THE HOUSING (SCOTLAND) ACT 2014
Jan 19 2015
THE HOUSING (SCOTLAND) ACT 2014
The Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 is a wide ranging piece of legislation that will affect all tenants and will require the Association to review some of its policies in the light of its contents. The Act received its royal assent on 1st August 2014 and the different parts of the Act will be brought into force at different times. We detail below some of the main parts of the Act:
ABOLITION OF THE RIGHT TO BUY – The Act abolishes the Right to Buy for all social housing tenants in Scotland, effective from 1st August 2016. Tenants who currently have the RTB (preserved or modernised) will retain this on the same terms until RTB is abolished.
(i) Reasonable Preference Categories – The Act sets out three groups of applicants which the Government believes should be given ‘reasonable preference’ within the allocations system – namely, social housing tenants who are underoccupying their home; homeless persons with unmet housing needs; and persons who are living in unsatisfactory housing conditions with unmet housing needs. Underoccupation is a new priority category but, as is currently the case, social landlords will be able to specify additional groups who will be given ‘reasonable preference’ in response to local circumstances.
The Act introduces a duty on social landlords to consult with tenants, registered tenants organisations and applicants on changes to priorities within their allocations policies and to publish a report on the consultation. Landlords must also take into account the Local Housing Strategy and any guidance published by the Scottish Government when reviewing allocations policies.
(ii) Property Ownership – Existing legislation is amended to allow associations to take property ownership into account when deciding rehousing priority and allocating social housing. However, the Act states that property ownership cannot be taken into account where the owner cannot secure entry to the property they own or where occupying the home could lead to abuse or endanger the health of the occupant.
(iii) Suspensions – The Act clarifies the grounds under which a social landlord can suspend an application for housing such as the applicant being previously evicted by a court order or having rent arrears above a certain level with no repayment arrangement in place. Suspensions cannot, however, be applied to homeless applicants which the council has a duty to rehouse. The Act also introduces a new right of appeal to the court for applicants aggrieved at being suspended.
SOCIAL SECTOR TENANCIES
(i) Short Scottish Secure Tenancy for Anti Social Behaviour – The Act widens the circumstances in which landlords can either give a Short SST for antisocial behaviour or demote an existing tenancy to a short SST, with the minimum duration increased from 6 to 12 months. Where a landlord wishes to terminate a short tenancy it will have to provide clear reasons and on what grounds for possession under a full SST have been broken.
(ii) Assignation, Subletting, Joint Tenancies and Succession – The Act specifies that any person seeking assignation, subletting or joint tenancy of a social rented home must have been living in that home as their main residence for a period of at least 12 months prior to the application. Previously a minimum period of six months applied to applications for assignation. No qualifying period applied to applications for subletting or joint tenancy.
The qualifying period for succession by a co-habiting partner (where there is no marriage or civil partnership) has been increased from 6 to 12 months. The minimum 12 month qualifying period will also be applied to carers and family members.
The 12 month qualifying period only begins when the person in question, or a tenant of the home, notifies the landlord that they have moved in.
The Act specifies that assignation may be refused where the applicant would not be given reasonable preference under the landlord’s allocations policy or where assignation would result in the home being under occupied.
(iii) Eviction After Conviction – The Act simplifies the eviction process where another court has already convicted a tenant or member of their household of illegal activity (such as drug dealing) in or around the property, provided the landlord has served a notice of intention to seek possession within 12 months of the conviction.
(iv) Recovery of Adapted Properties – The Act clarifies that a social landlord may take possession of an adapted property where the tenant no longer requires the adaptation or did not require the adaptation in the first place. Possession of the home is dependent on the provision of suitable alternative housing for the household.
Please do not hesitate to contact the Association if you would like any further information regarding the changes in legislation. The Association will continue to keep you informed within future newsletters of any proposed changes to policies as a result of this legislation and to seek your views on them.