Social housing in Scotland

Harper Macleod LLP

Harper Macleod LLP is highly regarded in the social housing market with an extensive client roster of registered social landlords (RSLs) alongside various other players in the sector, such as local authorities, government bodies and private sector developers. Alongside its in-depth sector expertise, clients also benefit from the practice's multidisciplinary approach, enabling it to provide full-service advice on M&A and group restructuring, private placement deals, construction and regulatory matters, among other issues. While co-head Derek Hogg's emphasis lies on governance, regulatory and constitutional matters - a focus he shares with Collette Miller - co-head James McMorrow specialises in corporate, commercial, regulatory and public procurement.

Practice head(s):

Derek Hogg; James McMorrow

Other key lawyers:

David McIndoe; Collette Miller; Euan Pirie


‘Knowledge of the sector and the requirements in relation to governance, private finance and regulation is second to none. They meet deadlines and ensure delivery even at short notice. Good relationships developed with other lawyers when working on join deals and with the third party lawyers. Good understanding of the requirements’

‘Derek Hogg is excellent in his understanding of what is required, simplifying in laymen’s terms, providing a clear understanding on which to base decisions. Develops good relationships and is highly respected. Excellent knowledge of the sector.’

‘The team is unique because of its great experience, drive, determination, commitment, professionalism, friendliness and quality of the team and the individuals that make up the team. They were also one of the first in our sector to have introduced monthly detailed billing which makes it easier to follow/ monitor. The team is just brilliant to work with’

‘They are different from their competitors because they care about the service that they deliver to their clients. Top notch.’

‘The team at Harper Macleod has a vast array of experience between them, which covers acquisition and project conveyancing, governance and financial management, contractual and procurement, construction, estate management arrears recovery, employment law advice and general legal advice.

‘Very practical advice and sound knowledge of all aspects of social housing law and regulation.’

‘A unique and in-depth understanding of the Scottish social rented sector from providing advice and assistance to the Scottish Government Government to providing sage and practice advice to housing practitioners – they provide a very personable service, explaining in plain English the practical solutions that comply with the law.’

‘Harper MacLeod is among the most highly respected firms within the social housing sector; indeed, they run the one of the foremost housing conferences in Scotland each year. They are well respected by the banking sector and are involved in the drafting of guidance documents on behalf of the government which gives them a fantastic depth of knowledge across the sector.’

Key clients

Scottish Government (Shared Equity Framework)

Wheatley Housing Group

Link Group

Sanctuary Housing Association (including Sanctuary Scotland Housing Association and Sanctuary Homes (Scotland))

Cairn Housing Association

North Ayrshire Council

Hjaltland Housing Association

Caledonia Housing Association

West of Scotland Housing Association

GB Social Housing PLC

Scottish Borders Housing Association

Eildon Housing Association

Irvine Housing Association (Riverside Group)

Cunninghame Housing Association

Dunbritton Housing Association

Clyde Valley Housing Association

Grampian Housing Association

Port of Leith Housing Association

Work highlights

  • Advising Scottish Government’s More Homes division on all aspects of its affordable housing shared equity schemes, including the recently launched First Home Fund worth circa £200m.
  • Advising West of Scotland HA on the largest Passivhaus development to-date in Glasgow, worth circa £12.8m.
  • Advising Wheatley Housing Group on a significant restructuring of the group’s care business activities, involving a housing stock transfer by its subsidiary Barony HA to another of its subsidiaries, West Lothian Housing Partnership, and a transfer of engagements by Barony HA to Dunedin Canmore Housing.

T C Young

T C Young has a strong profile for advising registered social landlords (RSLs) on the full range of social housing matters, such as governance, procurement, corporate, M&A, property and finance. Its offering extends into the contentious space with managing partner and head of litigation Andrew Cowan and litigator Alastair McKendrick as the key contacts; both handle evictions alongside other disputes. Cowan co-heads the practice with Alison Brynes, whose property and factoring expertise translates into regular transactional and various contractual instructions. Other key individuals include public procurement expert Lauren Little and consultant Len Freedman, who advises on Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations (EIR), credit facilities and bond funding agreements.

