A new duty will mean that private landlords or their agents in Scotland will have to give their tenants a Tenant Information Pack from next year.
The pack – to be known as a TIP – runs to over 30 pages with five sections, and will have to be prepared for all new tenancies. It must contain information on a number of points, including EPCs, gas safety, levels of occupancy, and rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords.
The requirement, for which Shelter has campaigned, forms part of the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Act 2011.
The move will be watched closely by Westminster and the rest of the UK private rental sector, given that the Scottish Government – which has devolved powers over housing – is currently setting the UK agenda in terms of the private rented sector.
It has already, as of last month, explicitly banned fees charged to tenants, after a campaign by Shelter, which is now campaigning against letting agent fees in England.
The exact timing of the Scottish TIP implementation is vague, but officially is due for ‘early’ in 2013.
The Scottish Government says that a consultation on TIPs threw up a broadly positive response. It received 80 responses, including 24 from local authorities. Five large landlords and five letting agencies were additionally interviewed. However, it is understood that the document is proving more unwieldy in practice than was envisaged.
The Scottish Government is also preparing to produce an official strategy for the private rented sector, again following a consultation. Shelter is pressing ministers to introduce mandatory licensing for Scottish letting agents and to reform tenancy agreements in favour of longer tenures.
However, there is concern among Scottish agents that agents’ and landlords’ views are both being woefully under-represented.
Both ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) and RICS, which had been part of the Private Rented Sector Strategy Group, were reduced to the status of ‘virtual’ member, severely limiting their input.
Scottish letting agents and landlords are also having to contend with strict timescales about physically placing tenancy deposit money into an approved scheme, while some are under pressure from tenants to refund money taken as fees.