Consumer champion welcomes passage of Property Factors (Scotland) Bill, but warns many consumers will continue to suffer
Consumer Focus Scotland has welcomed the passage of the Property Factors (Scotland) Bill in the Scottish Parliament as an important step in improving the rights of homeowners who use factoring services.
However, the consumer champion has also called on the next Scottish Government to act on land-owning management companies, declaring the issue to be unfinished business with thousands of consumers currently having no way to change their service provider despite reports of poor service quality.
Consumer Focus Scotland is asking homeowners who are bound by their title deeds to pay for the services provided by land-owning management companies to come forward with evidence of any problems they have experienced. The consumer champion is looking to obtain case study evidence about the problems faced by consumers of land-owning management companies to help build the case for legal reform. The call for feedback from consumers follows parliamentary interest in finding a solution to the problem, which sees thousands of consumers across Scotland ‘locked in’ to maintenance and management arrangements.
Jennifer Wallace, Principal Policy Advocate at Consumer Focus Scotland, said:
“Once again the Scottish Parliament has taken an important step to improve consumer protection. This legislation should make a real difference to consumers experiencing inadequate service from property factors. Patricia Ferguson MSP is to be congratulated on her success in piloting the Bill through the Parliament.”
“However, the new law will not help the thousands of consumers who are currently being denied the basic right of being able to choose which land management company they wish to use.
“We are calling on the next Scottish Government to resolve this issue by introducing new legislation, as early as possible after the election, to ensure that consumers can hold poorly performing land management providers to account, and remove them if desired.
“To support this we also want homeowners who are currently facing this sort of problem to tell us about their experience to enable us to gather further evidence in support of a change in the law.”
Homeowners can contact Consumer Focus Scotland to report their experiences by an online form on the website (www.consumerfocus.org.uk/scotland/policy-research/housing/consumer-experiences-of-land-maintanence-companies) or by email to email@example.com or by writing to Land Owning Management Companies Investigation, Consumer Focus Scotland, Royal Exchange House, 100 Queen Street, Glasgow, G1 3DN. The deadline for responses is 31st March 2011.
Notes to editors
- Consumer Focus Scotland has produced a briefing for the Stage 3 debate on the Property Factors (Scotland) Bill which is available on our website (www.consumerfocus-scotland.org.uk).
- Land-owning management companies own land and facilities on new housing developments. This may include play areas, grass verges, drainage systems or woodland. Owners are required to pay for the management and maintenance of such land by conditions placed in their title deeds. There are approximately 25,000 consumers of land-owning management companies in Scotland.
- The Office of Fair Trading uncovered reports of poor service provision by land-owning management companies during their market study of property management services in Scotland. The Property Managers in Scotland: A Market Study report, published in 2009, recommended that the Scottish Government should reconsider the provisions of the Title Conditions (Scotland) Act 2003, if a test case to clarify the existing legislation is out of practical reach to consumers. Consumer Focus Scotland has fully considered the test case approach and concluded that legislative change is preferable as it would bring about a positive resolution for all consumers now and in the future rather supporting individual cases which can be lengthy and inconclusive in terms of bringing about fundamental change in this area for consumers in the future.
- Consumer Focus Scotland’s Consumer Agenda for the Scottish Parliament calls on the next Scottish Government to ‘develop measures to improve choice and accountability for consumers of land maintenance services’.
- An update briefing covering the background, including the legal opinion published by Consumer Focus Scotland last year, and our proposed next steps on this issue is available on our website.
- Consumer Focus Scotland is rooted in over 30 years of work promoting the interests of consumers, particularly those who experience disadvantage in society. We work for consumers in all aspects of their lives: as tenants, householders, patients, parents, solicitors’ clients, postal service users, energy consumers and shoppers.
For more information please contact John Macgill on 0131 556 0050.