Raising Standards in the PRS 1st Dec 2016

As we noted in last month’s newsletter, the Private Rented Sector (PRS) in Scotland now represents 14% (350,000) of all households, and it is set to keep on growing. This growth has, quite rightly, resulted in standards within the PRS being raised, as pressure has been put on the sector by industry bodies, and by tenants themselves.

An increase in regulations has brought about numerous changes over recent years, such as the introduction of the tenancy deposit scheme, the abolition of tenant fees, and a much needed increase in safety regulations within the PRS. In 2017 we will see the changes to the Private Tenancies Bill. However recent research by Shelter Scotland has highlighted the number of tenants who present to them with reports of poor conditions and illegal evictions and they are calling for active enforcement of these regulations, so that tenants can live in high quality homes.

The Property Ombudsman Scheme’s annual report (2016) reveals a 32% increase in the number of formal complaints. A total of 16,265 enquiries from consumers seeking advice were received; but there were 3,304 formal complaints resolved resulting in a 32% increase.

On the lettings side, the key statistics are:

• 1,965 formal complaints were resolved (33 per cent more than the year before)
• 83 per cent of complaints were supported by the Ombudsman
• 50 per cent of complaints were made by landlords, while 47% were made by tenants
• the top 3 causes of complaints were: management (including repairs and maintenance), communication and record keeping; and end of tenancy issues (e.g. deposits, disputes and damages)

Looking at the main causes of complaint, this highlights how essential it is that landlords are responsive to repair and maintenance issues. If you do not have time to deal with the day to day management of your property, then enlist the help of a reputable letting agent, who will deal with maintenance issues in a timely manner.

Likewise, communication issues; tenants want to have a good, working relationship with their landlord / letting agent, and this goes a long way towards the smooth running of a tenancy.

We will be looking at deposits more closely in January’s newsletter but the above complaint reporting stresses the need for a detailed inventory, which can be essential in resolving end of tenancy disputes. The average length of a tenancy has increased by 300% over the last 2 years from 16 months in 2014 to 4 years in 2016 (Imfuna), and it therefore follows that longer tenancies will of course result in more wear and tear, and more damage to a property. Disputes between landlords and tenants over who pays for what are on the rise, with the latest figures from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme showing that damage now accounts for 52% of all adjudications. This is largely due to confusion around ‘damage` verses ‘fair wear and tear`, and who is responsible for what.

Further research by Help-Link has found that a quarter of tenants in Scotland describe their rental properties as a ‘nightmare`, with damp being the biggest cause of concern (see accompanying newsletter article) amongst 21% of those surveyed. 17% said their landlord was unreliable. Other issues included building faults (335), water leaks (30%), damaged windows (20%), unwanted pests (12%) and broken fire alarms (10%).

With the PRS growing at the rate it is, pressure groups are going to continue to campaign for standards to be raised further. The Scottish government are already taking a number of steps towards implementing and enforcing regulation. The Key Place welcomes the increase in regulation and feels strongly that it is long overdue. As members of lead industry bodies, we will keep our landlords informed about all forthcoming changes.