Guest article by Jane Rattray, Solicitor – Housing and Private Letting at Lindsays Solicitors.
The Repairing Standard sets out the minimum standards of repair which landlords should ensure their property meets both at the start and throughout the duration of the tenancy. It came into effect on 3rd September 2007 and important changes are taking place in 2015 and beyond.
Landlords should be aware of the implications of non-compliance with the existing standards but also the forthcoming reforms, as it could result in them facing criminal charges.
The Standard places a clear obligation on private landlords to ensure the property meets six requirements, those being:
- the property is wind and watertight
- the structure and exterior of the house is in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order
- the installations in the house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, space heating and heating water are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order
- any fixtures, fittings and appliances provided by the landlord under the tenancy are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order
- any furnishings provided by the landlord under the tenancy are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order
- the house has satisfactory provision for detecting fires and giving warning in the event of fire or suspected fire.
What do landlords need to know?
Since 2007 a mains powered smoke alarm has been required in all properties with a standard power supply. The revised Domestic Technical Handbook guidance 2013 provides that there should be at least one functioning smoke alarm in the living room, in every circulation space, such as hallways and landings, one heat alarm in every kitchen and that all alarms should be inter-linked. It is recommended that landlords advise tenants to regularly test the alarms.
Reforms and their impact on landlords
With the implementation of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 further obligations will be placed on landlords to comply with the Repairing Standard.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Properties will be required to have a satisfactory provision for giving warning if carbon monoxide is present in a concentration that is hazardous to health. The date for this amendment coming into force has not yet been clarified. However, since 1st October 2013 Scottish building regulations stipulate that carbon monoxide detectors must be fitted when a new or replacement boiler is installed.
From 1st December 2015, landlords will be required to carry out an electrical safety inspection which has two separate elements. Landlords will be required to provide new tenants with an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) on the safety of the electrical installations, fixtures and fittings and a Portable Appliance Test (PAT) on portable appliances before the tenancy commences and these checks will be required every five years. However, best practice would be to ensure that checks are carried out within shorter time periods. A copy of an EICR must be provided to existing tenants by 1st December 2016 unless their tenancy ends before this date.
How do landlords ensure they comply?
An inspection should be carried out of the property prior to commencement of the tenancy with the Repairing Standard in mind. Regular inspections should be carried out during the tenancy and a landlord’s liability for repairs will only apply during the tenancy when the tenant notifies the landlord or the landlord otherwise becomes aware that work requires to be carried out.
The age, character and prospective life and locality of the house should also be considered when assessing if the property meets the Repairing Standard.
The work must be carried out within a reasonable time period of the landlord being notified by the tenant or becoming aware that the work is required. However, there is no statutory definition of what a reasonable period of time entails.
Landlords must inform tenants of the Repairing Standard procedure and referral arrangements to the Private Rented Housing Panel at the commencement of the tenancy or before.
What are the consequences of failing to comply?
The tenant can report the landlord to the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP) if the work is not carried out within a reasonable period of time. The PRHP will decide whether to refer a case to a Private Rented Housing Committee (PRHC) who will assess if the landlord has breached the Repairing Standard.
If a PRHC decide that the Repairing Standard has been breached they can issue a Repairing Standard Enforcement Order specifying the work required and the timeframe within which the work must be completed, which will be not less than 21 days. If a landlord fails to comply with the Repairing Standard Enforcement Order the PRHC must serve notice of the failure on the local authority and decide whether to make a rent relief order.
Landlords should be aware that failure to comply with a Repairing Standard Enforcement Order without a reasonable excuse is a criminal offence.
The consequences – a rogue landlord ignores the standard
In a recent case at Ayr Sheriff Court a former landlord failed in his appeal for private landlord registration. He had previously rented out numerous unsafe properties which required extensive repairs, had no valid gas safety certificates and inadequate smoke alarms. The landlord ignored the Repairing Standard Enforcement Orders despite being given numerous opportunities to comply with them.