Social housing in Scotland

Harper Macleod LLP

Harper Macleod LLP‘s in-depth social housing expertise translates into regular instructions from registered social landlords (RSLs), public sector bodies and private developers and builds on the practice’s multidisciplinary approach. Consequently, the team is well placed to guide its clients through governance, regulatory, constitutional and property funding issues – an area of particular expertise for Derek Hogg and Collette Miller – alongside corporate, commercial and public procurement matters, which are key elements of James McMorrow‘s workload. McMorrow is based in Glasgow and jointly heads the group with Hogg in Edinburgh, while clients also benefit from the firm’s wide geographical reach with additional offices in Inverness, Elgin, Thurso and Shetland.

Practice head(s):

Derek Hogg; James McMorrow

Testimonials

‘The team 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, regulation and governance, funding and finance.’

‘The team is very personable, down to earth and approachable.’

‘They are efficient, cost effective and have a very practical approach to loan and conveyancing processing, which is invaluable to us.’

‘Being based in Shetland it is useful that Harper Macleod have a local office which ensures they have a good local understanding of the community we work in whilst also being able to provide in-person support in court without additional costs associated with travel.’

‘What sets Derek Hogg apart is his knowledge of the social housing sector, and also that he is very well respected in the sector. I know advice provided from him immediately puts my board members at ease when reviewing legal documents.’

‘Derek Hogg’s and Euan Pirie’s involvement in innovative projects has been a major contributory success factor.’

‘Derek Hogg and Collette Miller are the two outstanding partners covering our work and they are both very accessible and focus on getting transactions concluded. Both are market-leading experts in their field.’

‘James McMorrow is an exceptional lawyer on regulatory compliance standards, corporate and governance issues – providing clear and practical assistance in dealing with highly sensitive matters.’

Key clients

Wheatley Housing Group

Scottish Government (More Homes Division)

Link Group

Sanctuary Housing Association

Scottish Borders Housing Association

Caledonia Housing Association

Cairn Housing Association

Fife Council

GB Social Housing plc

River Clyde Homes

West of Scotland Housing Association

Kingdom Housing Association

Cunninghame Housing Association

Clyde Valley Housing Association

Queens Cross Housing Association

NG Homes

Maryhill Housing Association

Eildon Housing Association

Berwickshire Housing Association

Riverside Scotland

Hebridean Housing Partnership

Hjaltland Housing Association

Grampian Housing Association

Dunbritton Housing Association

Work highlights

  • Advised Riverside Scotland on the acquisition and development of a project in Dundonald, which is the largest RSL modular construction project to date in Scotland.
  • Advised the Link Group on a £80m sustainability-linked loan facility from Scottish Widows.
  • Advised the City of Edinburgh Council on the disposal of 90 former National Housing Trust properties in Edinburgh to LAR Housing Trust.

T C Young

T C Young‘s extensive roster of registered social landlords (RSLs) stands testament to the team’s wide-ranging expertise in the social housing sector, spanning associated property development, governance, finance, transactional and procurement matters. Its expertise extends into the contentious space, where recent instructions include the recovery of possession and debt alongside anti-social behaviour. Managing partner Andrew Cowan and Alastair McKendrick are key contacts in this space, while Alison Brynes, who jointly heads the practice with Cowan from Glasgow, provides regular assistance with regulatory requirements and factoring issues. Other key individuals include consultant and finance expert Len Freedman and Lauren Little, who handles a wide range of contractual, finance management and procurement matters.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Cowan; Alison Brynes

Testimonials

‘It is the dependable nature of their service offer, but also the versatility and agility to quickly respond to or dissect an organisation’s issues that have set them apart from others across the sector.’

‘Very specialised and “go-to” experts on all matters in Scottish social housing. Always abreast of new developments and provide good briefings to the sector ahead of new legislation, or changes in regulatory practice.’

‘I believe they have the most practical experience within the courts (both in the East and West of Scotland) and this is something as their clients, that we definitely benefit from.’

‘I enjoy a fantastic working relationship with the partner Alastair McKendrick. He is excellent, responsive, supportive and has proved to be a great support legally for our organisation. Alastair is both approachable and personable.’

‘Mark Ewing has been a great support to me over the years with his honesty, intelligence, experience and calmness.’

‘Jim Bauld and Andrew Cowan make a great team and you really are in good hands when working with them.’

‘Lauren Little who excels in all things procurement, among other areas of law. Lauren would be my first go-to in terms of advice with regards to contractual issues etc, and she has been really helpful in recent years.’

