Loch Ness Monster spotter submits sketch as ‘evidence’ following 9th Nessie sighting of the year
The latest sighting at Loch Ness took place on July 30 and has been added to the report, which catalogues all sightings of the unexplained in Loch Ness.
A Mr Veacock was visiting from the North West of England, parked north of the castle and was scanning the loch with his binoculars when he noticed something two thirds across the loch away.
Sketch of what was seen. There have been 9 “sightings” of Nessie in 2021
As Fox Mulder from the X-files said “ I want to believe” but I think Scotland’s most famous resident is living by the Greta Garbo “I want to be alone.”
And when you read on, you may wish some alone time to digest – not Nessie, but the recent changes…
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That’s the only way to keep the roads clear.
~ Greg Kincaid
I’ve got some bad news and I’ve got some good news. Nothing lasts forever.
~ Kate McGahan
Last week I spoke too soon, thinking that things will be stable for landlords, as changes have been proposed and announced.
Revised code of conduct for property factors
A revised code of conduct for property factors was approved by the Scottish Parliament earlier this year and came into force on 16 August 2021. The purpose of the revision was to clarify and strengthen the code to ensure that property factors work to a consistent standard and homeowners are clear on what they can expect.
The main changes that have been made to the code are as follows:
- To help homeowners understand what to expect and whether the property factor has met its obligations – the revised code provides clarification on the various situations where, when and how homeowners should expect to be provided with a copy of the factor’s written statement of services and other documentation.
- To highlight that homeowners have a choice in who they appoint and that they can change factor – this is done by requiring a property factor to provide clear information to homeowners on how they can end their factoring arrangement and requiring a property factor to provide information to homeowners on the arrangements it will make to cooperate with another property factor to assist with a smooth transition if a factor is changed. The code also requires any letter of introduction to include a statement that homeowners are responsible for choosing and appointing their property factor and are not obliged to take up the offer of services.
- To improve transparency – requiring an incoming property factor who purchases the assets of an outgoing property factor to provide information to homeowners on any implications this may have for them, taking a broader approach to the requirement to declare financial interests and requiring the issue of an annual insurance statement.
- To improve consistency – including overarching standards of practice and a glossary of terms used in the code to assist the reader and improve the consistency with which the code is applied.
The government also made revisions to encourage proactive property maintenance, including the following information in the code:
- That it is the homeowners’ responsibility, and good practice, to keep their property well maintained but a property factor can help to prevent further damage or deterioration by seeking to make prompt repairs to a good standard.
- Clarity provided to encourage property factors to follow good practice for insurance re‑valuations to be undertaken at least every 5 years.
- That, subject to agreement from homeowners, property factors can instruct that specific maintenance duties are undertaken by specialist contractors on behalf of homeowners which contribute to fire safety.
- Update to requirements to encourage transparency in the appointment of contractors and the cost of works to ensure property factors can show, for example, how the cost of the repair or maintenance has been balanced with other factors such as likely quality and longevity.
The revised code can be read online here.
SNP and Green co-operation agreement highly concerning for Scottish landlords
On Friday afternoon the SNP and the Scottish Greens announced their planned cooperation agreement to work together and achieve a majority political power in the Scottish Parliament. Stressing that this working relationship is not a coalition, the First Minister set out how she believes this new partnership to govern will help deliver “a bold and ambitious programme for change in Scotland”.
You will be interested to note that the agreement plan headlines are to create more affordable homes and a “new deal” for tenants. Further details of what this new deal for tenants might entail were set out in a draft shared policy programme also published on Friday. These mirror the private rented sector proposals set out in the Scottish Greens’ manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election which Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) sent out to members prior to the election, and which include:
Summary of proposals for private renting as set out in the draft shared policy programme
“By the end of 2021, we will consult on the content of a new proposed Rented Sector Strategy, to deliver a new deal for tenants. This new deal will:
- – create a new housing regulator for the private rented sector to improve standards and enforce tenants’ rights.
- – enhance tenants’ rights, including through greater restrictions on evictions over winter, providing additional security for tenants.
- – introduce new rights for tenants, for example giving tenants greater flexibility to decorate their home and to keep pets.
- – put in place additional penalties and compensation for illegal evictions.
Following the conclusion of the Rented Sector Strategy consultation we will publish a final Rented Sector Strategy and introduce a Housing Bill in the second year of this parliamentary session, to deliver a number of the legislative changes required to implement the Strategy.
