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.

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!

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.

New tenancy deposit protection guidance online now!

In my blog last week – ‘Countdown begins to teach Scottish landlords about new deposit responsibilities’ - we highlighted the importance of educating landlords, letting agents and tenants in order for tenancy deposit protection legislation to be effective. With this in mind and with the introduction of schemes in Scotland creeping ever closer we’ve focussed on attending and hosting as many awareness events as we can – we have a few more scheduled over the coming weeks, including two webinars so you won’t even have to leave your desks to attend! We’ve also been working hard to finalise our guidance documents so they’re available online for letting agents, landlords and tenants.

Our suite of documents contains all the information that you need in order to prepare for tenancy deposit protection and we’ll continue to add to this as we get closer to launch.

We’ve created a new page on the website where you can view and download each document and familiarise yourself with the processes. Here’s an overview and link to each document:

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. Please note that as The LPS Scotland is still awaiting Government approval you are not yet able to register. As soon as we’re approved you’ll be able to do this online.

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

How to reclaim a deposit - Process flow diagram that explains the return of deposits at the end of tenancies.

A guide to tenancy deposits, disputes and damages - Industry agreed guidance on how deposit disputes are handled. Following the guidance in this document will assist you in setting up and managing tenancies correctly to have the best possible experience with your tenants and deal with disputes effectively should they arise.

A tenants' guide - Focused on the tenants’ responsibilities. It’s a good idea to download these and hand them to your tenant at the start of their tenancies so they know what’s expected of you, and them.

You can also visit the website for the latest news, details of our upcoming events and ways to get in touch.

Countdown begins to teach Scottish landlords about new deposit responsibilities

The countdown has begun to educate Scotland’s landlords, letting agents and tenants about tenancy deposit protection. The legislation came into force in March 2011 and landlords and letting agents will shortly be required by law to hand that deposit over to an approved third-party custodial scheme – like The LPS Scotland - to ensure it is properly protected.

The Scottish Government implemented the legislation after its research found that 8,000 – 11,000 tenants a year had part or all of their deposits unfairly withheld, equating to between £2.2 and £3.6 million*.

With over 5 years’ experience of running a similar custodial scheme, we know that educating landlords, letting agents and tenants is essential if the legislation is to be effective.

Landlords need to be aware of their new responsibilities to ensure that they don’t fall foul of the regulations and tenants also should take time to learn about the new legislation, to make sure their deposit is securely protected within the new 30 day timeframe.

The new legislation will go a long way to giving tenants, landlords and letting agents the reassurance that deposits are secured properly and the return of money at the end of the tenancy is structured and fair.

We’ve been in Scotland all week speaking at events in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen to ensure this message is getting out to the Scottish market and we’ll be setting up further sessions, including an online webinar in the next few weeks.

You can stay up to date with the latest news either here, or on our website and we’ll post details of future events as soon as they become available.

You can also follow us on Twitter - @LPS_Scotland

The LPS Scotland is in the process of being approved by the Scottish Government to protect tenancy deposits on behalf of tenants, landlords and letting agents. The service will be free to use and run by Computershare Investor Services PLC which also operates The DPS the only UK-based custodial deposit protection scheme.

Scotland a step closer to tenancy deposit protection

Our application to run a custodial tenancy deposit protection scheme in Scotland has entered public consultation; you can now view the terms and conditions of our scheme on the The Scottish Government website. The consultation is required by Part 4 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 and will look at the proposed framework of our scheme to ensure it meets all the conditions set out in the Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011.

As our operating company also runs the only custodial scheme in England and Wales (The DPS), our application to Scottish Government has benefited from this wealth of experience – we know the process inside and out. We’re experienced in fast deposit repayment, having returned over 900,000 since launch, we have extensive customer support channels online as well as an effective call centre and text messaging service and our adjudicators have resolved over 12,000 disputes quickly and efficiently. Everything we have developed over the last 5 years in England and Wales will be brought to The LPS Scotland service and whilst there are some differences between the Scottish legislation and that in place in England and Wales, we’re well placed to deliver the scheme north of the border.

The Scottish Government has already reviewed our proposed scheme, to ensure compliance with the regulations, and will now await further comment from the public consultation.

We’ll keep you updated with the consultation process, but in the meantime, if you’d like more information on The LPS Scotland you can read our overview brochure.

We’re also running a series of events in which we’ll give you a detailed introduction to the legislation, our scheme and the dispute resolution process. Our next events take place in Glasgow (14th December) and Aberdeen (10th January).

For more information, visit www.lettingprotectionscotland.com.

We're heading to Glasgow and Aberdeen to talk about tenancy deposit protection!

