PART 2: MANAGEMENT OVERVIEW
- Local authorities have a statutory duty to deliver landlord registration
- A sound management and organisational framework is needed to support successful implementation of the scheme
- Co-operation between council departments and joint working is a key part of delivery
- Robust and clear processes are required for effective delivery
- Appropriate delegated authority for decision making should be established
- Performance should be regularly monitored
The Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004 ('the 2004 Act') sets out the basics of registration and the consequences of a failure to register. Some of the detail is set out in associated regulations. The 2004 Act and associated regulations can be found at www.opsi.gov.uk - a list of the regulations can be found at Annex 5.
For mandatory registration to be effective, a sound organisational and management framework must underpin the legislative duties and administrative procedures. There are a number of management issues that a local authority should consider to ensure that landlord registration is implemented as effectively as possible. Regular review of procedures and processes will ensure ongoing effectiveness of delivery.
- Success of registration requires co-operation between departments. It would be helpful if a statement was conveyed to all departments emphasising the authority's explicit commitment to registration at the corporate level.
- Senior management in the lead department for registration should convey a clear message to staff responsible for the registration process that the aim is to target most resources on identifying and dealing with the worst owners and agents while, for the others, the system should be applied with a light touch. The message should underline the point made throughout this guidance that registration should be a means of ensuring that all fit and proper landlords and agents are aware of basic good practice and undertake to comply with their legal obligations in letting. It should be made clear that registration is not meant to undermine the local rental market or discourage new landlords from entering the market.
- The establishment of a joint officers working group with members pulled from a range of departments across the local authority has proved useful to many authorities dealing with registration. Such groups have helped to facilitate inter-departmental liaison, agree information transfer arrangements and trouble-shoot problems that arise.
- Registration also places a duty on the local authority to provide advice and assistance to tenants and to owners and agents in particular situations. Arrangements should be in place to ensure that this duty is complied with locally and that processes are in place to help with vulnerable and minority groups where necessary. Management should ensure that suitable training is given where required.
- It is important that all local authorities have established the appropriate level of delegated authority to managers or officers for rejecting an application, revoking registration, applying a Rent Penalty Notice and submitting a report to the Procurator Fiscal's office. Written procedures should be in place that outline the relevant decision making powers.
- There is no single rule of thumb by which to decide whether an applicant is fit and proper to own or be responsible for letting property. Judgement is essential. Weighing up the pros and cons of conflicting information is inherent to the scrutiny process. Senior management must therefore take steps to ensure that decisions are transparent, fair, non-discriminatory to any minority or disadvantaged group and defensible against criticism and appeal. All local authorities should have written procedures for their fit and proper test and should have established a clear process for scrutinising and deciding on applications.
- Like other regulatory activities, it is important to establish a means of monitoring and reviewing the performance of registration activity. Responsibility for what is monitored and who reviews performance should be made clear. The IT processing system assists with quantitative measurement of basic information, such as the number of approvals and rejections. This information is also monitored by the Scottish Government on a monthly basis. It may also be useful to obtain 'consumer' feedback from registered owners and agents, and from private tenants, in order to assess the success of delivery.
- The strategic overview noted the benefit that registration work could bring to Local Housing Strategies. Successful mandatory registration provides the authority with a rich database of information about private landlords and their properties. However, registration work and housing strategy work are unlikely to be carried out by the same section, or, in some cases, within the one department. It will be necessary to ensure access to, or receipt of, data output tables by officers involved in updating the Local Housing Strategy.
Finally, it may be necessary to adapt the handling of registration, for example, to deal with large volumes of applications. The following particular points should be borne in mind:
- The IT system is intended to minimise the work involved in bulk processing; encourage web applications, for example, through libraries and other facilities
- Consider the use of agency staff for data entry of paper based applications and basic processing tasks
- The system works best if relevant information is organised in advance, so that applications needing detailed assessment can be diverted. It is important that any applications which are diverted to review are dealt with in a timely manner. Authorities should remember that it is straightforward to revoke a registration if further information becomes available after the application has been approved
- Confirmation of a valid application protects the applicant's legal position.
- Clear processes should be in place for dealing with different types of applications. If necessary, establish a strategy for clearing any backlog of applications, including 'historic' cases.
- Focus particularly on the legal requirements
- Wherever possible, inform applicants and potential applicants of timing in order to avoid unnecessary enquiries
This document is intended for use by local authorities as guidance in the implementation of private landlord registration. The guidance will be updated on an ongoing basis, with revisions available on the Scottish Government website: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/Housing/PrivateRenting/registrations/Introduction