‘Alison Brynes has exceptional knowledge on social housing matters. So approachable and speaks in layman’s terms.’

Key clients

Argyll Community HA

Home Group

New Gorbals HA

Southside HA

Govanhill HA

Clyde Valley Group

Scottish Federation of Housing Associations

Hanover (Scotland) HA

Waverley HA

Link Group

Work highlights

  • Commissioned by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations to produce a briefing regarding smoke alarms in shared ownership, shared equity and factored properties following a change in the law on fire alarms, meaning all Scottish homes will need to have interlinked alarms from February 2022.
  • Acted for New Gorbals HA in new loan facility agreements with the Bank of Scotland and Unity Bank, and bond finance with the Housing Finance Corporation.
  • Providing procurement, property and construction advice to Southside Housing Association for the delivery of community green space/gardens; negotiating with various stakeholders including Glasgow City Council, Big Lottery and National Heritage Scotland.

BTO Solicitors LLP

BTO Solicitors LLP has recently been particularly active advising housing associations, including registered social landlords, on transactional, financing, governance and employment law matters as well as on tenancy-related disputes. Caroline Carr is the key contact for employment law and has been called upon to assist with staff grievance and associated reputational issues as well as with Covid-19-related risk assessments. She jointly heads the practice with RSL litigation specialist Grant Hunter and commercial conveyancing expert Karen Brodie, whose workload regularly includes matters pertaining to development sites.

Testimonials

‘Throughout the pandemic there has be no drop in service excellence and the transition to working out with an office environment has been seamless.’

‘We have one point of contact for all enquiries which we find extremely beneficial.’

‘They are a one-stop-shop being able to give advice on governance, employment law, GDPR/FOI, so it means you can get a clear indication of how everything fits together.’

‘While the team are all pleasant, more importantly, they approach their support and service provision in a professional manner, clearly explaining the options and potential ramifications of all courses of action.’

‘BTO are always familiar with issues that are being currently faced and understand fully our requirements regarding a range of social housing-related matters.’

‘The firm offers fast, efficient legal advice across a range of legal and regulatory matters.’

‘Excellent working relationships have been established with those with specialist skills and we have always found the quality and speed of service cannot be faulted.’

‘The practice provides very clear advice and in Karen Brodie they have a partner who works closely with clients to cut through complex conveyancing arrangements in order that as a client I have a very clear understanding of every potential deal.’

Key clients

Link Group Ltd

Cadder Housing Association Limited

Milnbank Housing Association Limited

Scottish Housing Associations Resources for Education (SHARE)

Grampian Housing Association Limited

Cathcart & District Housing Association Limited

Key Housing Association Limited

Lanarkshire Housing Association Limited

Whiteinch & Scotstoun Housing Association Limited

Queens Cross Housing Association Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising Milnbank Housing Association Limited on a range of governance matters in the context of an ongoing governance review and regulatory engagement with the Scottish Housing Regulator.
  • Undertaking the full range of conveyancing requirements for Kingdom Housing Association Limited, ranging from development work to shared ownership transactions; including complex site assembly for significant town centre and new rural developments.
  • Acted for Argyll Community Housing Association Limited in successfully defending an appeal to the Sheriff Appeal Court (SAC) in an action for recovery of possession on grounds relating to a tenant’s relevant criminal conviction, on a novel technical aspect of the applicable housing law.

Burness Paull LLP

Development-driven matters constitute the cornerstone of Burness Paull LLP's social housing work and typically involve land and financing transactions, construction agreements and procurement issues; the last-mentioned segment is often handled in conjunction with the firm's public law and regulatory colleagues. The team's investment and regeneration expertise was further strengthen by the arrival Richard Lockhart in January 2022 from Scottish Futures Trust. Together with Louise Chambers, another contact for the sale and development of land, he forms part of the team led by commercial real estate expert Peter Chambers. Clients include developers alongside social and affordable housing providers.

Practice head(s):

Peter Chambers

Testimonials

‘Wide range of expertise within the firm that can be called upon at any time – will always give you as the client the correct balance between legal opinion and common sense view for a particular situation.’

‘Great knowledge of all aspects of affordable housing.’

‘Burness Paull have extensive knowledge of the community-based housing sector in Glasgow. The firm has provided advice and practical assistance on a range of issues including governance, procurement and regulation.’

‘Good attention to detail, they understand the requirements of our business and think of ways around problems/find solutions which is always welcome.’

