‘Hold onto your Haggis – the NLA is busy in Scotland’

Chris Norris, Head of Policy at the NLA, gives an update on policy matters north of the border

The NLA is sometimes accused of being too London centric, I don’t believe this is a fair perception of what we do, or how we prioritise things on behalf of our members.

But I suppose it is understandable at times – after all I am writing this blog from an office overlooking the Thames, with Battersea Power Station to my left and Parliament’s Clock Tower to my right (known by some as Big Ben, but I’m a little pedantic about that).

However, the NLA’s Scottish Representatives (who are based North of the Border) are having a busy time of it at the moment, as well as our central public policy staff. Throughout May, June and July 2012 four major public policy issues will take centre stage in Scotland.

Perhaps the most high profile of these is the formal introduction of tenancy deposit protection (TDP) measures similar to those which have been in force since 2007 in England and Wales. Schemes are currently being reviewed and some, such as my|deposits Scotland, are due to officially open for business on 2 July. This will no-doubt have a significant impact on the way that landlords go about their business’ in the future, but it by no means all that is happening in 2012.

Over the last few months, the NLA has engaged with the Scottish Government over the proposed content of ‘Tenant Information Packs’ which will be required in respect of all new tenancies shortly – a well-meaning policy which currently has some odd and potentially misleading guidance attached.

We are also determined to make landlords’ voices hear in respect of Government plans to change the way in which letting agents (and to some extent landlords) may recover their costs when establishing a new tenancy. The Government has consulted extensively into options for restricting premiums in relation to new tenancies – which have long been prohibited in Scotland, but ill-defined, making enforcement hit and miss. The NLA welcomes the degree of clarity which this process should bring, but is concerned that additional legitimate costs will have to be absorbed by landlords in the future.

Perhaps most importantly though, the Scottish Government is currently inviting views on a ‘Strategy for the Private Rented Sector’. It is difficult to disagree with the vision proposed by the PRS Strategy Group:

“A thriving and professional private rented sector that offers good quality homes and high management standards; inspires consumer confidence; encourages growth and investment to further develop and improve the sector.”

But it does seem a little counter-intuitive to invest in a long-term strategy a year after pursuing a piece of legislation entitled – “Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Act 2011”. It may be a little old-fashioned, but I tend to like the reassurance of knowing that the strategy is in place before the legislation is debated.

But I digress.

It is great to see that England (Housing Strategy 2011), Wales (White Paper 2012) and Scotland (PRS Strategy Consultation 2012) are taking a more strategic approach to working with the PRS. Although given that landlords in Scotland already have to navigate:

– Landlord Registration

– Comprehensive HMO Licensing

– Property Factors Registration

– The Private Rented Housing Panel

– TDP (very shortly)

And

– The new Tenant Information Pack (coming soon)

It does remain to be seen what is left in the Government’s policy store.

The recent review of landlord registration is likely to play an important part in focusing policy makers minds – which is why the NLA is proud to say that one of the reviews co-authors (Dr John Boyle) has agreed to speak at this year’s NLA National Conference. Hopefully by then we will have a better view of what is in store for landlords in Scotland.

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