of course as much of a right to live in warm, safe and good quality homes as residents of any other tenure of housing.

148. Scottish Ministers made a Manifesto commitment to consult on a national standard for private rented homes to ensure a good basic standard of accommodation. The repairing standard, introduced by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, already exists to provide minimum standards of accommodation. The means to enforce the repairing standard have been strengthened by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014. Since the repairing standard was introduced there have however been changing expectations of what constitutes a safe and good standard of accommodation which in many cases landlords have responded to voluntarily. The changes proposed to the repairing standard in this consultation are intended to meet that manifesto commitment and ensure that every private tenant is able to live in a good quality house that meets a basic standard across a range of different elements.

149. For people to live in warm, high quality, low carbon homes, continuing action is necessary to improve the physical condition of housing in Scotland. The Scottish House Condition Survey shows a high level of disrepair in private rented housing. [25]

Percentage of private rented sector housing

Any critical disrepair

61%

Critical and urgent disrepair

37%

Critical urgent and extensive disrepair

4%

Below tolerable standard

5%

150. Many types of disrepair do not require immediate action, although the total costs of repair can increase if they are left untreated and may affect the health and safety of occupiers. In addition, disrepair can make it harder to meet targets for fuel poverty and climate change because they prevent or reduce the value of energy efficiency improvements.

Housing standards

151. There are several different standards applying to housing in Scotland. These have developed separately over time. These include:

  • The tolerable standard is the basic minimum standard for all housing. It is a condemnatory standard - any house that is below tolerable standard is not acceptable as living accommodation. Local authorities have a general duty to secure that all houses in their district which do not meet the tolerable standard are closed, demolished or brought up to the standard within a reasonable period.
  • The Scottish Housing Quality Standard ( SHQS) is the minimum standard for social housing. Under the Scottish Social Housing Charter, social landlords are expected to ensure that the houses they rent comply with this standard. Part of SHQS is that social houses must meet the tolerable standard.
  • The Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing ( EESSH) which has a first milestone for social housing to meet by the end of 2020.
  • The repairing standard (see next section).

Section 2 - The repairing standard

152. The repairing standard in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 applies to homes let under private rented tenancies. The legislation excludes agricultural tenancies of various sorts from the repairing standard. Private tenants can enforce the repairing standard by applying to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber). Local authorities also have powers to report breaches of the repairing standard to the Tribunal.

153. A house meets the repairing standard if:

  • it is wind and watertight and reasonably fit for human habitation,
  • the structure, rainwater goods, fixtures and fittings are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order,
  • installations for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, space heating and heating water are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order,
  • furnishings and appliances provided by the landlord are safe (this now includes a mandatory electrical safety inspection), and
  • it has fire and smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms.

154. The following table summarises some key features of the repairing standard:

Repairing standard

Regulation

Set out in legislation and landlords must have regard to building regulations and Scottish Government guidance

Relation to tolerable standard

Some overlap - e.g. structure must be in good condition but some elements, such as drinking water quality not included

Disrepair

Structure and exterior, installations, fittings and fixtures should be in a reasonable state of repair

Energy efficiency

Not part of the repairing standard but a minimum standard for energy efficiency in private rented housing is proposed (see Part 1 of this consultation)

Rights of complaint and appeal

Application to the Housing and Property Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal

155. Responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on the Sustainable Housing Strategy, [26] published in February 2013, supported changes to rental standards, including the repairing standard. Some stakeholders also identified safety issues that should be part of a rented housing standard, in addition to the physical condition and energy efficiency of homes. At the same time other respondents, particularly local authorities, were concerned about the practicalities of enforcement. There was also concern about the possible impact on the supply of private rented housing, and knock-on impact on the demand for social housing.

Common housing quality standard forum

156. The Scottish Government set up a Common Housing Quality Standard Forum in 2015 that saw contributions from a range of interested parties including from the private rented sector. The role of the Forum was to enable discussion with and between stakeholders on key issues affecting house condition including where it may make sense to better align existing standards. The views of stakeholders in the Forum has informed the proposals in this consultation. Papers from the forum are published online. [27]

