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Enforcement and positive engagement will improve private rented sector standards

I recently listened to Kevin Stewart MSP’s speech at the Scottish Association of Landlords’ excellent National Landlord Day. I have to agree with the Minister’s policy for consistent enforcement of private rented sector legislation across the 32 local authorities in Scotland. This is needed to address the highly variable standards that exist in both private rented accommodation and tenancy management.

I am the Private Landlord Support Officer working with Shelter Scotland in the Highland local authority area to improve standards in the sector. In Highland I have initiated new engagement activity with the private landlords, releasing regular newsletters, answering over 200 landlord enquiries about regulatory compliance and created a best practice forum in Fort William with a further forum being trialled in Aviemore on the 24th of November 2016. All this within in the first year of the pilot project.

To paint a brief, all be it anecdotal, picture of non-compliance in Highland I have challenged over 300 landlords advertising property for rent on line who have failed to display their landlord registration number or Energy Performance Certificate rating for the property (or in most cases both). These non-compliant adverts are by far the majority of the ones I see on a particular online platform. There are between 10 -20 adverts a week that are challenged. I am pleased to report about 60% of landlords respond by either removing or amending the advert. However there remains a defiance amongst those who ignore my polite approach, presumably as a result of a culture of non-enforcement.

The fine for displaying an advertisement without an EPC rating is £500 and £1,000 for renting property without one. If some revenue from enforcement activity could be directed to engagement with the sector promoting best practice in the form of a soft touch approach for those landlords who are receptive to it (my 60% of landlords who address their error or oversight) then a healthy and effective balance between the much needed support and enforcement activity in the PRS could be achieved. Additionally, referring under performing landlords to Private Landlord Support Officers where appropriate could save costly enforcement activity and free up resources to focus on those landlords who deliberately and knowingly flaunt the law for personal gain.

The Private Rented Project Pilot’s work with landlords in both Highlands and Dundee City Council has another year to run. At the project’s completion Shelter Scotland aim to have a workable and realistic model of PRS engagement for the 32 Local Authorities to complement and add value to a consistent enforcement approach, all addressing poor standards in the private rented sector.

If you would like to attend the free private landlord forum taking place in Aviemore on the 24th of November 2016 please email Bryan_Powell@shelter.org.uk to secure your place.