New electrical safety regulations for Scotland's landlords

New electrical safety regulations for Scotland’s private rented sector come into force on 1 December, requiring landlords to conduct electrical checks on their properties. To explain the rationale behind the new law and your responsibilities as a landlord, we’ve invited Phil Buckle, Director General of the charity Electrical Safety First, to give you the lowdown on the changes.

Scotland’s PRS has more than doubled in size in the last ten years. Yet in 2012, almost two thirds of PRS homes failed to meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard and concern over disrepair and safety in the sector inevitably increased – particularly since poor electrics are often ‘invisible’, lying undiscovered until a serious accident occurs.
 
That’s why last year’s Scottish Housing Act included a requirement for regular electrical checks of both the electrical wiring and fittings etc. in all PRS homes by a registered electrician, and any electrical items provided as part of the tenancy. The regulation will come into effect from 1 December this year for tenancies that begin on or after this date.  Existing tenancies will be covered by the regulation from 1 December 2016, giving landlords time to organise inspections for their properties. 

Electrical checks must be undertaken at least every five years, and landlords will need to provide tenants with a copy of the latest Electrical Inspection Condition Report (EICR). Testing must be undertaken by an electrician who’s registered with one of the government’s approved schemes (to find an electrician in your area, click here). 

All electrical appliances that have been checked should carry a Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) sticker. The Scottish Government’s guidance also recommends – but has not made mandatory – the installation of a Residual Current Device in the fuse box of all rented homes, which will rapidly cut off the current to prevent electric shock.  

Electrical Safety First led a wide coalition of stakeholders – including the Scottish Association of Landlords, Shelter Scotland, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Scotland and the Association of Residential Letting Agents - in the call for regular electrical checks. In addition to providing additional security for tenants, it was also seen as beneficial to landlords, who can face significant financial risks from fires and invalidated insurance claims, if they fail to ensure electrical safety in their rented properties. 

As there has been a long-standing requirement for landlords to provide an annual gas safety certificate, this new duty is seen as beginning to bring electrical safety on par with gas, and is a small price to pay for landlords to ensure the safety of their property and their tenants. Electrical Safety First is now working with Westminster and politicians in Wales and Northern Ireland, to ensure that this essential safety requirement is extended to tenants and landlords throughout the UK.

For more detailed information on the new regulation, visit www.prhpscotland.gov.uk/new-legislation-website-changes 

Electrical Safety First has also produced a Landlord’s Guide to Electrical Safety (Scotland) which you can find here.

Our top ten inventory tips

Do you know the value of a clear and detailed inventory?

In a deposit dispute, the inventory can be the deciding factor. What's more, it can often prevent a dispute from happening in the first place.

Despite this, we know from our conversations with landlords and letting agents that many of you lack confidence when it comes to inventories and struggle to make yours suitably thorough.

So to help you, our expert adjudicators have pulled together their top 10 inventory tips. Take a look at them and see if your inventories match our adjudicators' advice. It could make a real difference.

Working with the Scottish Association of Landlords

This year we’ve had the pleasure of sponsoring and exhibiting at two of the biggest annual events in the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) calendar, April’s The Agency Business conference and the forthcoming National Landlord Day. As the body which represents the interests of all landlords and letting agents throughout Scotland, SAL is a key influence in the industry, and we are very pleased to support these key events.

The Agency Business Conference

Now in its fourth year, the Agency Business conference, held at Hampden Park in Glasgow, was bigger and better than ever.

We were very proud to sponsor this valuable event which brings together letting agents and other industry professionals from across Scotland to share ideas, experiences and good practice, and discuss developments in the industry. Predictably, the expected changes to legislation and regulation as a result of the passing of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 were the main talking point at this year’s event. 

The conference provided a great opportunity for us to catch up with our existing clients to find out their thoughts on industry news and what else we could be doing to support them. In addition, we really enjoyed meeting some agents who we hadn’t worked with prior to the event and talking to them about their needs and how we could help them with their deposit protection responsibilities. 

If you missed the conference, you can always catch up on some of the highlights of the day by watching SAL’s video, including our Head of Tenancy Deposit Protection, Daren, explaining why the Agency Business conference is so valuable to us. 