Section 3 - Consultations on condition standards

157. The Scottish Government is consulting on issues raised by the Common Housing Quality Standard Forum in two phases:

  • This consultation on changes to the repairing standard including:
    • adding some elements that are currently expected in social housing by the Scottish Housing Quality Standard:
      • meeting the tolerable standard,
      • safe kitchens,
      • food storage,
      • central heating,
      • lead free pipes,
      • safe access to common facilities,
      • safe and secure common doors, and
      • safety of installations using oil and other fuels similar to existing safety standards for gas and electricity;
    • adding some additional safety elements in both standards which were identified by the Forum, to reduce the risks from:
      • scalding,
      • electrocution,
      • asbestos,
      • unwholesome water,
      • the impact of noise;
    • whether homes should have fridges and freezers (or the capacity for fridges and freezers) so that people can preserve food;
    • whether the repairing standard should apply to agricultural tenancies and some other kinds of lets; and
    • issues about costs, timing and enforcement.
  • There will be a second consultation from winter 2017/2018 on other condition issues which affect housing. These are raised in the report on the Common Housing Quality Standard Forum [28] and may include:
    • changes to the tolerable standard,
    • whether there should be a new standard for common parts and interest applying to owners in tenements,
    • duties on owners in tenements to maintain housing, such as building reserve funds and mandatory building condition surveys.

Social housing standards

158. One of the aims identified by the Common Housing Quality Standard Forum was that standards for rented housing across tenures should be harmonised where appropriate. Some of the proposed changes to the repairing standard will bring in elements that are currently in the SHQS.

159. This consultation applies only to the private rented sector. We recognise that there are also some elements in the repairing standard that are not in SHQS, specifically:

  • A higher standard for smoke and fire alarms
  • Carbon monoxide detectors, and
  • Five yearly electrical safety inspections.

160. Although these elements are not currently expected under SHQS, feedback from the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service suggest that most homes in the social rented sector would already comply with these elements. Because landlords will have had to carry out improvements to meet SHQS they will have had to install additional measures to comply with building regulations - so, for example, any new boilers installed to meet energy efficiency standards in SHQS or EESSH will have required installation of carbon monoxide detectors.

161. Consequently, harmonisation of rented housing standards will require changes to SHQS. The Scottish Government's view however is that changes to SHQS should be developed through separate and appropriate engagement with the social rented sector. We propose that any such discussions be undertaken after the current review of the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing ( EESSH) is complete.

Section 4 - Proposals for changes to the repairing standard

Compliance with the tolerable standard

162. The tolerable standard is the minimum standard in Scotland for houses that are part of a building. The tolerable standard is a condemnatory standard. Houses that are below tolerable standard are unfit for human habitation and should not be used for living accommodation. Few houses fall below this standard - the most recent estimate is 5% of private rented homes were below tolerable standard in 2015, [29] but these should not be being used for living accommodation. Local authorities have a general duty to address housing that is below tolerable standard in their area. The repairing standard does not include the tolerable standard, although there is a considerable degree of overlap with elements that are required under the tolerable standard. The elements of the tolerable standard are set out in the following table.

Elements in the Tolerable Standard

Comparable element in the Repairing Standard

Structurally stable

Structure and exterior of the house in a reasonable state of repair

Substantially free from rising or penetrating damp

House is wind and water tight and in all other respects reasonably fit for human habitation; sanitary defects include dampness [30]

Satisfactory provision for natural and artificial lighting, for ventilation and for heating

Sanitary defects include lack of ventilation or lighting

Satisfactory thermal insulation (i.e. loft insulation)

No comparable element

Adequate piped supply of wholesome water available within the house

Sanitary defects include absence of adequate water

A sink provided with a satisfactory supply of both hot and cold water within the house

Installations in the house for the supply of water and water heating are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order; sanitary defects include absence of readily accessible water

A toilet available for the exclusive use of the occupants of the house and suitably located within the house

Installations in the house for sanitation are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order; Sanitary defects include lack of sanitary arrangements or of other conveniences

A fixed bath or shower and a wash-hand basin, with a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water suitably located within the house

An effective system for drainage and disposal of foul and surface water

Drains, gutters and external pipes are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order; sanitary defects include inadequate drainage of courts, yards or passages

The electrical wiring and components are adequate and safe to use

Installations in the house for the supply of electricity are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order

Satisfactory facilities for cooking of food

No comparable element

Satisfactory access to all external doors and outbuildings

Sanitary defects include inadequate paving

163. We propose that the tolerable standard should be made a part of the repairing standard so that it is clear that a private landlord should ensure that a house for rent must meet the most basic threshold of fitness for human habitation and to provide tenants with a right to apply for assistance to the First-Tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber).

