Why we are consulting
The Scottish Government is seeking views on proposals for reviewing two specific aspects of landlord registration:
- Information that must be included in an application for registration; and
- Application fees.
The private rented sector has grown steadily from 5% in 1999 to 15% in 2016 - an estimated increase of 250,000 households. So it is clear that private landlords play an important role in meeting housing need in Scotland. When choosing a property to rent, tenants may have little information to help them decide whether their prospective landlord is reliable and provides a good standard of accommodation and services. The system of landlord registration should allow the tenant to rely on the judgement of their local authority as to whether a landlord is a fit and proper person to rent property.
Although the presumption is that most landlords aim to let their properties responsibly, the evidence indicates that some landlords apply for registration without being fully aware of their responsibilities as a landlord. For example, property condition is an area where many landlords fail to meet the legal requirements, and about which tenants have most complaints. A minority of landlords also deliberately choose to operate outside the law, by providing poor quality services and accommodation, often to vulnerable people. Some examples of the available evidence relating to poor property condition are included in Annex A.
Landlords who apply for registration are required to make a general declaration that they meet the legal duties for letting houses. However, the evidence suggests that this is not enough to ensure that they do understand and comply with their responsibilities. The consultation therefore includes proposals to ask for additional information about compliance with legal duties relating to letting houses, when a person applies for registration, renews registration and adds a property to an existing registration. The aim is to:
- raise awareness about landlord responsibilities;
- identify where further advice or support may be required;
- provide better information for local authorities to carry out the fit and proper person test; and
- improve confidence that anyone who is approved and entered onto the register is a suitable person to let houses.
Other amendments are also proposed, to simplify the application process.
The application fees that are paid when someone applies for registration have not increased since 2006. As the expectations on local authorities to deliver more effective administration of landlord registration increase, it is important that the increased costs to local authorities are taken into account. A review of the current application fee structure will ensure that fees continue to be proportionate and reasonable to the authorisation process undertaken by local authorities, as required by the EU Services Directive, which is implemented by the Provision of Services Regulations 2009. Under the EU Directive, the charges for landlord registration should generally not exceed the costs to local authorities of processing applications. The consultation also provides the opportunity to consider simplifying the complex range of discounts that may apply in specific circumstances and whether fees are appropriate for specific changes in circumstance.