Practice head(s):

Alison Brynes; Andrew Cowan

Other key lawyers:

Len Freedman; Alastair McKendrick; Lauren Little; Jim Bauld; Mark Ewing; Christine Stuart; Douglas Collingham


‘TC Young is an extremely experienced firm of solicitors with a level of specialism and knowledge of the social housing sector which is second-to-none and which I value highly. The service we receive is responsive, good value for money and of a high quality. The firm is proactive in providing us with updates on changes in relevant legislation and can provide training to our staff in these areas.’

‘The team comprises a number of very friendly and approachable individuals. Their approach is extremely thorough and you can always rely on the fact they will have covered all angles. They will challenge positively when required and not back down when they know they are right. They are also very good at explaining things in lay person’s terms and will always provide explanatory back-up in writing and never make you feel stupid. They also always consider the best approach in any given situation e.g. whether an email or letter is better coming directly from the client or from the solicitor.’

‘This practice and all the partners, are always here for us, whatever the situation and issue. Their legal advice being second-to-none and always timeously. We could not have managed some tricky situations without them.’

‘Lauren Little is bright, brave, focused, creative, determined. Mark Ewing is a governance guru; wise, calm, helpful, supportive. Alison Brynes is informed, cool, solution-based.’

‘Lauren Little provides an excellent, bespoke and all-round service across a range of topics including loan finance, contracts and property. Alison Brynes is an excellent resource on all matters property and factoring. Jim Bauld is a recognised expert in social housing and tenancy law.’

‘Alastair McKendrick is very approachable. All our staff feel very comfortable in going to him for advice.’

‘Our key contact is Alison Brynes. Engaging directly at partner level ensures we always feel our business gets the attention it deserves. Alison is focused, determined and a creative problem solver. If there is a way to get the deal done, Alison will find it.’

‘Mark Ewing is so knowledgeable in his field that even statutory and governmental organisations with their own in-house lawyers seek out his opinion.

Key clients

New Gorbals HA

Argyll Community HA

Home Group

Elderpark HA

Southside HA

Govanhill HA

Castle Rock Edinvar/Places for People

Clydebank HA

Hanover (Scotland) HA

Waverley HA

Work highlights

  • Acting for Thistle Housing Association in the transfer of its assets to Sanctuary Scotland Housing Association.
  • Following the extensive disruption due to the pandemic and lockdowns, the team engaged with the Law Society of Scotland and Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service to ensure an expedited return of RSL heritable eviction cases to court business.
  • Providing procurement, property and construction advice to Southside Housing Association for the delivery of community green spaces and gardens; negotiating with various stakeholders including Glasgow City Council, Big Lottery and National Heritage Scotland as Southside leads the regeneration of its local community.

Addleshaw Goddard

Clients regularly instruct Addleshaw Goddard's team led by Heather Pearson to advise on matters associated with new-build developments such as site acquisitions and property finance.

Practice head(s):

Heather Pearson

Other key lawyers:

Tom Speirs

BTO Solicitors LLP

BTO Solicitors LLP's affordable housing sector and RSL clients receive regular assistance with employment and governance matters in particular, but also instruct the team with site acquisitions alongside property and tenancy issues, including antisocial behaviour, eviction actions and rent arrears. This contentious arm of the practice is led by Grant Hunter and was further strengthened with the arrival of consultant Stephen Humphreys from Shepherd and Wedderburn in November 2020. Hunter forms the core team together with commercial conveyancing specialist Karen Brodie and employment lawyer Caroline Carr.

Practice head(s):

Karen Brodie; Caroline Carr; Grant Hunter

Other key lawyers:

Stephen Humphreys


‘The practise in my opinion has an unrivalled knowledge and level of experience in the social housing sector. Their approach is efficient and effective. The level and depth of understanding during complex land negotiations was incredible; the agile approach to constant requests for changes to agreements to meet all party needs was crucial in reaching a successful conclusion.’

‘The responsiveness of the team is first class and they will always ensure deadlines are met even if short timescales and long working hours are required to meet these. Explain the nature of the information clearly to help decisions to be made which meets the needs of the organisation.’

‘Karen Brodie works diligently to deliver on milestones, ensuring work is completed to a high standard.’

‘Karen Brodie is both an incredibly patient and talented individual. Any piece of work she was asked to complete was fantastic. Her approach to challenging issues was calm and insightful and we would not have reached a successful conclusion without the infinite knowledge and patience she contributed.’