Consultation Question

Question 2.1 - Do you think that ensuring a house complies with the tolerable standard should be part of a private landlord's duties under the repairing standard?

Yes/no/don't know.

Please explain your answer.

Safe Kitchens

164. In social housing tenants should be able to use the kitchen facilities safely, in particular -

  • There must be sufficient space between the cooker and the sink to prevent the risk of electrocution
  • The kitchen must be wide enough to cook without the risk of being jostled by someone else in the kitchen
  • Tenants should be able to access cupboards and appliances safely
  • There must be room around the cooker so that someone using it cannot be hit by an opening door

165. We think that it is reasonable to expect a similar standard for private rented housing, though this may be an area where some exceptions are needed - for example it may not be possible to extend the available space in galley kitchens in modernised tenements without undertaking major structural work.

Consultation Questions

Question 2.2 - Do you think that private rented housing should meet a minimum standard for safe kitchens?

Yes/no/don't know.

Question 2.3 - If this is introduced, what exceptions (if any) do you think would be needed?

Food storage

166. There is a minimum standard for the amount of food storage space in kitchens in social housing. They must have at least 1 cubic metre of food storage space either in the kitchen itself or immediately adjacent to it. This space does not include fridges, freezers, open shelves, drawers and spaces under sink units. In some cases social landlords have struggled to meet this element of the standard, especially in older tenement blocks where kitchens have been built into fairly small spaces within the existing structure. This is another area where we think that some of the physical constraints on space in some older kitchens would have to allow for exceptions.

Consultation Questions

Question 2.4 - Do you think that private rented housing should have a minimum standard for food storage space?

Yes/no/don't know.

Question 2.5 - If this is introduced, what exceptions (if any) do you think would be needed?

Central heating

167. The tolerable standard does not require homes to have central heating systems. The minimum requirement is an electric socket in each apartment capable of servicing a plug-in electrical heater.

168. In the private rented sector any heating system must be in proper working order, but the repairing standard does not require a private landlord to install a heating system in a house that was rented without one. Under the tolerable standard the minimum requirement is an electric socket in each apartment capable of servicing a plug-in heater. We do not think it is necessarily helpful to be too specific about the design of the heating system because there is a wide range of systems and a risk of unintentionally excluding future technological development. In addition it is possible for modern Passivhaus designs to provide efficient thermal comfort through insulation alone. However, we think it may be useful to specify that there should be a system of some sort. We suggest that this should be a fixed installation rather than portable appliances.

Consultation Questions

Question 2.6 - Do you think that private rented housing should have a fixed heating system?

Yes/no/don't know.

Question 2.7 - If this is introduced, what exceptions (if any) do you think would be needed?

Lead free pipes

169. A supply of wholesome water is part of the tolerable standard. Lead can make drinking water unwholesome. The current permitted level under Drinking Water Quality Regulations is 10 micrograms of lead per litre. [31] However, current thinking of the World Health Organisation is that no level of lead is safe. Social housing must be free of lead pipes from the boundary stop-cock to the kitchen tap (the supply pipe). In the private rented sector, we could aim for a similar standard. Alternatively, if "lead free" cannot be vouched or demonstrated at start of a tenancy, the quality of water could be tested by a requirement to carry out a water quality test before a new tenancy commences.

Consultation questions

Question 2.8 - Do you think that private rented housing should be free of lead pipes from the boundary stopcock to the kitchen tap? Yes/no/don't know.

Question 2.9 - If it is not possible to establish whether or not there are any lead pipes from the boundary stopcock to the kitchen tap, do you think a water quality test should be carried out before the tenancy commences?

Yes/no/don't know.

Safe access to common facilities

170. Various elements of the standard for social housing cover access to bin stores, lifts, common drying areas etc, but these could be summed up in a general principle about being able to use common facilities safely. We propose to include a similar element in the repairing standard. In general these will not be the exclusive responsibility of a private landlord so this is another area where there would be a need for clear rules on exceptions.

Consultation Questions

Question 2.10 - Do you think that private rented housing should meet a minimum standard for (a) safe access and (b) safe use of common facilities provided with the tenancy?

Yes/no/don't know.

Question 2.11 - If this is introduced, what exceptions (if any) do you think would be needed?