‘The transactions can often be complex and I trust the team to do a good job.’

‘The team 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.’

‘Peter Chambers’ considerable experience means that he can apply knowledge and solutions to any problem. He is a pleasure to work with because of his calm and confident manner.’

‘Louise Chambers is proactive and always ensures deadlines are met.’

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

Milbank Housing Association Limited

Cognito Oak LLP

Stewart Milne Group Limited

Elsick Development Company Limited

BDW Trading Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising Cognito Oak LLP on a major land sale to Aberdeen City Council in relation to the proposed development of 536 affordable homes and community facilities at Cloverhill, Aberdeen.
  • Advising Buccleuch Property and Cruden Homes (East) in relation to their winning bid to City of Edinburgh Council to develop the council’s Fountainbridge site, including 113 affordable homes.
  • Advising Link Group Limited in relation to its multi-million pound funding deal from Scottish Widows.

Shoosmiths

With a specialism in the mid-market rent model, Shoosmiths is routinely called upon by registered social landlords, housebuilders and government-backed property funds to assist with a wide range of social housing matters. Team head Janette Speed typically takes the lead on property sales and acquisitions and the subsequent development of these sites, while, in conjunction with the firm's commercial litigators, the team also handles contentious matters. Recent work in this space includes debt recovery, service charge disputes and title issues. Principal associate Gillian Ralph is another key member of the team and has recently assisted with a number of forward funding acquisitions of development sites.

Practice head(s):

Janette Speed

Other key lawyers:

Gillian Ralph

Testimonials

‘The team have dealt with our social housing contracts in a very professional manner.’

‘They are players at the top table with the social housing developers/operators in Scotland.’

‘As a team they have what is sadly missing in a lot of deals these days, a very good dry sense of humour and underlying respect.’

‘Gillian Ralph has good experience and has dealt with our social housing contracts in a very professional manner.’

‘Janette Speed is an excellent leader.’

‘Janette Speed is a commercial property solicitor who knows what commercial means. Will work with you to get a deal done for the benefit of all.’

Key clients

Port of Leith Housing Association

Bellway Homes

Balfour Beatty

Watkin Jones Group

PfP Capital Fund

Robertson Homes Partnership

Kingdom Initiatives

Kingdom Housing Association

Manor Estates

Almond Housing Association

Horizon Housing Association

Work highlights

  • Advised a student accommodation provider on the acquisition and onward disposal of a large development site in Leith, which included bespoke elements in terms of conveyancing, construction and contracts relative to affordable housing element.
  • Advised a Scottish government-backed fund on the acquisition of another site in central belt Scotland bringing the total to eight where the team has acted on the client’s target haul of 20 ahead of its next funding round. This included bespoke drafting around construction documentation and issues around liquidated damages.

Anderson Strathern

Due to its interdisciplinary approach, Anderson Strathern is able to provide its local authority and housing association clients with full-service social housing assistance. In the non-contentious space, most of its recent work is transactional, property and compliance-related, while its contentious work - an area of particular expertise for team head and litigator Shirley Evans (senior associate) - includes anti-social behaviour claims, rent arrears and eviction issues.

Practice head(s):

Shirley Evans

Testimonials

‘The team is very reliable, responsive and knowledgeable – between them they have sufficient skills/ knowledge to be able to address all areas of law.’

‘Individuals that I work with are professional, polite and friendly.’

‘They are very prompt and thorough in addressing enquiries. They clearly understand their areas of law and can put this into plain English.’

‘Extremely knowledgeable and experienced firm with a long track record in this area.’

‘Superb quality of service providing advice and representation to clients. Everything you would hope for.’

‘Shirley Evans is an outstanding individual. Dedicated to helping clients, understands their problems and needs, works hard to help them achieve their goals whilst providing realistic and sensible advice along the way.’

Key clients

Edinburgh City Council

East Lothian Housing Association Limited

Home Group Limited/Home Group in Scotland Limited

Fife Council

Grampian Housing Association

Melville Housing Association Limited

Castlehill Housing Association Limited

Places for People Group

Castlerock Edinvar Housing Association Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising Grampian Housing Association Ltd on a deal to fit Tesla 2 Powerwall battery storage units to enable tenants to store the electricity generated from solar panels installed on their roofs.
  • Acting for Fife Council in defending two actions by the same pursuer, one for judicial review in the Court of Session and the other for declarator and interdict in the Sheriff Court in relation to the council’s homelessness duties and whether the pursuer has a Scottish secure tenancy agreement.
  • Advising East Lothian Housing Association Ltd on its website terms and conditions, external facing privacy policy and cookie policy. Also advising on a number of trade mark registration and protection issues, including those for the establishment of a partnership with other housing associations in order to develop and facilitate a digital lettings service.

