In 2012 the Scottish Government established the Scottish Social Housing Charter, a series of outcomes and standards for all social landlords. The Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) measures landlord performance against these, mainly through an Annual Return on the Charter (ARC) submission.
Furthermore, social landlords in Scotland are certified and registered to ensure they operate effectively – their compliance is regulated by the Scottish Housing Regulator. Most providers are also not-for-profit charities and so are regulated by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). A memorandum of understanding exists between OSCR and the SHR to ensure specialist governance and avoid unnecessary duplication.
The Scottish housing regulator is often held up as an example of international best practice – especially in terms of expert engagement with providers, tenant voices and public transparency. SHR has a board which includes 3 tenant members. It has a tradition of being consumer-focused, consultative and protected from undue influence by the Minister.
Under the Housing (Scotland) Act, there is strong acknowledgement and protection of tenants’ interests. The SHR not only protects the interests of social housing tenants, but also homeless people and applicants waiting for social housing, as well as other households who are not registered on the waiting list but also in need.
Only not-for-profit organizations can be registered as social landlords in Scotland and receive public subsidies for this role. The Scottish Housing Regulator governs their performance, as well as making data easily accessible and comparable for the public and tenants. The SHR also has powers of statutory intervention and can use these in extreme cases of non-compliance, appointing a special manager, governing body members and ultimately transfer of assets.
The SHR no longer undertakes cyclical inspections, in part due to resource constraints, and has moved towards a risk-based approach with self-assessment as a key component. Since 2019, all social landlords in Scotland issue an Annual Assurance Statement, which must declare any aspect of non-compliance with regulatory standards.