Safe and secure common doors

171. Entry systems for common front doors prevent casual loitering and vandalism and allow tenants to exercise some control over who gains access to the property. There is evidence that visible security measures, particularly at the point of entry, do discourage burglaries. [32]

172. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service recommends that thumb-turn locks are fitted to common doors in all above ground flatted properties to make it easier for residents to exit their building without having to find the appropriate key in the event of an emergency.

173. Any such measures would be subject to the agreement of other owners in a flat. [33]

Consultation Question

Question 2.12 - Do you think that private rented housing should meet a minimum standard for safe and secure common doors?

Yes/no/don't know.

Thermostatic mixing valves

174. Children and older people are particularly vulnerable to scalding damage from hot water. Thermostatic mixing valves ( TMVs) are installed behind taps to mix hot and cold water to a pre-set temperature. Building Regulations for new domestic buildings call for the temperature of hot water delivered to baths and bidets to not exceed 48°C. The installation of TMVs is one way that this can be achieved. TMVs are not currently required under the repairing standard.

Consultation Question

Question 2.13 - Do you think that baths and bidets in private rented housing should be fitted with thermostatic mixing valves (or similar measures)?

Yes/no/don't know.

Residual current devices

175. A Residual Current Device ( RCD) is a life-saving sensitive safety device that switches off electricity automatically if there is a fault. RCDs offer a level of personal protection that ordinary fuses and circuit-breakers cannot provide. Fitting one or more RCDs into the consumer unit (fuse box) can protect an occupier against electric shock and reduce the risk of electrical fires. Installation of an RCD is recommended as good practice in Scottish Government guidance to private landlords. [34]

Consultation Question

Question 2.14 - Do you think that electrical installations in private rented housing should be fitted with residual current devices?

Yes/no/don't know.

Asbestos

176. Asbestos is usually safe if in a good condition and sealed and undisturbed. If asbestos is removed or disturbed work should be carried out by qualified specialist contractors. Because of the dangers of carrying out work on properties with asbestos, we consider that there should be a general duty on all landlords to carry out surveys to ascertain if asbestos is present in houses and to ensure that any work carried out in an area where asbestos has been identified is carried out by a qualified specialist.

Consultation Question

Question 2.15 - A qualified specialist must be employed for any work that involves removing or disturbing asbestos. Asbestos surveys ensure that a landlord knows when a qualified specialist must be used. Do you think that asbestos surveys should be carried out in private rented housing?

Yes/no/don't know.

Private water supplies

177. Private water supplies ( PWS) are those which are not provided by Scottish Water and are the responsibility of their owners and users. Approximately 42,000 properties in Scotland have a private water supply and we estimate that around 6,300 of those are private rented properties. The drinking water quality standards for PWS are set out in the Private Water Supplies (Scotland) Regulations 2006 which are enforced by local authorities.

178. PWS come from a wide variety of sources including surface water and the quality of these supplies is therefore very variable and generally much poorer than that of supplies provided by Scottish Water. The Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland highlighted in her 2015 report that 14.7% of supplies were found to be contaminated with E. coli. At present, landlords of properties with a private water supply are not required to demonstrate the quality of the water or to carry out a risk assessment of the supply.

179. We propose to include a new provision which will require landlords to have a risk assessment for the private water supply and that the quality of the supply is checked at least annually to demonstrate that it meets the standards in the 2006 Regulations. This will then ensure that tenants are not exposed to health risks from a drinking water supply which does not meet the required standards.

Consultation Question

Question 2.16 - Do you think that the repairing standard should be amended to include a duty on landlords of private rented properties with a private water supply, covering (a) risk assessment of the supply, and (b) annual water quality testing?

Yes/no/don't know.

Cookers, fridges and freezers

180. There were 133,726 emergency food supplies given by food banks operated by the Trussell Trust in Scotland in 2015/16, and there are other food banks that are not included in the Trussell Trust's statistics. The UK Parliament is considering a Private Members' Bill which would require landlords to ensure that rented accommodation contains adequate appliances, equipment and utensils for cooking food, if they have a tenant in receipt of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. [35] This Bill is a response to concerns that people who need to use food banks do not have facilities to cook or store it.

181. The repairing standard does not require landlords to provide cookers, fridges or freezers. Help with providing cookers, fridges and freezers is available from the Scottish Welfare Fund, administered on behalf of the Scottish Government by local authorities. This fund provided 19,370 grants for cookers and 17,880 grants for fridges and freezers at a total cost of £5.85 million in 2015/16.