‘The BTO team is extremely knowledgeable and professional at all times. Their collaborative approach and ‘can do’ attitude is invaluable in driving forward challenging transactions successfully.’

‘Having worked with Karen Brodie on a number of high-value land purchases I have always found her to be professional, diligent and approachable. It is evident in everything Karen does that she cares about her work and constantly goes above and beyond to make sure that the client brief and timescales are met. My trust in Karen is a direct result of the strong working relationship built up with her and her team over a number of years.’

‘It is a responsive team, that works well together and delivers a first-class service to its customers and provides advice in a language that can be shared with our stakeholders within quick timescales.’

Key clients

Whiteinch and Scotstoun Housing Association Ltd

Shettleston Housing Association Ltd

Loreburn Housing Association Ltd

ng homes (North Glasgow Housing Association Ltd)

Clyde Valley Housing Association Ltd

Langstane Housing Association Ltd

Tollcross Housing Association Ltd

Kingdom Housing Association Ltd

Queen’s Cross Housing Association Ltd

Berwickshire Housing Association Ltd

Partick Housing Association Ltd

Pineview Housing Association Ltd

Grampian Housing Association Ltd

Hillhead Housing Association 2000

Govan Housing Association Ltd

Cathcart & District Housing Association Ltd

Argyll Community Housing Association Ltd

Work highlights

  • Provided Clyde Valley Housing Association Ltd (CVHA) with the full range of legal services, including advice on its site acquisition programme, handling construction contract disputes, re-securitisation exercise to support further refinancing, advice on governance and general litigation matters.
  • Advised Partick Housing Association Ltd on the full range of sector requirements, including many issues arising from Covid-19, such as governance, addressing termination of key maintenance and repair contracts, reviewing rules with a view to updating them shortly as well as advising on a variety of property and development matters.
  • Obtained several Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) for Govan Housing Association Ltd in relation to problematic tenancies during the lockdown period.


With a focus on the mid-market rent model, Shoosmiths receives regular instructions from RSL developer clients and government-backed property funds requiring assistance with various matters arising from social housing projects. Typically, this includes M&A, funding, planning and regulatory compliance as well as property litigation. Commercial and residential development transactions specialist Janette Speed heads the team, which includes principal associate Gillian Ralph, who has recently been particularly active advising on acquisitions and development funding agreements.

Practice head(s):

Janette Speed

Other key lawyers:

Barry McKeown; Fraser Mitchell; Gillian Ralph


‘The team is courteous and knowledgeable with excellent customer service. Their proactive approach and good communication ensure that transaction timescales are always met.’

‘Diligent, knowledgeable and approachable. Nothing is too much trouble for the team, demonstrating a strong focus on customer service.’

Key clients

PfP Capital Fund

Port of Leith Housing Association

Persevere Developments Limited

Kingdom Housing Association

Kingdom Initiatives

Manor Estates Limited

Bellway Homes (Affordable)

Robertson Partnership Homes

Balfour Beatty (Affordable)

Watkin Jones Plc (Affordable BTR)

Work highlights

  • Acting for PfP Capital Fund in the forward fund of a multi-million pound housing development on a brown field site in Edinburgh for mid market rent, structured as a Golden Brick transaction.
  • Acting for the PfP Capital Fund in the forward fund of a multi-million pound housing development on a brown field site in Oxgangs, Edinburgh for mid market rent.
  • Continues to advise Kingdom Housing Association Limited on a key strategic regeneration project, which involves the acquisition of a phased site at Fraser Avenue, Inverkeithing from Fife Council for redevelopment and regeneration (and the provision of 61 homes).

Anderson Strathern

With senior associate and litigator Shirley Evans heading up the team at Anderson Strathern, the firm is well placed to assist housing associations with various contentious and housing management issues, including anti-social behaviour and eviction actions. Other regular work includes transactional, regulatory, property, planning and data protection matters.

Practice head(s):

Shirley Evans


‘The team is very hands-on, approachable and knowledgeable. Always happy to discuss matters in whatever way suits the business, whether that be a whole team set up or individual telephone calls to staff to provide expert advice.’

