SECTION 1 - MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR GYPSY/TRAVELLER SITES
16. This guidance sets out minimum site standards for Gypsy/Traveller sites provided by Local Authorities and Registered Social Landlords.
17. Many Local Authorities and one Registered Social Landlord (“site providers”) are responsible for running Gypsy/Traveller sites. Tenants living on such sites pay pitch fees and council tax, and have a right to expect a standard of service, and quality standards, similar to that of social housing tenants.
18. This guidance therefore sets out the standards we expect site providers to meet. Gypsy/Traveller site tenants have a right to decent quality accommodation, and the standards set out a minimum level of standards. There will be sites where these standards have already been obtained, and the focus of this guidance is on ensuring that all sites meet specified minimum standards. The core rights and responsibilities for site tenants, in section 2 of this guidance, reflect these minimum standards.
19. The minimum standards cover two broad areas:
- physical facilities and fabric, including the quality of fixtures and fittings, lighting, heating, and a hot and cold water supply; and
- services provided by the site provider and how it treats site tenants.
20. Within the two broad areas above the standards have seven parts:
i. Essential Fabric Standards
ii. Energy Efficiency
iii. Facilities and Amenities
iv. Safety and Security
v. Maintenance and Repairs
vi. Fair Treatment
21. Annex A sets out the standards in more detail, and includes indicators to help site providers and others determine whether a standard is being met. There is a general introduction to each part below, and notes on any additional issues that a site provider should consider and take into account.
Essential Fabric Standards
22. These set out basic structural standards that Gypsy/Traveller sites should meet. These include things such as amenity blocks being structurally sound, with good roofs, no damp, and good quality windows and doors. Further details are provided in Annex A.
23. Site tenants often spend considerable time preparing food and bathing in amenity blocks, particularly those with young children. Amenity blocks on sites should therefore meet an appropriate energy efficiency standard. Details of the standard are set out in Annex A.
24. Ideally site tenants should be able to choose their energy supplier, but we appreciate that will not be technically possible at many sites. In light of that when a site provider has a choice of energy supplier for a site, affordability for site tenants should be one of the criteria the site provider applies in deciding who to appoint.
Facilities and Amenities
25. It is important that good quality facilities and amenities are provided to site tenants. This standard therefore covers things such as providing a wholesome water supply, a suitable number of electrical sockets, and adequate food storage space. It also includes the need for good quality fittings, and basic requirements such as the need for a toilet and washhand basin. Further details are provided in Annex A.
Safety and Security
26. Sites should be safe and secure. This includes safety measures such as electrical and gas inspections at regular and planned intervals (annually for gas and 5 yearly for an electrical system) should be met. Adequate smoke alarms/detectors should also be provided in the amenity block, and the requirements of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 should be met. Appropriate road safety measures should be in place, with speed limits and other measures as necessary (for example to reflect the fact that many sites will have young children living on them). Lighting should also be provided for common parts of sites (such as roads and children’s play areas). Further details are provided in Annex A.
27. Many sites include a barrier that can be used to limit access to a site. Site providers should consult with site tenants about whether and when such barriers are used. If a barrier is used it is important that arrangements are made for emergency access to the site at all times (e.g. for emergency services).
28. Site providers should discuss with site tenants the possibility of fitting fences around pitches, with gates. This can add to a feeling of security for site tenants, and can be a sensible measure for the safety of young children.
Maintenance and Repairs
29. There should be regular, planned, maintenance of the site and its facilities. This should include maintenance of shared areas, amenity blocks, and hard standings. On-going maintenance should be a normal part of the service site tenants receive in return for the pitch fees they pay. Unused pitches should be kept clean and tidy, to create a more pleasant living environment for site tenants. Caravans that are clearly abandoned should be removed from a site.
30. Repairs are separate from standard site maintenance. Repairs will result from something that needs to be addressed outside of a routine maintenance programme, either as a result of being reported by a site tenant or identified during routine maintenance.
