Freedom of Information regulations come into force for Scottish RSLs

Housing associations and many of their subsidiaries are now subject to requests for information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Freedom of Information regulations come into force for Scottish RSLs

From November 11, registered social landlords (RSLs) will become public authorities for the purposes of the provision of housing in respect of which they have granted a Scottish Secure Tenancy or Short Scottish Secure Tenancy.

The move was outlined when an Order cited as the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (Designation of Persons as Scottish Public Authorities) Order 2019 was published in February.

The change means that tenants, stakeholders and others will have a right to request and receive information about most aspects of the RSL’s operations and governance and a right of appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner if they are unhappy with the response.

The potential scope for disclosure is wide-ranging from board minutes to points allocation for accommodation to inspection and repair reports where an injury has been sustained.

The timeframe for responding to requests is 20 working days.

FOI law will apply to all RSLs and many of their subsidiaries, however, it won’t apply to all the activities of these organisations. FOI rights will only apply to information RSLs and subsidiaries hold in relation to the following functions:

  • the prevention and alleviation of homelessness
  • the management of social housing accommodation (i.e. where an RSL has granted a Scottish secure tenancy of short Scottish secure tenancy)
  • the provision and management of sites for gypsies and travellers.

The legislation also will not apply to factoring services, a position advocated by the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF), the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and Wheatley Group.

GWSF had argued that it would not be appropriate for housing association factoring services to be subject to FOI when private factoring services were not.

The management of private or mid-market rental accommodation will also not be covered by the legislation.

Sean Clerkin, campaign coordinator at the Scottish Tenants Organisation, which campaigned for housing associations to be subject to FOI law, hailed the change as a “major victory”.

He told Scottish Housing News: “The extension of freedom of information to all housing associations and their subsidiaries is a major step forward and housing associations will be more transparent, democratic and accountable as a result.

“The change will give housing association tenants the same human right to information as tenants of council homes.

“Scotland will provide a beacon of light to other parts of the UK and tenant organisations will look at what is going on in Scotland and want to follow suit.”

Mr Clerkin said the only disappointment was the exclusion of people living in factored homes from the legislation.

“We will continue to campaign for residents of factored homes to be given the same rights when Section 5 of the legislation is reviewed in a year’s time,” he added.

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