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Housing bill threatens tenants’ rights

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Plans to update Scotland's housing laws will erode tenants rights, say housing charities.

New legislation designed to make Scotland’s housing policies more inclusive will in fact lead to a significant erosion of tenants’ rights.

Homeless Action Scotland (HAS) issued the warning in response the housing (Scotland) bill consultation which closed last week.

We’ll be seeking amendments to the bill to ensure that tenants’ rights are protected - Robert Aldridge

Among the measures causing the charity most concern are proposals to allow registered social landlords to take age into account when allocating housing and a downgrading of the legal procedures that protect social tenants threatened with eviction.

Effectively the bill makes it easier to evict tenants under anti-social behaviour rules, something which HAS believes gives landlords too much power.

The charity also says there is a “worrying” lack of clarity on measures to ensure access to justice for private sector tenants wishing to take their cases to tribunal, and an unreasonable increase in the powers of landlords to put applications for housing on hold.

Robert Aldridge, HAS chief executive, said the legislation contained welcome measures, such as the abolition of the right-to-buy scheme but contained too many proposals to tip the current balance of power more in favour of landlords.

He said: “Scotland has some of the strongest legislation on housing and homelessness in the world and there is no good reason to allow an erosion, inadvertent or otherwise, of hard-won tenants’ rights.

“Of course, landlords also have rights that must be respected, but the system must be fair for both parties.

“We’ll be seeking amendments to the bill to ensure that tenants’ rights are protected.”

Andy Young
Andy Young

Demand for social housing remains strong in Scotland.

For example, there are around 184,000 households on local authority housing lists across the country but only 54,600 social housing properties became available to let last year – 9% of the total stock.

With this high demand for social housing, the key motivation of the bill is to encourage the supply of affordable housing, protect existing stock and ensure landlords can use their stock most effectively.

Andy Young, policy and membership manager at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), said HAS is overstating many of the bill’s impacts.

For example, SFHA believes that increasing the rights of landlords to deal with anti-social behaviour will not be at the expense of law-abiding tenants.

“While the proposals around short tenancies, suspensions and streamlined evictions processes are welcome, they are not a panacea to combat antisocial behaviour,” he told TFN.

“This will still require a multi-agency approach and a less congested court system.Social landlords are not solely responsible for tackling antisocial behaviour and there is a danger that the expectations of those tenants whose lives are blighted by the thoughtless actions of their neighbours will be raised to unrealistic levels by some of the language being used by the Scottish Government.”

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