At Shelter Scotland, we’re too used to hearing about disputes between tenants and private landlords or letting agents. When these relationships break down often the only thing that can bring about a resolution is an independent decision-maker. This is why it is so important that the Scottish Government has introduced a new tribunal to help with such disputes, and that it is currently holding a consultation on how the new private rented sector tribunal will work.
If you’re a private tenant, we want to make sure you have a say in the Tribunal’s development. By sharing your views, you can help make sure that the Tribunal works for those that are meant to make use of it. Tenants can find it particularly difficult to defend their rights against landlords and letting agents, who often have access to significantly more resources such as privately hired solicitors.
We’ve tried to make it easy to get involved in the consultation by pulling out a few key questions on the proposals. These questions focus on how easy (or not) it is for tenants to understand the system and rules, and what should be done so that everyone can make use of the Tribunal – regardless of gender, nationality, ethnicity, disability, or other characteristics – and whether or not publicly-funded legal help should be available.
The Scottish Government expects the public to be able to make use of the Tribunal without much assistance. This means it’s very important that renters can follow the rules and know where they can find and understand the information that applies to their situation. Would you feel able to do this with the information available? Do you think some people might need additional help?
The consultation also includes questions about what kinds of cases publicly-funded legal assistance should be provided for, and what form this should take. There are two main forms of publicly-funded legal assistance in Scotland: legal aid, which includes a solicitor who might represent a client at court or in a tribunal, and advice and assistance, which usually will not include representation but covers things like help to prepare for a tribunal appearance. What do you think about this – are there some types of cases you think certain legal assistance should be available for?
The current proposal is to not provide publicly-funded legal assistance for some disputes between tenants and letting agents. This means if you went to the Tribunal because you think your letting agent breached the letting agent code of practice by, for example, providing you with inaccurate information, you would not be able to get help from a solicitor unless you can pay for this yourself. Do you think this is fair?
How can I get involved?
Over the next three weeks we will be posting a few questions on these topics on our private tenants’ Facebook page. You can also answer the questions by clicking on the following links to the survey on understanding the Tribunal, the survey on equality issues and the survey on legal assistance. Your answers will shape Shelter Scotland’s consultation response. If you have experience of being a private tenant, please have your say and help us to shape rules that will affect your rights and the private rented sector for years to come – we would love to hear from you!
- Nora Uhrig is a policy officer at Shelter Scotland