Brodies LLP

Due to Brodies LLP‘s strong regulatory practice, advisory matters in this space account for a considerable share of the team’s instructions, while other typical work pertains to acquisition and development programmes alongside social housing finance. Chris Dun heads the group from Edinburgh and is a key contact for the last-mentioned segment. Clients include housing associations, developers, contractors, local councils and lenders.

Practice head(s):

Chris Dun

Other key lawyers:

Jackie McGuire; Alasdair Fleming

Testimonials

‘They were always available to speak with/ obtain advice from. Their level of knowledge and professionalism inspired confidence.’

‘Excellent knowledge of the sector and expertise pertaining to lenders’ different requirements.’

‘Great team – very responsive and clearly has a wealth of knowledge about social housing as well as legal aspects of house and development purchase.’

‘Quick response, easily accessible to clients and highly proficient.’

‘Commercially minded, looking for solutions and proactive with ideas to get through potential road blocks.’

‘The team at Brodies has extensive legal and sector experience with a proven track record for delivering complex transactions ahead of expectations.’

‘Their ability to work with various transaction stakeholders through to completion in good order is exceptional.’

‘Chris Dun is an outstanding lawyer – his ability to deliver complex transactions in an efficient and effective manner is always impressive. Chris’ knowledge of the social housing sector and associated legal matters is first class.’

Key clients

Wheatley Group, including Glasgow Housing Association, Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership, Loretto Housing Association Limited, Dunedin Canmore Housing Limited, West Lothian Housing Partnership Limited and Lowther Homes Limited

Link Group Limited

Kingdom Housing Association Limited

River Clyde Homes

LAR Housing Trust

Places for People Treasury

Scottish Housing Regulator

Triodos Bank UK Limited

Lloyds Banking Group

Scottish Widows Limited

Work highlights

  • Acting as sole legal advisor to the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) in its role as a regulator; the team advised on the tenant and stakeholder consultation processes, the formulation of the decision notice, matters arising in relation to the transfer of assets and transfer of staff, and the transfer agreement with Sanctuary Scotland Limited.
  • Supporting the independent housing charity LAR Housing Trust in its ongoing multi-million pound acquisition and development programme.
  • Sole advisor to River Clyde Homes on corporate and commercial matters.

Thorntons Law LLP

With the Dundee-based Graham Wilson in the lead, Thorntons Law LLP regularly provides registered social landlords with advice on land and stock acquisitions and housing management. This includes contentious tenancy issues, while its multidisciplinary set-up also enables the team to handle funding, employment and data protection issues.

Practice head(s):

Graham Wilson

Testimonials

‘We have a great working relationship and find them accommodating, collaborative and understanding.’

‘The big thing to me is accessibility and ease of understanding. Things change rapidly over the course of development and being able to discuss issues promptly prevents issues escalating.’

‘Regular updates and summaries of information required put in simple to understand language allows our team to understand actions and requirements.’

‘Their wealth of knowledge, cooperation and ability to achieve desired outcomes has led to their increased usage over the last few years.’

Key clients

Hillcrest Homes (Scotland) Limited

Caledonia Housing Association Ltd

Kingdom Housing Association Ltd

Angus Housing Association Limited

Abertay Housing Association Limited

Ore Valley Housing Association

Wheatley Housing Group Limited

Bield Housing & Care

Angus Council

Work highlights

  • Advised Hillcrest Homes (Scotland) Limited on all aspects of the acquisition of the land and building contract for 167 new affordable homes in Cove, Aberdeen, including the arrangements with the council for payment of financial contributions as planning gain via a planning obligation.
  • Advising the boards of both Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) and Loretto Housing Association (LHA) on the transfer to GHA of Cube Housing Association’s assets and undertaking relating to the Glasgow area by way of an asset transfer, and then the transfer of engagements in favour of LHA of Cube’s remaining assets and undertaking as part of a restructure within the Wheatley Housing Group.
  • Advised Kingdom Housing Association on the employment aspects of its strategic acquisition of and integration with Fairfield Housing Association, including advice on the application of TUPE to the transferring staff, the obligations to inform and consult with employee representatives and the application of a collective agreement between Fairfield and recognised trade unions relating to pay scales and other conditions of employment.