The sandwiches have been eaten, the coffee drank and over 200 landlords in Aberdeenshire have attended information sessions organised by Aberdeenshire Council in partnership with Landlord Accreditation Scotland.

    The events were aimed at existing and new landlords alike, to provide the opportunity to network, keep up to date with recent changes to regulations and to hear information on proposed changes in the private rented sector. The first of the three sessions was in Fraserburgh on Monday, followed by Stonehaven on Wednesday afternoon and then the finale in Inverurie on Wednesday night, where over 100 landlords were due to attend.

    A warm welcome was given by Diane Coutts, who introduced the first speaker Elspeth Boyle from Landlord Accreditation Scotland. Elspeth provided a good overview on the safety requirements of being a landlord, covering:

    Electrical safety regulations

    As of 1st December 2015, under sections 13(4A) and 19B(4) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, private landlords in Scotland will be required by law to ensure that their properties are electrically safe. Landlords will now have to have fixed wiring checks carried out at least every five years. The landlord must also have an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) completed, including a Portable Appliance Test (PAT).

    Smoke detection guidance

    There has been a revision to the Domestic Technical Handbook which means that there should now be a mains wired smoke alarm in the room that is frequently used by the occupants for general daytime living purposes and one in every circulation area. There must also be a heat alarm in every kitchen. All smoke alarms should be interlinked.

    Carbon monoxide detectors

    By the 1st December 2015 landlords must have a carbon monoxide detector fitted in every space containing a fixed carbon based fuel appliance (excluding cooking appliances) and a detector in any bedroom or living room that is bypassed by a flue. The detectors should be long life battery operated or hard wired.

    Legionnaires Disease

    Landlords are now responsible for arranging for a competent person to carry out risk assessments, implement control measures, conduct regular review meetings and to inform tenants of any potential risk.

    Repairing obligations

    Landlords have to ensure that their property meets the ‘repairing standards’ as defined by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. Landlords must also provide tenants with guidance on how to access the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP), issue the tenant with the Tenant Information Pack (TIP) and provide the tenant with a clear statement on the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy.

    Susan Donaldson from Aberdeenshire Council then provided useful information on Universal Credit. Universal Credit is consolidation of six state benefits including housing benefit. The amount of the award is based on the Local Housing Allowance rate for the size of the property and is also dependant on the age of the claimant. The payment will be made directly to the applicant, however if the tenant is two months in rent arrears then the landlord can apply for an alternative payment arrangement.

    Elspeth continued the evening with information on the proposed changes to the current tenancy regime. There have been two consultations by the Scottish Government and we are awaiting the final proposals which are expected to go before Scottish Parliament in early 2016. Particular points of note are the length of tenancy, notice to quit, notice periods, grounds for repossession and rent levels.

    John Blackwood, Chief Executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, discussed in some detail the new electrical safety regulations, explaining that for a property to be in line with the new regulations all new tenancies require a EICR and a PAT test carried out by 1st December 2015 and current tenancies by 1st December 2016. The work must be completed by an electrician that is a member of SELECT or NICEIC or be able to complete the check list in annex A of the guidance.

    The final speaker of the information sessions was Fraser Smart from Home Energy Scotland. Home Energy Scotland are funded by the Scottish Government and managed by the Energy Saving Trust. Home Energy Scotland have landlord specific services including bespoke advice, access to funding and free property assessments. Fraser pointed out the benefits to landlords and tenants of energy efficient properties and also outlined the details of various interest free loans that are available for the installation of energy efficiency measures.

    The session was closed following a question and answer session to the panel.

    The events were informative and interesting, as well as a great opportunity to speak to Aberdeenshire landlords face-to-face. Thank you to Aberdeenshire Council for including us!