National Landlord Day

We’re now looking forward to National Landlord Day, the SAL’s major annual conference and exhibition, on 3 November this year. It’s the UK’s largest annual private sector housing conference and we’re delighted to be co-sponsors. Landlords and letting agents will gather at Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth to discuss developments in the sector, seek advice from experts and enjoy a great programme of high profile speakers. 

We’ll be at stand 19 - do come and see us. You can test your dispute resolution skills with our ‘Be the adjudicator’ case study, enter our prize draw, or just have a chat about our service and what’s happening in the sector. We’re looking forward to meeting you there! To find out more, and book your place, please visit the SAL website.  

We look forward to collaborating with SAL on more projects in the future to help landlords and letting agents in Scotland with the best support possible.

 

 

 

Potential changes to requirements for Scottish letting agents

Under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014, the Scottish Government has released a consultation regarding a framework for the regulation of letting agents in Scotland.

The consultation includes proposals on a range of topics including:

> a mandatory register of letting agents with an associated ‘fit and proper’ person test;

> a training requirement that must be met to be admitted to the register;

> a statutory code of practice all letting agents must follow;

> a way for tenants and landlords to resolve complaints against letting agents for breaches of the statutory Code of Practice through a new specialist First-tier Tribunal; and

> powers for Scottish Ministers to obtain information and to inspect to monitor compliance and enforce regulatory requirements.

You can read the paper and respond via the Scottish Government website. Responses can be submitted online up to Sunday 15 November 2015. 

LPS Scotland sponsors The Agency Business conference

Recently we sponsored the Agency Business conference, hosted by the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) Council of Letting Agents at Hampden Park on 21 May. A unique event, this is the only time that letting agents in Scotland come together in a conference setting, and was therefore a great opportunity for us to catch up with our clients. We also met a number of agents who we don’t currently work with, so we took the opportunity to share our experience with them and explore how we could help deliver their tenancy deposit protection needs.

Our Head of Tenancy Deposit Protection, Daren, also contributed to the highlights video of the day, explaining why the Agency Business conference is so valuable to us. Watch it here.

You can also read what people had to say on Twitter by searching #Agentconf

Deposit disputed... Who decides?

THERE once was a landlady who – to prove her former tenants had left a wooden floor in a filthy state – took off her shoes and dared to walk across it. How do we know?

We were sent the “before” and “after” pictures of the soles of her feet.

Now that deposits must be protected, what do you do if a tenancy comes to an end but you and the tenant/landlord cannot agree how it should be distributed?

Not everyone applies such imaginative evidence gathering as the landlady who removed her shoes. But she did prove a point:

Where there is a dispute, evidence is king.

Before the Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations came into force the only route for warring landlord and tenant was a court of law.

Part of the reason for the new regulations was to create an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service, free of charge for tenants and landlords. The ADR service provides impartial, qualified adjudicators who will examine evidence from both sides and decide how the deposit should be divided.

Being free and completely independent means they’re not biased towards landlords or tenants. The only thing they’re interested in is evidence.

Fair, independent and impartial

If you feel you may need to use the ADR service then you’ll find our Guide to Tenancy Deposits, Disputes and Damages helpful as a useful starting point.

Meanwhile, here are the five key things to remember if you do use the service:

  • Both sides will have their say.
  • The deposit belongs to the tenant. The landlord must prove a legitimate claim on the money.
  • The ADR adjudicator is only interested in evidence. If a claim is made without evidence it is likely the claim will fail.
  • The importance of a properly completed inventory (preferably independent) cannot be underestimated.
  • In using the service, both sides agree to be bound by the decision.

No one wants disagreements over deposits. However, it’s inevitable that they will happen and when they do occur it’s very often because landlords and tenants haven’t spoken for a while; so it might be a good idea to pick up the phone or start tapping out an email before it gets to that point.

But it’s good to know – if dispute is unavoidable – that a free, legal alternative to court proceedings is there for you.

If you have any questions on our ADR service our FAQ page might have the answers for you.

We’ll also be rolling out a series of ADR workshops across Scotland, so please keep an eye on the website for more details.

By the way, if you want to see the foot look below!

Anthony’s tour de Scotland part 2

In part 2 of Anthony’s blog, he runs through some of the common questions asked during our free drop in sessions: For anyone that wasn’t able to visit us during one of our free drop in sessions, we thought it would be useful to list the answers to some of the most common questions we are asked. If you have any questions that aren’t answered here or you just want to find out more about us or the effect of the Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (the legislation), you can always check out our FAQ pages, or email me.