We've finalised some new presentation dates in Glasgow and Aberdeen where landlord and letting agents can learn more about deposit protection, the adjudication process, how to prepare and how The LPS Scotland will operate when approved. Kevin Firth, our Director will host the following events:

Glasgow - Wednesday 14th December 2011

Time: 10:00-12:30

Address: Mercure Glasgow City Hotel, 201 Ingram Street, Glasgow, G1 1DQ

Email us to register for this event 

 

Aberdeen - Tuesday 10th January 2012

Time: 10:00-12:30

Address: Doubletree by Hilton, Aberdeen City Centre, Beach Boulevard, Aberdeen, AB24 5EF

Email us to register for this event

 

The LPS Scotland will launch early next year following approval from the Scottish Government and as soon as the first scheme launches, landlords and letting agents will have to start protecting tenancy deposits.  

We look forward to seeing you at an event soon. For more information visit our website and follow us on Twitter.

 

What do Scottish letting agents really think of tenancy deposit protection?

We had the chance to chat to some letting agents at our event in Edinburgh the other week and capture their thoughts on tenancy deposit protection on camera. Agents from Ace Property Management, M E Lettings and 1-2-1 Property Limited gave us their views - I'd be interested to know whether you share their thoughts and how you've been preparing for the legilsation.

If you'd like to attend one of our tenancy deposit protection presentations and find out what the legislation means for you and how our scheme will operate, we're posting new dates for Aberdeen and Glasgow very soon!

For more information, visit our website or send us an email.

Letting agents and landlords already preparing for tenancy deposit protection in Scotland

We’ve had a busy week in Scotland with the Scottish Association of Landlord’s Conference on Tuesday, our own seminar in our Edinburgh office on Wednesday and the East Lothian Landlord’s Forum yesterday. It’s also been a great opportunity to meet a number of landlords and letting agents, get their reactions to tenancy deposit protection legislation and find out how their preparations are coming along.

The majority of landlords and agents at our seminar yesterday were aware of the implications of the new legislation. In fact I spoke to several agents who had already started educating their landlords and changing documents appropriately.

We recorded a few video snippets from some of the delegates which we’re making into a video as we speak – expect that uploaded here soon.

Whilst we covered the impact of the legislation, how The LPS Scotland would operate, and dispute resolution, we gauged from the questions posed that the attendees were keen to explore the whole subject of our dispute service in much greater detail.

General consensus in the room was that the dispute resolution process would present them with the biggest challenge. In fact we had planned on hosting some more intensive ADR workshops for landlords and agents following the launch of the scheme, but after feedback yesterday, we’re looking to host one early next year.

During the workshop landlords and letting agents will get the chance to act as an adjudicator and actually assess  real cases and present their findings. We have used this format with landlords and agents in England and Wales who have found it hugely beneficial.

As well as the more in-depth ADR workshop, we’re planning more introductory presentations in Scottish towns and cities over the coming weeks and will post dates very soon.

If you’d like to attend an event then send us an email and we’ll issue all the information to you.

Alternatively, if you have any questions that let us know either here, via email, or on Twitter.

The Letting Protection Service Scotland (The LPS Scotland) prepares to protect tenancy deposits

As you may know, the Scottish Government is introducing legislation that will make it compulsory for all landlords and letting agents in Scotland who take deposits for a relevant tenancy to protect them with a Government approved custodial tenancy deposit scheme. The LPS Scotland has submitted an application to run a scheme and, once approved by the Scottish Government, will be the only provider with any experience of running a custodial tenancy deposit protection scheme.

It will be operated by the same company who run The Deposit Protection Service (The DPS) – the only company with five years’ experience of running a custodial scheme. The DPS - which currently operates in England and Wales – has protected more than 1.7m deposits to date, amounting to more than £1.3 Billion.

Experience matters and having already established The DPS from the beginning we know how to support landlords and letting agents through the transition of new legislation. We’ve established tried and tested systems, developed robust processes and continually innovated to ensure we’re providing the best possible service to our customers.

When approved, 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.

A bit about the legislation

Under the Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011, which came into force in March 2011, landlords and letting agents will have a duty to protect tenants’ deposits as soon as the first approved scheme launches. From that date they’ll have 30 days to protect deposits for all new tenancies. Landlords holding deposits for existing tenancies will have 9 months from the launch of the first scheme to protect their tenants’ deposits.

The scheme will hold on to the deposit for the duration of the tenancy – providing assurance to tenants that it is not being used for any other purpose – and at the end of the tenancy both parties will agree on how the deposit should be repaid. The DPS currently repays deposits in an average of two working days from the point of agreement.

Kevin Firth, Director of The DPS will be giving a presentation on 9th November at our Edinburgh office where you can learn more about the legislation, what it will mean for you and how The LPS Scotland will work once approved.

He’ll also be sharing his experiences of running the scheme for landlords and tenants in England and Wales.

If you’d like to attend the event please email us to register your interest. 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 via Twitter (LPS_Scotland).