182. The tolerable standard says that homes must have "satisfactory facilities for the cooking of food within the house." Scottish Government statutory guidance is that this does not require the presence of cooking appliances, but the house must have the capacity to support such activity safely. This means that there must be an appropriate power source and a space for a cooker. [36]

183. We consider that there are three options:

Option 1: amend the repairing standard to include capacity for a fridge and freezer (i.e. space and appropriate power source). This would ensure that fridges and freezers could be provided to allow people to store food. We think that very few homes lack this capacity and that this would have minimal impact but it reinforces the central importance of everyone having a home where they can make their own meals.

Option 2: introduce a statutory requirement on private landlords to provide cookers, fridges and freezers for all tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit and Universal Credit which could have a significant impact on landlords. It would be cumbersome to administer because of the turnover of tenants, interferes with tenants' choice, could be vulnerable to abuse and is potentially very expensive. We consider that this impact would be disproportionate to the need.

Option 3: do nothing. This would be the position that neither of the previous options are appropriate.

Consultation Questions

Question 2.17 - Do you think that the repairing standard should be amended to include capacity for a fridge/freezer in order to ensure people are able to store food (option 1)?

Yes/no/don't know.

Question 2.18 - Do you think that private landlords should be required to provide cookers, fridges and freezers (option 2)?

Yes/no/don't know.

Oil (and other fuels)

184. Private landlords both have a general responsibility to ensure heating systems are working properly and that gas and electrical supplies are safe. We think that a reference to installations for the supply of oil and other fuels should be included in the repairing standard.

Consultation Question

Question 2.19 - Do you think that the repairing standard should be amended to include a specific reference to safety of heating systems using other fuels in addition to gas and electricity?

Yes/no/don't know.

Sound insulation

185. Noise from neighbours can have a significant impact on people. There is no requirement to provide noise insulation from internal sources of noise from other people, objects or activities in neighbouring properties. The amount of impact noise transmitted through floors increases considerably when soft floor covering such as a carpet is removed to be replaced by a hard floor finish.

186. There are statutory provisions on noise levels in antisocial behaviour legislation. These include prescribed levels of permitted noise and take account of the complexities of measurement and underlying noise factors. [37] However, if people are going about their normal day to day activity and the resulting noise problem is due to poor sound insulation then an abatement notice is unlikely to be served.

Consultation Questions

Question 2.20 - Do you think that the repairing standard should be amended to include flooring materials to reduce sound transmitted to other homes? Yes/no/don't know.

Question 2.21 - What (if any) other measures to reduce sound transmission should be considered?

Other elements

187. The following question is intended to capture views on any other elements that ought to be considered for inclusion in the repairing standard.

Consultation Question

Question 2.22 - Do you think anything else should be added to the repairing standard?

Section 5 - Extending the repairing standard

188. The following changes would extend the scope of the repairing standard to cover houses that are not currently required to meet it.

Agricultural tenancies

189. Currently, agricultural tenancies, rented crofts and small landholdings [38] do not have to meet the repairing standard. This is because a house on these tenancies is considered to be part of the "fixed equipment" on the farm and is not rented out to the tenant as a house in its own right - instead, it is factored into the rent for the farm as a whole. The tenant is usually responsible for maintenance and repairs to the house and the landlord is responsible for replacing worn fittings. It should be noted,that the repairing standard does not apply to work that a tenant is required to do under a tenancy (provided that the term of the tenancy is at least 3 years).

190. There are over 6000 agricultural tenancies in Scotland but we do not collect statistics on how many of these fall below the repairing standard. However, there is evidence that housing standards in some agricultural tenancies are much lower than in the private rented sector. Clearly there are a range of issues which need to be explored further prior to considering a minimum standard for condition. Ministers are, however, mindful of potential condition issues and are committed to undertake research. [39] This is likely to take place through public consultation in the first half of 2017.

Consultation Question

Question 2.23 - Do you think that agricultural tenancies, rented crofts and small landholdings should be subject to the repairing standard?

Yes/no/don't know.

Holiday lets

191. The repairing standard applies to any tenancy except prescribed types of tenancies (such as secure tenancies for social tenants and agricultural tenancies). The legislation says that the definition of a tenancy "does not otherwise include any occupation under an occupancy arrangement," and defines an occupancy arrangement as "an arrangement other than a lease under which a person is entitled, by way of contract or otherwise, to occupy any land or premises." [40] A typical sort of occupancy arrangement would be an agreement to take in a lodger.

