SPICe FAQ – Repairs in Private Rented Property

SPICe receives many enquiries about repairs to private rented property. This blog post is aimed at answering some FAQs about the repairing standard. It also outlines future changes to private rented housing standards proposed by the Scottish Government.

What is the repairing standard?

Most private landlords in Scotland must make sure that the property they let meets the repairing standard. This is set out in section 13 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006.

A house meets the repairing standard if:

  • it is wind and watertight and reasonably fit for human habitation
  • the structure and exterior of the house (including drains, gutters and external pipes) are in a reasonable state of repair
  • gas and electricity supply equipment works properly
  • fixtures, fittings and appliances provided by the landlord (like carpets, light fittings and household equipment) work properly
  • furnishings supplied by the landlord are safe
  • there are satisfactory fire and smoke detectors
  • there are satisfactory carbon monoxide alarms.

Private landlords are also required to carry out electrical safety inspections at least once every five years. The electrical safety inspection has two separate elements:

  • an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) on the safety of the electrical installations. This must be conducted by a “suitably competent” person
  • a Portable Appliance Test (PAT) on portable appliances.

The Scottish Government has issued statutory guidance on electrical safety which explains these requirements. Regard will be had to this guidance in determining whether a house meets the repairing standard.

What can a tenant do if their home does not meet the repairing standard?

If a tenant thinks that their home does not meet the repairing standard they can make an application to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).

The Tribunal will decide whether or not the landlord has complied with the duty. The Tribunal can order the landlord to carry out any necessary repairs. Various enforcement powers apply if the landlord does not do so.

Before making an application to the Tribunal, tenants must notify their landlord of the problem and give them “reasonable time” (which is not defined in legislation) to fix it.

Local authorities can also report a landlord’s failure to meet the repairing standard to the Tribunal. This can be done with, or without the tenant, being a ‘participating party’.  As a participating party, the tenant can take an active role in the case, for example, by presenting evidence at a hearing.

It is important to note that the repairing standard does not apply where the tenant is responsible for causing the disrepair.

The Tribunal’s website has useful FAQs about repairs applications.

Future changes to private rented housing standards

In 2017, the Scottish Government consulted on changes to private rented housing standards in Energy Efficiency and Condition Standards in Private Rented Housing.

The Energy Efficiency Scotland Route Map was published on 2 May 2018. It confirmed that new efficiency standards will apply to privately rented homes. Landlords will be required to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate rating of Band E from April 2020 at change of tenancy, and then Band D from 2022. All private rented properties will need to be EPC Band E by end March 2022 and Band D by end March 2025.

In its consultation, the Scottish Government also proposed further changes to the repairing standard. The proposals are aimed at bringing it closer to the standards required for social rented housing (as set out in the Scottish Housing Quality Standard).

The Scottish Government’s response to the consultation indicated that it would:

  • make some changes, including a minimum standard for safe kitchens, a fixed heating system and safe access and use of common facilities
  • provide clarity on whether holiday lets (or certain types of holiday lets) are subject to the repairing standard
  • not take forward proposals for thermostatic mixing valves
  • give further consideration to other proposals, including those around sound insulation and food storage space.

The Scottish Government plans to lay draft regulations in the parliament in 2018 to make these changes. A lead in time of at least five years will be proposed for any changes to the repairing standard.

Another current Scottish Government consultation proposes that private landlords registering with their local authority will also have to confirm that they comply with various requirements. This includes the need for their property to meet the repairing standard. Part of the reason for this proposed change is to raise awareness about landlord responsibilities and to identify where further support and advice may be required.

What other requirements must private landlords meet?

 Landlords also have responsibilities under UK wide legislation for gas safety and health and safety. This includes a duty to carry out risk assessments for legionella. The Health and Safety Executive’s website provides advice on legionella risk assessments. It suggests that most domestic properties do not require an in-depth, detailed assessment.

Landlords may also have to ensure their property meets other standards if the house is a house in multiple occupation (HMO). Local authorities can impose specific conditions as part of the HMO licencing process.

Where is further advice available?

 

Kate Berry, Senior Researcher, Justice and Social Affairs Research Team