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Thousands of amateur landlords don’t understand their legal responsibilities

Thousands of private landlords in Scotland require greater support to help give tenants a better service, according to housing and homeless charity Shelter Scotland.

Summarising the first year’s work of two Oak Foundation funded pilot projects supporting private landlords in the Highlands and Dundee with a view to raising standards for private renters in Scotland, the charity says that far too many ‘inexperienced’ landlords do not possess a full grasp of their legal responsibilities.

Over the past 12 months, Shelter’s private landlord support officers have provided information and guidance in 542 cases and found most of the landlords they helped rented out just a single property.

It also found many of them had become landlords through a change in their own circumstances such as having to move from their own home for work or inheriting a property. In the majority of cases they were keen to comply with the legislation and at times to go beyond what was required to be a good landlord.

James Battye, Shelter Scotland private renting project manager, said: “It is reasonable to believe that what we have found in Dundee and the Highlands may well be true across Scotland. That means there could be thousands of landlords who don’t have a full grasp of their legal responsibilities.

“Shelter Scotland’s Private Landlord Support project has highlighted this gap in support for inexperienced landlords and is creating a template for services that would benefit them and their tenants in the future.” 

The proportion of households renting privately has almost tripled in size since 1999 and now provides homes for 350,000 Scottish households including 91,000 families with children.

Given that the PRS in Scotland is expanding, Battye believes that it is quite right that those operating in the sector are being asked to “become more professional”.

He added: “Many landlords are finding themselves ill-equipped for managing housing for people in relationship, health or financial crisis.”

“We will continue to provide the Private Landlord Support Service in the Highlands and Dundee until March 2018 with financial backing from the Oak Foundation.

“In Dundee the private landlord support officer is based within the council while in the Highlands the support officer is hosted by Lochaber Housing Association. Invaluable support is provided by both local authorities enabling the projects to reach people on the landlord register.”

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    This is hardly surprising particularly when the government with their recent changes to pensions has positively encouraged people to invest in a sector they know nothing about.

    Watching "Location,Location,Location" on TV does not a landlord make. And, with the advent of ever more ridiculous legislation (residency checks anyone?) and a punishing tax regime (section 24) a lot of investors will soon discover to their cost that a rental property is no longer a secure investment.

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    I became the head leaseholder of a grade II* property divided into 5 apartments in 2006. It's my responsibility to keep the property in good condition, the cost shared by all apartments including myself. Until 2013 I had not problems. I increased thge service charge to a sensiblke level-it had been far too low and the maintenance had been neglected, and kept my sub-lessees informed of any extra costs. They were happy to leave it to me. In 2013 a flat changed hand to a new tenant who affirmed that I was formally a 'landlord' and started batting on about section 20 notifications that I had never even heard of. Now I have to go through the ridiculous and time-consuming procedure everytime work needs doing costing over £1250, and apparently it is not enough to give all the info, invitations to submit quotes from a contractor of their choice etc etc in one notification -no, it must be done in three separate notifications, the first two of which give 30 days for comment, meaning that I can't formally give out the work for getting on for three months. It's ludicrous in this situation-I understand for a large commercial landlord, because there were abuses, like overcharging for work using one's own in house companies-but that does n't apply to 'landlords' in my position.

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