192. There is, however, a question on whether or not a holiday let is a tenancy or an occupancy arrangement. A holiday let cannot be an assured tenancy (the type of tenancy used for private rented housing) or the new private residential tenancies, but in both cases it is listed as a type of tenancy. [41] The Courts in England have considered cases of contrived holiday lets to try to get round rent controls, especially in London, where a particular issue seems to have been with people having lets for "working holidays". We understand that in some cases the Private Rented Housing Panel (now the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber)) has held that a property let as holiday accommodation is subject to the repairing standard.

193. The present situation is unsatisfactory because we cannot give a definitive statement as to whether or not a holiday let is subject to the repairing standard. We would like to make this clearer.

Consultation Question

Question 2.24 - Do you think that we need to clarify whether holiday lets (or certain types of holiday lets) should be subject to the repairing standard?

Yes/no/don't know.

Section 6 - Timing, costs and enforcement

Timing

194. We think that the changes proposed in this part of the consultation reflect the existing best practice of many landlords and that the associated costs are relatively low, in comparison to ongoing liabilities for repairs and maintenance, provided that sufficient lead in time is allowed for landlords to build improvements into scheduled maintenance and investment in property. There are some exceptions to this - for example, it could be costly for landlords of agricultural tenancies to bring them up to the existing repairing standard. [42] The time required would vary for different elements. For example, private landlords were given one year to meet a requirement for carbon monoxide alarms whereas social landlords were given ten years to meet SHQS.

195. We think that the lead-in time should be at least 5 years. It may be appropriate to have different timescales for different elements, provided that this is not unduly complex.

196. For example, in paragraph 174 above we identify thermostatic mixing valves as a measure to improve safety in bathrooms. The measure is required in new buildings and the estimated additional cost for including them is £80 plus £10 a year in maintenance costs (prices in 2005). [43] This would be more expensive to install retrospectively. We estimate the notional life of a bath as 12 years, [44] over this period it may be reasonable to expect bathroom furniture to be replaced and for safety improvements to be installed at the same time.

Costs

197. The following table is an estimate of the financial impact of the elements of private rented housing standards on which we seek views in this part of the consultation. There is more detail about each of these proposed measures in the rest of this consultation. It should be stressed that these are very rough estimates and actual costs are likely to vary. It does, however, help to suggest where the cost impact is likely to be highest. The timeframe is the lead-in time to allow landlords to spread the costs and include work in planned maintenance and improvements. There were an estimated 350,000 private rented homes in Scotland as at March 2015. The actual cost would vary between properties, with no cost to homes that already meet the new elements of the standard.

198. For some elements the costs will vary between properties. For example, full installation of a new consumer unit protected by a residual current device could cost £300 but if an existing fuse box can accommodate the installation it could be brought up to standard for £100, so that the average cost will lie between these figures.

New element

Estimated cost per property (£)

Estimate of stock not currently covered

Timeframe (years)

Annual cost to Private Landlords (£m)

Tolerable standard

2000

5%

10

3.50

Safe kitchens

500

2%

10

0.35

Food storage

1,000

5%

10

1.75

Central Heating

4,000

1%

5

2.80

Lead free pipes

1,000

4%

5

2.80

Safe access to common facilities

500

5%

10

0.88

safe and secure common doors

50

25%

5

0.88

Thermostatic mixing valves

100

75%

12

2.19

Residual current devices

200

50%

5

7.00

Asbestos surveys

100

75%

10

2.63

PWS risk assessment

200

4%

5

0.56

Capacity for fridges/ freezers

200

2%

10

0.14

Safe oil systems

100

2%

5

0.14

Sound insulation

250

5%

5

0.88

Total

26.48

199. The chart below shows how these costs might be spread if the changes to standards are introduced from 2020. This would be different if elements are introduced at different times or if timescales for elements were changed - so that costs could be spread over a longer period and the annual impact reduced. If the annual costs are projected over the indicated timespans for each element in the table, the total cost over a twelve year period would be £194 million.

Chart: modelled costs for changes to the repairing standard

Chart: modelled costs for changes to the repairing standard

Consultation questions

Question 2.25 - Do you think that there should be a lead-in time of at least 5 years for landlords to comply with any changes to the repairing standard?

Yes/no/don't know.

Question 2.26 - Do you think that different lead-in times for different measures would cause any difficulties for (a) landlords or (b) tenants? Please tell us what difficulties you think could be caused.