 

Q. Your service is free - what’s the catch?

A. The legislation specifies that all schemes must operate a free to use service for landlords, agents and tenants: there isn’t a catch!  Interest earned on the protected deposits pays for the running costs of the scheme.

 

Q. I have a portfolio of properties for which I receive the interest from the deposit funds.  Will you pay me interest as otherwise this system is a cost to me?

A. The legislation ordered deposit protection schemes to be custodial only, which means we hold your tenant’s deposit for you. We are unable to pay the interest to you at this time.

 

Q. Why aren’t you affiliated with any landlord or tenant associations?

A.  We welcome members who are affiliated to a landlord or tenant association, but we pride ourselves on offering a completely independent and impartial service open to all.

 

Q. Will you come and visit my property should there be a dispute between myself and my tenant?

A.  This is not possible. The landlord and tenant must supply comprehensive relevant evidence to back up their claim or defence in the event of a dispute.  The adjudicators will never visit a property and it is unlikely that they will contact you to question your evidence submission.   We welcome all evidence submitted to us, and the landlady who took a photo of her bare feet to demonstrate how the hard floor in her apartment had not been cleaned was certainly innovative....

 

Q. I need the deposits for cash flow.  I just had to pay for a new boiler in the property and now can’t afford to lodge the deposit.

A. The deposit was never yours to use; the money belongs to the tenant until the end of the tenancy (when the landlord or letting agent may make a claim for some or all of it, depending on the terms of the lease), and provided that, in the above case, they can prove that the boiler had to be replaced because of the tenant’s actions. As such you will still need to protect the deposit to comply with the new legislation; failure to do so may result in you paying compensation of up to three times the deposit amount to your tenant.

 

Q. How is the system policed? 

A. The legislation, together with the terms and conditions of the LPS Scotland, provide ways for information to be provided between landlord and tenant, and for any disputes to be resolved.  For example, tenants may apply to the courts for up to three times their deposit amount should their agent or landlord fail to lodge their deposit on time and supply them with the required information (Regulation 42). Such an application may be made up to three months after the tenancy has ended.

 

Q. You have a sample template on your website for me to give to my tenant covering the required information they need to know.  Should I be providing my tenant with anything else to comply with the legislation?  

A. The required information template (Regulation 42) contains everything the tenant needs to be aware of according to the legislation. When funds are lodged against your property’s deposit we also supply you and your tenant with confirmation that the deposit is protected.

 

Q. If my tenant doesn’t pay the last month’s rent, how do I claim from the deposit?

A. At the end of the tenancy you can apply to your deposit protection scheme to retain some or all of the deposit, as long as the lease states that you can recover non-payment of the rent from the deposit. You can find out further information about this process on our website.

 

Q. What experience do you have in understanding the issues that landlords and letting agents in Scotland face?

A. I have been in the residential property industry for 25 years in Scotland.  I have faced the problems that you face and know your concerns.  Our system has been set up to help you, not only with administration but also to help alleviate your tenants’ concerns.

 

Anthony operates from The LPS Scotland’s Edinburgh office. 

 

 

Do you know your deadline for protecting your tenant’s deposit?

On the 2nd October 2012, the second phase of timings for complying with The Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations kicks in. This means that any deposits received on or after the 2nd October 2012 need to be protected in a government approved scheme within 30 working days of the start of the tenancy.

Any deposits received before the 2nd October (but on or after the 7th March 2011) need to be protected in that way by the 13th November 2012.

If you have a deposit which you received from a tenant before the 7th March 2011 you need to protect it within 30 days of the tenancy renewal date (if this is after 12th November 2012), or if this doesn’t apply, by the 14th May 2013.

We know this can sound quite confusing, so if you’re not sure when you need to protect your tenant’s deposit, visit our website where we have a Timescales for Compliance Calculator which will help to work out the date for you! All you need is the date you received (or will receive) the deposit and a tenancy renewal date if you have one.

If you would like to find out more about tenancy deposit protection in Scotland and how it affects you, we have lots of information for landlords and letting agents on our website, or you can check out our FAQ pages.

