On 13 January a draft of the Housing (Scotland) Bill was published. It is intended to become law in 2010. Much of the bill is about housing associations and a new regulator for social housing but there are some matters which impinge on the private sector too.
Part 12 contains some amendments to Part 8 of the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 which deals with registration of private landlords. Possibly the most important change is a substantial increase in the penalty for failing to register, from £5,000 to £20,000. There is also a new power for local authorities to seek information to assist with exercising powers under the act and a refusal to provide information is a criminal offence with a maximum fine of £500. There is also provision for a new fee to be paid when an agent is appointed except where that agent is already on the register.
There are also amendments to the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. The HMO licensing system has been altered, most notably to allow refusal of a licence on the grounds that the use would breach planning restrictions. The inability to refuse a licence for this reason has been a source of local authority complaint both north and south of the border and England and Wales would also do well to adopt this change.
Finally, the new bill also makes provision to permit Scottish ministers to make further provisions to protect tenants whose landlords have not got permission from lenders to let their property and have defaulted on the terms of the loan. Again it would be good to see something similar being applied south of the border.