We will also implement an effective national system of rent controls, with an appropriate mechanism to allow local authorities to introduce local measures. We will consult on the options, deliver legislation and implement rent controls by the end of 2025.
We also agree:
- – to improve the availability of homes by working together to regulate short-term lets, give local authorities the ability to manage the impact of second homes and bring empty homes back into use. Where possible, empty homes will be brought into the social rented sector.
- – to progress work towards tenure-neutral standards and work to develop a new Housing Standard for all tenures that is aligned with the proposed energy efficiency and heat standards.
- – to take forward the recommendations of the Scottish Parliament working group on tenement maintenance.
– to consult, as part of the Rented Sector Strategy, on how we will deliver a rent guarantor scheme for estranged young people.”
John Blackwood, SAL chief executive commented:
“Despite reassurances from Scottish Ministers over the last few years that they value the contribution made by private landlords in providing much needed housing, this announcement will make many members question whether they wish to continue providing housing in the private rented sector, with policy proposals like a winter ban on evictions and rent controls that are likely to affect the viability and security of their businesses”.
Last week, prior to this partnership announcement, SAL chief executive John Blackwood met with Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government who wanted to thank members for working with their tenants during Covid-19 to help sustain tenancies and avoid evictions. Ms Robison also reiterated her intention to continue to work with SAL to achieve the best outcome for the private rented sector.
SAL is a key voice in the development of policy in private renting and will continue to fight for legislation which balances tenants’ rights to a comfortable and secure home with landlords’ rights to expect a reasonable return on their investment and to evict tenants when they have a genuine need to do so.
Government consults on making some Covid eviction procedures permanent
In a further blow to landlords, the Scottish Government is now consulting on making permanent some of the changes to evictions introduced through emergency powers at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The consultation proposes making permanent the requirement for the tribunal to exercise discretion when deciding whether to grant an eviction and the pre-action requirements for rent arrears evictions. The government does not intend to continue with the requirement to give longer notice periods, although there is already legislation in place to continue these until 31 March 2022 (with provision for a further extension to 30 September 2022).
While recent analysis of tribunal cases by SAL shows that it is extremely rare for a landlord to be refused an eviction order on the grounds of reasonableness, the continuance of these procedures beyond the current expiry date of 31 March 2022 will significantly dent landlords’ confidence in the sector, as well as that of lenders/investors considering investing in the sector.
The consultation can be read here and responses can be submitted online here The question about eviction procedures is number 22 and there is no need to respond to any other questions in the consultation unless you wish to do so. If responding to the consultation please copy us in to your response so that we can reflect members’ views in SAL’s own consultation response. The deadline for responses is 9 November 2021.
The government’s plans to introduce a minimum EPC standard for private rented sector properties are currently on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The government remains committed to introducing a minimum standard but no date for this has yet been confirmed.
In the meantime the government has launched a consultation proposing a change to the way information, already gathered as part of an EPC assessment, is displayed on the EPC. The proposed change includes the creation of a third graph on the front page of the EPC to display a property’s energy use (based on kWh/m2/yr). This would be in addition to the two current graphs which display energy efficiency (calculated by reference to the energy use and energy cost) and environmental impact (based on CO2 emissions). The consultation can be found online here.
Considering a new heating system?
Landlords should seek further advice before installing heating systems to ensure that they are suitable for their particular property and find out what the likely impact on the EPC rating will be. Installing electric heating systems can sometimes lower the EPC rating so check carefully before you decide.
You may have thought I had slightly lost the plot at the start of the email, taking about the loch ness monster! As always when we receive more details about anything mentioned above we shall send them out.
I am waiting for more information about the tenant grants as well as information about funding available for improvements for the Energy Efficiency ratings.
In the face of adversity, we have a choice. We can be bitter, or we can be better. Those words are my North Star.
~ Caryn Sullivan
I hope that you have a good weekend, apparently in Glasgow this weekend is meant to be beautiful which for me means bedsheets washed and dried and fresh beds made. The smell of fresh sheets is such a simple pleasure.
This Monday is a bank holiday so we will be powering down the laptops and I hope that this one doesn’t cause the problems that the one at the beginning on the month did! .
Take care and stay safe, please email into firstname.lastname@example.org with any enquiries and although we are not in the office, the number 0141 221 3990 is regularly checked if you care to leave a message,
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