Section 2 - Core Rights and Responsibilities for Gypsy/Traveller Site Tenants
44. This guidance sets out core rights and responsibilities we expect to be part of tenants’ occupancy agreements with site providers.
45. Gypsy/Traveller site tenants each have their own individual occupancy agreements with the site provider. This will set out the contract between the site provider (the LA or RSL) and the tenant, and cover things such as use of facilities, repairs, payment for pitches, and arrangements for ending a tenancy. There is currently little consistency of approach in terms of tenancy agreements, with each site provider developing their tenancy agreement in isolation from other providers.
46. This approach has meant that Gypsy/Traveller site tenants have lacked a central document that sets out their core rights and responsibilities, and what they can expect at any Gypsy/Traveller site in the country. This has been in contrast to tenants of social housing, who are able to refer to the legal framework for the Scottish Secure Tenancy ( SST) which sets out certain rights and responsibilities.
47. There have been calls over recent years to introduce the kind of consistency that social tenants have with the SST to Gypsy/Traveller site tenants, most recently in the report Where Gypsy/Travellers Live. Following the EOC report the Government convened the Gypsy/Traveller Site Working Group to consider issues around Gypsy/Traveller sites, and potential ways forward, including the issue of site occupancy agreements.
48. In light of the Group’s discussions the Scottish Government has decided to set out core rights and responsibilities for site tenants. These have been discussed with Gypsy/Traveller site tenants, and developed with input from housing professionals, stakeholders with links to the Gypsy/Traveller community, and others. Officials also took into account the terms of the occupancy agreements already developed by site providers.
Core Rights and Responsibilities
49. Annex B sets out the core rights and responsibilities for tenants of Gypsy/Traveller sites provided by local authorities and RSLs. It has been written from the perspective of a site tenant, to provide straightforward information on their rights and responsibilities.
50. In summary the core rights and responsibilities cover:
- Fair treatment. The need to treat site tenants fairly;
- Amenity block standards. The need for amenity blocks to meet certain specific standards;
- Repairs. Timescales for carrying out repairs;
- Ending a tenancy. Arrangements for ending a tenancy, and for a tenancy to be passed on;
- Consultation. The need to consult site tenants about specified matters;
- Information and complaints. The need to provide written information and a complaints procedure;
- Behaviour. Minimum standards of behaviour expected from a site tenant;
- Care of a pitch. Expected standards of care of a pitch
- Leaving a pitch. Arrangements for leaving a pitch.
51. We expect site providers to reflect these core rights and responsibilities in their occupancy agreements. These set out what Gypsy/Traveller site tenants should expect, and what is expected of site tenants themselves. This will introduce consistency across Scotland in what rights and responsibilities site tenants can expect, while allowing site providers suitable flexibility to produce occupancy agreements that reflect local circumstances. The core rights and responsibilities reflect the minimum standards in section 1 of this guidance, where relevant. For sites which are only open part of the year the site provider will have to decide how best to reflect the rights around ending a tenancy in their occupancy agreements, given that pitches on such sites are not occupied all year round.
52. Where appropriate the core rights and responsibilities reflect the content of SST. However not all the provisions in an SST are relevant to the different context of Gypsy/Traveller sites, and there are some provisions in the core rights and responsibilities that reflect the lifestyle of those living on Gypsy/Traveller sites.
53. The core rights and responsibilities cover the issue of ending a tenancy, and the grounds on which a site provider can do so. We would view a site provider asking a court to end a tenancy as a last resort, once all other measures have been exhausted, and would encourage site providers to address issues with a tenant at an earlier stage. For example anti-social behaviour could be addressed through warnings, mediation, acceptable behaviour contracts and other means, and if a tenant is in arrears a site provider should provide reasonable help and support to the tenant to enable them to pay back the debt. However there will be situations where eviction is appropriate, for example in situations where a tenant’s behaviour is causing considerable and prolonged distress to others on the site.
54. Site providers should make site tenants aware of their policy on recharges for repairing damage to a site that is not accidental. Such recharging might include activities such as clearing rubbish from the site, repairing wilful damage to amenity block fixture and fittings, or replacing lost keys.
Scottish Social Housing Charter
55. The Scottish Social Housing Charter applies to site tenants as it does to tenants of social housing. Outcomes such as 1, 2, 3, 5, 13, 14 and 15 in the Charter will be relevant to site tenants, and site providers should ensure they are meeting those outcomes in relation to site tenants. The Scottish Housing Regulator is aware of this guidance, and please see paragraphs 9 to 11 above for more detail on their role.
56. We expect site providers to examine the current occupancy agreements they have in place with Gypsy/Traveller site tenants, to see if they reflect the core rights and responsibilities in this guidance. If they do not we would expect site providers to issue new occupancy agreements that do, while ensuring that site tenants do not suffer any detriment from the new agreement. We expect all site providers to have issues any new agreements by 30 June 2018 at the latest.
57. We will be producing easily accessible information for site tenants for distribution later this year. This will provide them with information on the core rights and responsibilities. However site providers may wish to provide site tenants with information before then, informing them of the core rights and responsibilities and the action you are taking as a site provider to make sure they are reflected in tenants’ occupancy agreements.