On 21 November 2013, a new Scottish Housing Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament - what will this mean for RSLs?
It is a lengthy document extending to 86 sections. It is expected that this Bill will become law at some point in 2014.
If passed, the Bill will create significant changes in four main areas of housing law and practice.
1 - Right to Buy
- Proposals to abolish the right to buy entirely. Abolition will take place three years after the Bill is passed. From that date no tenant will have the ability to exercise the right to buy.
- Proposals for two minor changes to RTB amendments which were introduced in 2011 clarifying certain matters which have been the subject of debate since then.
2 - Allocation of social housing
- Changes to the rules on 'reasonable preference' and priority in allocation of housing. Landlords will be able to determine individually which groups they believe should have priority and will be required to consult their tenants on any proposed changes.
- Changes to rules relating to matters which can be taken into account when allocating properties. The age of an applicant and whether the applicant owns other property will become factors that can be considered.
- Introduction of a qualifying period before a housing application becomes 'live'.
3 - Short Scottish Secure tenancies
- Social landlords will be given flexibility to grant Short SSTs (or convert existing full SSTs) where applicants have acted antisocially in or near their home within the last 3 years. This will be extended to cover situations where there has been no eviction or formal court order relating the antisocial behaviour.
- Social landlords will be given flexibility to grant Short SSTs to home owners who require housing to enable them to meet their own housing need.
- Changes will also be proposed to the rules which relate to short SSTs which convert to full SSTs after 12 months.
- A new minimum period of 12 months will apply where the short SST has been granted because of previous antisocial behaviour. This period can be extended to 18 months before the tenancy converts back to a full SST.
- New rules relating to eviction from a short SST will be introduced confirming that a reason must be given and a review undertaken if requested.
4 - Scottish Secure Tenancies
- Changes to rules on assignation and subletting are proposed which will see a longer qualifying period before an assignation can be sought and new reasons for refusals including 'under-occupation' or lack of housing need.
- A 12 month period of prior occupancy will be reintroduced for those claiming succession to a tenancy who are not joint tenants or were married or civil partners to the deceased.
- The person seeking assignation or claiming succession must also show that they told the landlord that they were occupying the property prior to the relevant qualifying period starting.
- Eviction rules will also be changed. The Bill includes a proposal for a near 'mandatory' eviction where a tenant has been convicted of using the house for illegal purposes or has committed an offence punishable by imprisonment within the previous 12 months. The 'reasonableness' defence in these cases will be removed.
The Bill also contains significant proposals affecting many other housing matters including proposals to create a new Housing Tribunal to deal with all private sector disputes, plans to introduce registration for letting agents, changes to the laws on mobile homes and amendment to local authority powers to enforce repairs and maintenance in private homes.
We will publish more detailed briefings on these matters and will be happy to provide advice on the proposals on request.
For more information please contact our housing team.