‘Shirley Evans is excellent in keeping us up-to-date with any changes in legislation/court matters. We can always be assured she will do her research into any unusual cases to ensure we are clear in taking matters forward.’

Shirley Evans is a delight to work with and probably knows more about housing law than anyone else in the private sector in Scotland. She is a standout lawyer.’

Shirley Evans has an enviable knowledge of housing law and her experience as a legal member of the Housing and Property Chamber gives her an added insight when considering potential strategies.

Key clients

Castlehill Housing Association Ltd

Castlerock Housing Association Ltd

East Lothian Housing Association Ltd

Fife Council

Grampian Housing Association Ltd

Melville Housing Association Ltd

Midlothian Council

Edinburgh City Council

Work highlights

  • Acted for Castlehill Housing Association Ltd in an eviction action due to anti-social behaviour by a tenant in the Covid crisis. Advising all the way through the matter from the service of the notice to eviction as well as keeping neighbouring tenants advised of developments in the action.
  • Advising Castlerock Housing Association Ltd on the structuring of a property purchase, construction and procurement, and the form of tenancy which should be entered into with the individual tenants.
  • Advising East Lothian Housing Association Ltd on a number of trade mark registrations, the IP ownership, licensing issues and charitable aspects relating to the development of its Rent Collector App.

Burness Paull LLP

As a reflection of practice head Peter Chambers' key areas of expertise, much of Burness Paull LLP's work for social and affordable housing providers pertains to site acquisitions and developments, such as planning, construction, funding and property matters.

Practice head(s):

Peter Chambers

Other key lawyers:

Scott Peterkin


‘The firm has an excellent reputation for delivering a high level of service and for the in-depth knowledge and experience they have of the Scottish housing sector and environment, over a range of areas from regulation and governance to funding and finance.’

‘Their in -depth knowledge and experience and how that is translated into first-class legal advice. The high level of consistent expert service.’

‘Burness Paull deliver. They don’t promise – they simply deliver.’

‘They understand what I need. They listen and understand.’

‘The Burness team is very proactive and independent. I feel confident in giving them instructions and knowing that they will get on with work without me having to chase them every day. No matter what the deadline, they always get the job done.’

Key clients

Sanctuary Housing Association

Scottish Futures Trust Investment Limited

Cruden Group

Springfield Properties plc

Hillcrest Housing Association Limited

Link Group Limited

Miller Homes Limited

Castlehill Housing Association Limited

First Endeavour LLP

Taylor Wimpey UK Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised Sanctuary Housing Association and Beech Grove Limited on the acquisition and ongoing development of the former Victoria Hospital in Glasgow to provide more than 400 new flats including affordable homes, offices and retail units in the city’s Langside.
  • Advised Sanctuary Scotland Housing Association Limited on the acquisition of an affordable housing site, comprising 150 units, from CALA Management Limited within an existing CALA development site at Persley Den, Westhill, Aberdeen.
  • Advised Countesswells Development Limited in relation to the development of 228 affordable housing units for Hillcrest Housing Association Limited across four different tranches of development in Countesswells, Aberdeen.

Thorntons Law LLP

Thorntons Law LLP has a strong profile advising RSL clients on site acquisitions, including associated property and construction issues, but, following a multi-disciplinary approach, the Dundee-based team is also well placed to provide corporate, employment and funding advice. Property development expert Graham Wilson is the main contact.

Practice head(s):

Graham Wilson

Other key lawyers:

Chris Allan; Noele McClelland

Key clients

Hillcrest Homes (Scotland) Limited

Caledonia Housing Association Ltd

Kindgom Housing Association Ltd

Angus Housing Association Limited

Abertay Housing Association Limited

Ore Valley Housing Association

Wheatley Housing Group Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised Angus Housing Association Limited on the acquisition of the land and the construction contract for the development of 74 new affordable homes in Dundee procured from Campion Homes in a deal worth £12.5m.
  • Advised Hillcrest Homes (Scotland) Limited on the acquisition of 22 new affordable homes in Perth on a turnkey basis from Urban Union in a deal worth £3.9m.
  • Advised Caledonia Housing Association Limited on the acquisition of land and 21 new affordable homes in Inverness on a Golden Brick basis from housebuilder Tulloch Homes in a deal worth £3.7m.