As restrictions ease across Scotland, Living Rent are deeply concerned about a wave of evictions due to rent arrears built-up during the pandemic. Although the eviction ban was a welcome policy to protect renters, without additional protections for tenants the ban alone is insufficient and as a result renters have still been evicted through-out the pandemic. The Scottish Government must act now to not only rigidly protect renters from eviction, but from the conditions that threaten them with eviction in the first place.
1. Extension to the eviction ban across all level restrictions, in line with furlough
- Extending the eviction ban is vital for the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. We need to lead the way in protecting tenants from the financial aftermath of the pandemic that will lead to evictions.
- We want to see the eviction ban extended until the 30th of September in all tiers in line with the furlough scheme ending. Tenants who have lost jobs or been on extended furlough need a chance to find work and get their salaries back to where they were before the pandemic and therefore be in a position to start paying rent again. A wave of evictions before furlough has ended would mean a wave of tenants plunged into debt to their landlords and a wave of homelessness.
- Eviction proceedings for arrears often come with civil proceedings, and until the job market has recovered, tenants stand no chance of putting down a deposit for new accommodation while still paying back arrears.
- Homelessness services need to get back on their feet after a year of limited mobility from temporary accommodation.
2. Permanent continuation of pre-action requirements and current eviction notice periods
- The pre-action requirements gave Tribunals more discretion to rule on eviction cases. It is vital that these are kept as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
- The Scottish Government stressed that ‘nobody should be evicted due to arrears accrued during the coronavirus pandemic’. As the financial consequences continue after lockdown, tenants still face eviction due to arrears accrued during the pandemic. Landlords must continue to offer chances to pay back arrears in the aftermath of the pandemic.
- All grounds for evictions have become discretionary, giving the Tribunal members a chance to consider whether eviction would cause homelessness. This will continue to be an important power to partially protect against a wave of evictions and homelessness.
- Extended notice periods during the pandemic have given tenants more of a chance to find suitable accommodation. With the private rental market in high demand and social housing lists saturated, tenants need this extended time to find housing.
3. Changes to damages for unlawful evictions
- To change the punishment for illegal evictions to make sure that landlords follow the correct process and that, if they are found guilty of not following the appropriate process, tenants receive compensation of between six months and 36 months rent, as determined by the tribunal or court.
- This would be a big upgrade to the current failed legislation in place defending tenants, and would increase the tougher on landlords who evict their tenants illegally without following the correct legal process.
- The legislation would see landlords pay between 6 and 36 months rent back if they have been found to have illegally evicted a tenant based on the determination of the tribunal. Effective financial deterrent remains the best way to stop landlord malpractice.
4. Longer term Winter eviction ban
- A winter eviction ban from November until March would ensure no one is forced to rely on stretched homelessness services or be without a roof during the harshest months of the year.
- Allowing evictions to continue in the winter is a massive health risk, as making people homeless when the homeless provisions are already most stretched means many people facing homelessness will be left with no access to safe housing during the harshest weather conditions.
- Scotland can lead the way in implementing these protections, and show the rest of the world the way to treat tenants.
Living Rent believes the above policy proposals would give tenants, council workers and homelessness services much needed breathing space in the midst of an eviction crisis.
However, it is important to stress that the above proposals are only stop-gaps. Much deeper crisis underlie much of the current housing situation: impossible rent increases, a desperate lack of quality social housing, poor energy efficiency measures in building standards.
In the long-term fight for safe, secure, truly affordable housing, Living Rent members will continue to push for both the short-term and long-term solutions. When our members put their minds and their will into this fight, anything is possible.
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