31. Site providers should apply the same timescales for repairs on Gypsy/Traveller sites as they do to repairs for social housing tenants. Site tenants should be given information that sets out the timescales for repairs, and how to report a repair. Site tenants should be included in any consultation by a site provider on repair timescales in their area. Site providers should be aware of the need to give 14 days’ written notice of repairs, other than essential repairs or emergency works, under the implied terms in the Mobile Homes Act 1983.
32. Income from pitch fees will assist site providers with the costs of maintenance and repairs. However site fees should be set at a reasonable level, and it will not generally be appropriate to pass the entire cost of significant work carried out to a site (for example, fitting new amenity blocks) on to site tenants in their pitch fees.
33. Site tenants should be treated fairly by site providers. This reflects outcome 1 of the Scottish Social Housing Charter  . Under the Charter social landlords should perform all aspects of their housing services so that “every tenant and other customer has their individual needs recognised, is treated fairly with respect, and receives fair access to housing and housing services”.
34. This fair treatment should be shown in how site tenants are treated by the site provider, and includes the transparent and fair allocation of pitches and the termination of a tenancy agreement. As part of this standard rents and service charges should provide value for money for site tenants, as covered by outcome 13 in the Charter. Site providers should also have a formal complaints procedure in place, and details on how to make a formal complaint should be provided to site tenants.
35. Site providers should consider sympathetically any request from a site tenant for an amenity block and external parts of a pitch to be adapted to meet their needs (or the needs of a family member living with them). Gypsy/Travellers who need such adaptations to enable them to continue living on a site should have their views carefully considered by the site provider, and where possible appropriate adaptations should be made.
36. It is important that people carrying out work on a Gypsy/Traveller site, whether from the local authority or another contractor are respectful of site tenants and their culture. Site providers should therefore ensure that those carrying out work behave appropriately when on a site. Other than for emergency repairs site tenants should also be told in advance who will be coming to carry out the work, and when.
37. Site tenants should be consulted about the site owner’s policy on repairs and maintenance, rents and service charges made by the site owner, and whether the services site tenants receive reflect value for money. They should also be made aware of any significant changes to the site being considered by the site provider, such as plans to increase the number of pitches on a site. This reflects outcomes 3, 14 and 15 in the Scottish Social Housing Charter which cover participation, rents, and service charges.
Scottish Social Housing Charter
38. As referred to above many of the Scottish Social Housing Charter outcomes and standards apply to tenants of Gypsy/Traveller sites. These include the outcomes related to equalities, communication, participation, value for money, and rents and service charges. Site providers should ensure they are meeting the relevant Charter outcomes in their services, and the way they are being provided, as part of their general work to meet the outcomes in the Charter. These minimum standards reflect the outcomes in the Charter.
39. The Charter will be reviewed during 2016 so that Scottish Ministers can take the review’s findings into account in preparing a revised Charter. The revised Charter will take effect from 1 April 2017. As part of that review the Scottish Government will consult on linking the standards to the Charter. Such a link would give the minimum standards the same status as the Scottish Housing Quality Standard has for social housing tenants.
Sites with Mobile Homes / Chalets
40. On some sites mobile homes with bedrooms (also known as chalets) have replaced more traditional caravans. In that case the parts of the minimum standards that apply to amenity blocks should be taken as applying to the chalet.
41. We want to allow reasonable time for site providers to assess the quality of their Gypsy/Traveller sites and bring them up to the minimum standards. Site providers therefore have until 30 June 2018 to make sure all sites meet the minimum standards. If a site is clearly of poor quality we would expect a site provider to take action to address that within a short period of time, regardless of the 2018 timescale.
42. Site providers should carry out an assessment of their site(s), and any work needed to ensure a site meets these minimum standards, by the end of 2015. Site tenants should be involved in reviewing the standard of a current site, and have the opportunity to contribute their views on what work needs to be undertaken and in what timescale.
43. Following the initial assessment site providers should undertake a regular inspection walking around a site to identify repairs and maintenance that needs to be undertaken. This should be carried out at least twice a year, and ideally more frequently. It is good practice for such an inspection to include site tenants, the site manager, and relevant officials from the site provider.