Upcoming Events

Aberdeen Seminar and Drinks Reception, 18th September 2012 Following previous events in Edinburgh and Glasgow, we’re holding a seminar and drinks reception in Aberdeen on the 18th September 2012.

During the seminar you’ll be able to find out more about deposit protection legislation in Scotland and how it affects you. We'll also be discussing timelines for deposit protection and how to prepare if dispute resolution is needed.

The drinks reception will provide a great opportunity for you to meet some of The LPS Scotland team and network with your colleagues in the letting industry. If you’d like to attend please click on the link to RSVP below.

Date: Tuesday 18th September

Seminar: 15:00 - 17:00

Drinks Reception: 17.00-19.30 (drinks and canapés will be provided)

Location: Jurys Inn Aberdeen Hotel, Union Square, Guild Street, Aberdeen, AB11 5RG

Click here to RSVP

 

Drop-in Sessions

In September and October The LPS Scotland are holding information drop-in sessions across Scotland, where landlords and letting agents can pop in to meet some of our team, ask questions and have a demonstration of our system.

We’ll be running morning (10am – 1pm) and afternoon (3pm – 6pm) sessions at 25 locations across the country. Simply pop along when it's convenient for you – there’s no need to book.

To find out more and see the locations we’re visiting, please visit www.lettingprotectionscotland.com/events.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Invitation to our launch celebration

In celebration of our launch this month, we are holding two drinks receptions on the 18th and 19th of July and I would be delighted for you to join us! The first event on the 18th July will be held at The George Hotel in Edinburgh and the event on the 19th will be at The Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow. Drinks and canapés will be provided.

You’ll be able to meet myself, Anthony and the rest of the team behind The LPS Scotland, as well as network with your colleagues in the letting industry. There’ll be information on tenancy deposit protection in Scotland and you can find out more about our ‘Win a Day at the Races’ promotion.

If you’d like to come along to one of these launch events, please let us know in advance by clicking on the relevant link below:

Wednesday 18th July Time: 17.00-19.30 Location: The George Hotel, Edinburgh Click here to RSVP Thursday 19th July Time: 17.00-19.30 Location: The Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow Click here to RSVP

 

I look forward to seeing you there

Kevin

The LPS Scotland is now live!

Today is launch day! After being the first deposit protection scheme to be approved by the Scottish Government back in April, we are delighted to be launching today. If you are a landlord or letting agent in Scotland, it is now compulsory for you to protect your tenant’s deposits with an approved third-party scheme (within the relevant timelines). Anyone that doesn’t could face legal action with fines of up to three times the amount of the deposit paid by the tenant, so please make sure you understand what you need to do to comply with the legislation.

As a landlord or letting agent, you can follow these quick and simple steps to register your deposit:

  • register online at www.lettingprotectionscotland.com;
  • use our Timeline for Compliance calculator on the homepage, to make sure deposits are protected in line with Government timescales;
  • submit deposits via The LPS Scotland website, or by post.

Don’t forget, you will be able to view and manage all deposits registered with The LPS Scotland online throughout the duration of the tenancy.

We know you’re bound to have loads of questions, so we’ve put a lot of information on our website www.lettingprotectionscotland.com, or you can call us on 0844 472 6666 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am-5.30pm, excluding weekends and English bank holidays). We have over ten years’ custodial deposit protection experience, so please don’t hesitate to contact us.

LPS Scotland launches compliance calculator to help landlords

Today we have launched our new online Timescales for Compliance calculator, which will help landlords and letting agents calculate the deadlines to secure tenant deposits. The date you need to have a deposit secured by, depends on the date the deposit is received. By entering this date into the online calculator, along with the deposit renewal date (if applicable), you will be able to calculate the date you need to protect it by, to comply with the Scottish Government deadlines.

We want to make it simple for landlords to navigate this new legislation, which is why we’ve launched this unique online tool to make the process of protecting deposits easier. You will be able to work out individual compliance dates in a matter of seconds.

We would urge landlords not to fall foul of the heavy penalties by failing to comply. Hopefully this calculator, along with other resources on our website will be helpful for landlords, letting agents and tenants to meet the deadlines set out by Scottish Government.

You can find our calculator on our homepage at www.lettingprotectionscotland.com

Scottish Government approves The LPS Scotland as the first ever deposit protection scheme

I am delighted to announce that tenants, landlords and letting agents in Scotland are a step closer to guaranteed deposit protection, with the Scottish Government confirming it has approved its first deposit protection scheme, The Letting Protection Service Scotland (The LPS Scotland). The scheme has been given the go ahead to launch on July 2nd.

