Rural communities manage many different types of community business including shops, hotels and even lighthouses, however becoming the landlord of property rented out to tenants requires that the community trust abide by the same laws and regulations which apply to private sector landlords. As a community owned landlord, any property owning trust will want to make sure that its housing management follows best practice in housing management and allocations. If you are working with a housing association you can also ensure that the allocation policy used meets the housing needs of your community by developing a local lettings initiative.
As a landlord of rented property any community trust, like all private landlords in Scotland must be registered with their local authority. The aim of the landlord registration scheme is to ensure that all private landlords are ‘fit and proper’ to be letting residential property. For a community trust their Directors and Company Secretary have to pass the “fit and proper person test”. Registration costs £55 per local authority area plus £11 per house registered; there is a 100% discount for community trusts which are also charities.
A good way for community trusts to demonstrate their commitment to high standards and best practice in housing management is for the trust to become an Accredited Landlord. Backed by the Scottish Government, Landlord Accreditation Scotland operates a national voluntary scheme for landlords with accreditation being given to landlords who operate within the Scottish Core Standards for Accredited Landlords.
The aims of Landlord Accreditation Scotland are to:
- Promote best practice in the private rented sector
- Assist landlords to achieve accreditation standards
- Assist landlords and tenants to undertake their respective responsibilities to each other
- Provide general tenancy advice
- Provide information on changes in legislation
There are a number of benefits to accreditation including access to advice, guidance and training as well as other discounted landlord services.
The following rural local authorities run local schemes that are affiliated to the national scheme: Aberdeenshire, Argyll & Bute, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, Orkney Islands & Scottish Borders
Because of possible conflicts within the community, some community trusts who own housing prefer to contract with the local council or housing association to allocate and manage their properties on their behalf. They may charge a fee for this service but you should discuss with the council or housing association whether they would waive the fee given your houses will contribute to helping meet housing need in the area. If you do decide to use a managing agent they would allocate and manage the properties according to your policies, or agree any changes with you.
At Strathmashie, nr Laggan the local community has worked with the Highland Council to allocate and manage the houses owned by the community trading company.
Whilst using a managing agent may help to eliminate possible conflict, a community trust managing its own properties will create employment in the area. The Knoydart Foundation, for example, undertake the allocation and management of their rented properties themselves, undertaking training by Landlord Accreditation Scotland to ensure that they use best practice in the management of their houses. Some community trusts also ask the local council housing department or housing association to monitor their allocations procedure to provide further reassurance to local people that the process is transparent and unbiased.
To find out more about Knoydart’s management and funding, have a look at this presentation by Development Mangaer, Angela Williams.