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Tribunal wins for private tenants show powers of new rules

James Mullaney
Written by James Mullaney

Several recent judgements by the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) show that tenants now have an effective way of making sure that their landlord or letting agent meet the minimum standards for the condition of their homes.

From 1st December 2016 the tribunal replaced the Private Rented Housing Panel. One year later, the reach of the tribunal was expanded to include most disputes relating to private rented tenancies. To ensure that renters can pursue complaints regardless of their income, issues can be taken to the tribunal for free.  A renter will usually be expected to show written evidence that they have told their agent or landlord about the disrepair and have given them reasonable time to fix it. If the tribunal agrees that the landlord has not complied with their repairing duties, they can serve a Repairing Standard Enforcement Order (RSEO) setting out what work is required and the deadline for completion.

One Glasgow tenant applied to the tribunal last year when they were unable to open their windows properly. The roof gutters, downpipes and outside walls did not meet the repairing standard either. On 10th October 2018 the tribunal issued the landlord with an RSEO to fix the issues and give the tenant a fully updated electrical installation condition report (EICR) to confirm that all electrics in the property were safe to use.

Another tenant, based in Perth & Kinross, contacted the tribunal to report old heaters and plug sockets not working and damaged flooring and paintwork. A hearing was set for November 2018. Although the tenant moved out whilst the case was ongoing, the tribunal decided to continue the case and issue a decision. The tribunal noted that the landlord had taken steps to fix some of the issues raised in the initial application (which the landlord argued was caused by a leak from a washing machine) however, they still issued an RSEO requiring the landlord to deal with the outstanding repairs.

In Leith, a landlord was ordered to take down a ceiling, repair a damaged drain and redecorate the property they were renting out. The tenant approached the tribunal when “even a light shower” of rain outside would cause a leak from the ceiling in the lounge. This was despite attempts a few years earlier to fix the issue.  A hearing was held in Edinburgh in October 2018. Although the landlord had, by this point, located a common roof repair which they expected would resolve the issue, an RSEO was served setting a deadline for completion of the necessary repairs.

In October 2018, another RSEO was served on the landlord of a property in Paisley to address a number of urgent repair issues. The tribunal found that a cooker socket, hanging off of a wall, posed an, “ongoing and imminent danger to life” and an updated EICR, covering every appliance and installation in the property, was necessary. The smoke detectors did not meet current legal requirements and repairs to the windows were required to make the property wind and watertight. The tenant was also entitled to a replacement sofa in a, “reasonable state of repair and meeting current safety requirements”. The decision also highlighted the need for landlords to provide adequate heating throughout a property through a “fixed form of heating” whether, “electric or gas”. The deadline for completion of all this work– just 8 weeks!

These decisions show what can happen when tenants feel empowered to enforce their rights by using the free tribunal service. Many other cases are resolved before it even reaches a hearing.

Here’s what you should know if you are considering applying to the tribunal to address issues in your private rented accommodation:

Have you used the tribunal yet? Was it easy to use – how did you get on?

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