Having already established The Deposit Protection Service (The DPS) in England and Wales, we already have five years’ experience of running a similar custodial scheme and know how to support landlords and letting agents through the transition of new legislation. The LPS Scotland will use this knowledge to provide fast, free and secure deposit protection to support Scottish landlords and letting agents in complying with regulations.

Learn more

A reminder that you can access helpful information about our service via a page on The LPS Scotland website.  Here you can view and download documents and familiarise yourself with our processes. You may find the following information particularly helpful:

Experience Matters – an overview of The LPS Scotland - Does exactly what it says on the tin. Provides an overview of The LPS Scotland and each process involved from registering to alternative dispute resolution.

Best practice in deposit protection for landlords - List of the key things you’ll need to remember with regards to tenancy deposit protection, including the importance of repayment IDs and tenants’ contact details.

Registering with The LPS Scotland - Process flow diagram that explains how to register with us.

Submitting a deposit - Process flow diagram that explains how to submit deposits once registered with The LPS Scotland

Events

We also regularly attend and organise events to ensure landlords and letting agents are kept up to date with the legislation, what it will mean for you and how The LPS Scotland will work.

We will be confirming a number of new events over the next few months, full details of those events can be found here.  Or, if you’d like us to send you more information on The LPS Scotland following approval from Scottish Government, send us an email or visit our website.

We’ll keep you up to date on developments here on the blog and you can also follow us on Twitter – @LPS_Scotland

 

Renters revolt against rogue landlords

Our recent survey of landlords and tenants in the UK shows that over 70% of tenants will challenge their landlord if their deposit is not protected and a massive 84% feel safer knowing their deposit is held independently as a result of tenancy deposit protection legislation. The legislation proved popular with landlords and agents as well, with over a third reporting that the introduction of tenancy deposit protection in England and Wales in 2007 has had a positive impact on the lettings industry.

This year, it will become compulsory for landlords and letting agents in Scotland to protect tenants’ deposits with an approved third-party scheme and the results of our survey demonstrate how the introduction of legislation will benefit both landlords and tenants. It also highlights that communication between tenants and landlords is key to the success of the scheme – with over 70% of tenants learning about the legislation from their own landlord.

As the operator of the only UK-based custodial deposit protection scheme our experience has taught us that by placing the deposit with a third party, tenants and landlords will be secure in the knowledge that the deposit is protected throughout the duration of the tenancy.

The new Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011 became law in March 2011, and proposals to protect tenancy deposits are currently awaiting Government approval – The LPS Scotland is one of the proposed providers. Further details of the deposit protection schemes will be announced in the near future, following which every landlord that receives a deposit must comply with the regulations.

The introduction of this legislation is a positive step forward in Scotland. It’s now important that those in the private rented sector don’t fall foul of this legislation and take appropriate steps to ensure that they are prepared for its introduction.

You can find out more about protecting deposits at www.lettingprotectionscotland.com.

More dates added to our Scottish tenancy deposit protection tour!

We’re hosting and attending so many events over the next couple of months we’ve had to create a new page on our website to list them all! Our Introduction to Tenancy Deposit Protection events provide an introduction to the legislation, what it will mean for landlords, letting agents and tenants, discuss the adjudication process and how The LPS Scotland scheme will operate.

This month we’re running a couple of webinars – Kevin Firth will deliver the same presentation but online, giving you the chance to learn about tenancy deposit protection without even leaving your desk.

To register for a webinar click your preferred date below:

Thursday 23rd February - 10:00am-12:00pm

Tuesday 28th February - 2:00pm-4:00pm

We’ll also be heading to Dundee for a presentation on 6 March where you’ll be given our literature packs and freebies. The event details are:

Time: 3:00pm-5:30pm  

Address: Discovery Point, Discovery Quay, Dundee, DD1 4XA  

For more information or to register: Please click here

Compulsory deposit protection is creeping ever closer and it’s important that landlords and letting agents are up to speed with their responsibilities – these events will tell you what you can do now to be ready once schemes launch and how you can manage the process going forward.

If you’d like more information visit our website www.lettingprotectionscotland.com or email us.