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Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK

UK: Scotland

Students welcome tighter controls on landlords

A disconnected smoke alarm was found following a fatal fire

Student leaders have welcomed proposals to tighten controls on landlords who let properties to be shared by several people.

From spring next year, such properties will have to be licensed by local authorities, if the scheme is approved by the Scottish Parliament.

BBC Scotland's Forbes McFall reports
Premises where concerns over fire safety, physical conditions and management standards exist would not be granted a licence under the plans announced by Minister for Communities Wendy Alexander.

The measures would mean increased protection for tenants, while supporting responsible landlords with the introduction of mandatory licences for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) from April 2000.

Earlier this year a fire in a Glasgow flat led to the deaths of two 20-year-olds, James Fraser and Daniel Heron.

Their basement flat in the west end of the city had iron bars on the window, a disconnected fire alarm and a blocked fire exit.

It was later revealed that landlord Harry Singh had not registered the property with the council.

The tragedy prompted strong calls for something to be done.

Richard Baker, President of the National Union of Students in Scotland, said the move was good news for its members.

[ image: Wendy Alexander: Safety concerns]
Wendy Alexander: Safety concerns
He said: "We welcome these proposals. We've been saying for some time that something needs to be done to tackle this problem.

"For too long, unscrupulous landlords have been taking advantage of the fact that students need somewhere to live which is usually cheap accommodation and that would normally be shared.

"So this is a big step in the right direction, but we have to hope the local authorities will take it on board and enforce these measures."

Wendy Alexander said she and the rest of the Scottish Executive were concerned about the level of safety in some HMOs.

'Health risk'

She said: "In Scotland, as many as 10,000 dwellings are rented out for shared use by four or more people. These residences are often in good condition, but sometimes the standard can be poor, or even a health risk.

"That is why I am going to give local authorities the duty to inspect and monitor shared accommodation so that all those tenants can have safe, quality accommodation."

The conditions would apply to shared flats, bedsits, lodgings, bed and breakfast accommodation and hostels.

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