Moray to consult on ‘no access’ policy for council tenants

Cllr Louise Laing

A new policy which would allow Moray Council staff to access council tenants’ homes to make sure they meet minimum safety requirements has been released for public consultation.

In response to the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Scottish Government has amended the minimum legal standard for smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors for social housing, bringing it in line with the privately-rented sector.  

However, Moray Council said there are cases when it has been unable to access to council properties, or has been refused entry. This leaves the council at risk of not meeting its statutory obligations, and tenants then can’t benefit from safety checks or upgrades to their homes.

The ‘no access’ policy explains how the council deals with no-access situations, using an escalation process to arrange appointments, gain entry and carry out the necessary work. It reinforces that support and assistance will be provided in special circumstances, and explains that when entry is repeatedly refused, and as a last resort, the council will use its legal right to force entry to the property, giving 24-hours notice in writing.

Comments can be made on the policy until 24 March, and a final policy will be reported to Moray Council’s Communities Committee on 28 April, with the policy expected to take effect from 1 May.

The policy and a survey are available on Moray Council’s website.

Chair of Moray Council’s communities committee, Cllr Louise Laing, said despite the number of access refusals being minimal, it was important to have established measures in place.

“It’s vital that we can access properties to ensure we’re providing the safest homes for our residents and we meet our statutory obligations as a landlord. Aside from the safety element, we’re offering upgrades to many of our tenants and we want them to benefit from this investment.”

Meanwhile, the communities committee has also approved a pilot programme to provide Gypsy/Traveller stopover sites in Moray.

Five Scottish councils are expected to part in COSLA’s ‘Negotiated Stoppings’ pilot, to protect and promote human rights of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland, tackle the discrimination and inequalities they face and to make sure their needs are met on an equal basis with other communities.

Moray doesn’t currently provide any halting or stopping places for Gypsy/Travellers, rather actively managing ‘unauthorised encampments’ providing a code of conduct is complied with, which outlines that those occupying the site behave responsibly, don’t engage in anti-social behaviour, and look after the site.

Under the new pilot scheme, Moray Council will work with researchers and the Gypsy/Traveller community to map out traditional stopping places and travelling routes, to consider if it would be practical to re-open them. This would allow the council to assess the suitability of sites in Moray as potential stopping places.

Cllr Louise Laing said it would encourage better engagement with the Gypsy/Traveller community.

She added: “Although the number of unauthorised encampments in Moray has reduced significantly in recent years, we must do all we can to improve access to public services for the Gypsy/Traveller community and tackle the discrimination they face.

“Taking part in this pilot with other Scottish councils will us to share our experiences with other local authorities so we can all provide better support.”

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