Alignment with other targets

200. It may be sensible to link targets for new standards to other targets driving work on existing houses, in relation to energy efficiency and climate change (providing that this is consistent with the minimum lead-in times needed for each element):

2020 Climate Change target of 42% greenhouse gas emission reduction [45]
First milestone for the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social housing ( EESSH) [46]

2022 Backstop for private rented housing to meet the EPC band E [47]

2025 Backstop for private rented housing to meet EPC band D [48]

2030 Step-change in provision of energy efficient homes [49]

2050 Climate Change target of 80% greenhouse gas emission reduction [50]
Second EESSH milestone
Largely decarbonised heat sector [51]

Consultation Question

Question 2.27 - Do you think that the timetable for changes should be linked to wider government milestones on climate change?

Yes/no/don't know.

Enforcement

201. The repairing standard can be enforced through the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber). Private tenants can apply to the Tribunal for assistance. The Tribunal can issue a repairing standard enforcement orders ( RSEO).

202. It is a criminal offence to fail to carry out work required under an RSEO or to enter into a tenancy whilst an RSEO is in place. An offence is only committed where the landlord fails to comply with the RSEO without reasonable excuse, and the landlord cannot be guilty of the offence until the First-tier Tribunal has decided that the landlord has failed to comply with it. However, the Tribunal can enforce an RSEO by restricting rent or by referring the case to the local authority to carry out work and recover costs from the owner. An outstanding RSEO is also noted in the landlord register and can be taken into account in the application of the "fit and proper person" test. We think these enforcement routes are sufficient. In Part 1 of this consultation we propose to introduce civil fines for non-compliance with the energy efficiency standard, we are not proposing any additional fines for other elements of the repairing standard. [52]

203. The First-tier tribunal took over the functions of the Private Rented Housing Panel from December 2016. The following table shows that the number of applications to the Private Rented Housing Panel in relation to the repairing standard is relatively low. We expect applications to the First-tier Tribunal to increase in the future because of new powers for local authorities to raise breaches of the statutory repairing standard directly with the Tribunal on behalf of vulnerable tenants, [53] and because of greater security of tenure provided by new private residential tenancies. [54]

Year

Number of applications in relation to the repairing standard

2012

232

2013

257

2014

273

2015

355

Consultation Question

Question 2.28 - Are the current enforcement routes via the housing tribunal appropriate for the proposed new measures in the repairing standard ? Yes/no/don't know.

204. The repairing standard for private landlords contains an exception for work that cannot be done because the landlord cannot get consent, or where tenants are responsible for work, [55] and guidance for landlords also recognises other situations - for example, where a landlord has professional advice from an electrician about the placement of smoke alarms. We think that these existing provisions should be revised to specify exceptions where work is technically infeasible or the costs are unreasonably excessive, or where the necessary consents are withheld. [56] This would also be consistent with the existing rules on exceptions for social landlords. [57]

Consultation questions

Question 2.29 - Do you think that rules on exceptional circumstances (where landlords are not required to comply with the repairing standard) should be revised to ensure situations such as technically infeasible work, unreasonable costs and withheld consents are covered?

Yes/no/don't know.

Question 2.30 - Do you have any other views on the measures proposed in relation to:

(a) costs

(b) timing

(c) enforcement?

Section 7 - Assessing impact

205. Alongside this consultation document we have published a partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment, and an interim Equalities Impact Assessment. We welcome views on our assessment of the impact of the proposals which we set out in these documents, and encourage all relevant parties to respond to the consultation. We will also consider whether there are specific impacts on the groups identified in these assessments, or on children or young people (to inform a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment), as part of the consultation phase.

Consultation questions

Question 2.31 - Please tell us about any potential economic or regulatory impacts, either positive or negative, that you feel the legislative proposals in Part 2 of this consultation document may have, particularly on businesses.

Question 2.32 - In relation to the interim Equality Impact Assessment, please tell us about any potential impacts, either positive or negative, that you feel the proposals in Part 2 of this consultation document may have on any groups of people with protected characteristics. We would particularly welcome comments from representative organisations and charities that work with groups of people with protected characteristics.

Question 2.33 - To help inform the development of the Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment, please tell us about any potential impacts, either positive or negative, that you feel the proposals in Part 2 of this consultation document may have on children's rights and welfare. We would particularly welcome comments from groups or charities that work with young people.


Contact

Email: Denise Buchanan (part one) or Agnes Meany (part two).

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG