Concerns over status of ‘couples’ renting flats
CONCERNS have been raised over the steps taken to establish whether relationships are legitimate when Glasgow homes are rented out.
The law requires any landlord letting a property to three or more people, who are not related, to obtain a house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence.
But, under the law, a landlord does not require a licence if tenants are a couple, which is defined as “married or are civil partners, or live together as husband and wife or, where they are of the same sex, in an equivalent relationship”.
Some properties are cheaper rent when more tenants move in.
Councillors on the city’s licensing committee questioned whether couples living together would choose to sleep in separate rooms.
The issue was raised after it was revealed landlord Amarjit Singh was renting a four bedroom property to two couples, who used all four rooms.
He was granted new HMO licences for two four-bed properties on Cranworth Street, which were both being occupied by two couples when the council carried out an inspection.
His application came just one week after Suakjasvinder Singh was warned for operating a property as a HMO without a licence, despite his representative saying the tenants had claimed they were a couple.
Amarjit Singh’s letting agent said “thorough” checks were carried out to check the tenants were in a relationship, with background information requested.
But she added: “I’m not sure how to prove they’re living in a relationship.”
Asked to if a couple “equal to marriage” would be sleeping separately, she said: “To what extent can you say you’re not sleeping in the same bed, you’re not a couple?”
Councillor Rhiannon Spear said: “I’m really concerned about any kind of letting agent using relationships in this way.”
She said she would expect any agent to take “reasonable steps” to ascertain a relationship is up to the standard required by law.
In one of the properties, a lounge had been converted into a bedroom to provide four rooms.
Councillor Elspeth Kerr asked if there was a difference in price. The representative for Amarjit Singh suggested it was around £1700 for four people, compared to £1500 for three.
A council officer said it was the landlord’s responsibility to check a relationship was legitimate but the council could explore the issue if they had any doubts.
“If there’s evidence of a second person in any room that would be a breach,” she said.
Laws governing HMOs were introduced in 2000 after two young men died in a flat fire on Melrose Street in the Woodlands area of the city.
After receiving a HMO licence application, the council’s HMO unit and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will jointly inspect a property.
When Suakjasvinder Singh’s application for his West Princes Street flat went before the committee last week, his representative said there had been three girls in the property, with two saying they were in a relationship.
“We can’t say to people, ‘sorry you’re lying to us, you’re not a couple’,” she added.
She said there’s a lot of same-sex couples and parents, who often pay the rent, don’t know they’re gay.
Councillor Spear said she was “extremely concerned” by the incident.
GLASGOW will vote to send seven MPs to Westminster on Thursday. There is a lot of noise about Brexit and a second independence referendum and candidates and party leaders are shouting back and forth their election slogans and repeating their key messages until they stick in the heads of the voters.
No doubt that will continue after December 12 when MPs return to Parliament but meantime there are many pressing issues affecting the daily lives of people in Glasgow.
Whether we are in or out of the European Union or whether we have a second referendum on independence these issues persist.
So, at the Glasgow Times we are asking the candidates to address the following issues that repeatedly come up in our stories and we believe are of serious concern to our readers and the people of Glasgow.
Since the roll out last year, 18,000 emergency payments have had to be made totalling more than £6m. Food banks are stating the benefit is a major cause of rising demand and Citizens Advice has dealt with thousands of concerns
End the five week wait for a first payment that is pushing thousands into poverty and reform or scrap the system to make it fair for all.
Glasgow has an unemployment rate of 5.5%, which is higher than both the UK and Scottish average. The city has been blighted by long term and intergenerational unemployment and has almost 50,00 people on ESA or Incapacity benefits.
Invest in skills programmes to ensure Glasgow has the right workforce to meet the changing needs of the modern economy, and to reduce the number of working age economically inactive people.
Glasgow has many firms accredited as Living Wage employers but still an estimated 64,000 workers in Glasgow are paid below the living wage. Younger workers are also hit by the age bands for the National Minimum wage.
Commit to the real Living Wage of £9.30 per hour and end the over 25 rule for the upper level of the National Minimum Wage.
Glasgow has longstanding health issues and many people are dependent on healthcare and depend on it being free and available.
Invest in staff and facilities and protect the NHS as free at the point of use, in line with its founding principles.
Glasgow has around 80,000 people of working age on out of work benefits.
Many families are dependent either short term or long term on the welfare state.
Glasgow is estimated to lose £120m by 2021 in welfare cuts taking money from families and out of the economy.
Commit to ensuring the end to the benefit freeze, which is due in April 2020, actually happens.