Call for action to reduce Scottish social housing evictions as progress stalls
Progress in reducing evictions within Scotland’s social housing sector has levelled off in the last few years, with the number of evictions increasing by 44% between 2013/14 and 2017/18.
A report called Evictions by social landlords in Scotland 2016-2018, published by Shelter Scotland, follows on from another report in 2017 and focuses primarily on eviction actions by social landlords in 2017/18, with an analysis of trends from the last five years.
It found that evictions by social housing providers remained static over the last twelve months, with 2,267 social sector evictions in 2017/18 compared to 2,276 evictions in 2016/17.
Local authorities were responsible for 1,322 of these evictions while 945 evictions were by registered social landlords (RSLs). 93% of evictions were carried out due to rent not being paid, whilst anti-social behaviour accounted for 6% of evictions.
In the report, Shelter Scotland argues that eviction is an ineffective, costly and time consuming way for social landlords to deal with rent arrears. While the introduction of pre-action requirements in 2012 did initially result in a reduction of evictions, since 2013/14 the rate has been increasing, the charity added.
Over the last decade the number of social sector evictions in Scotland have come down by a third since the high of 2008/09 (3,297) but, over the last five years they have increased by 44% to the current level.
The report concludes by making a series of recommendations to reduce the use of evictions across Scotland, building on good practice from the sector.
It calls on the Scottish Government to undertake a review of pre-action requirements, and argues that more work needs to be done to monitor the ongoing freezes to benefits and the impact of Universal Credit.
Landlords are also encouraged to adopt a person-centred approach to managing arrears.
Writing a blog on LinkedIn to coincide with the report, Izzy Gaughan, campaigns and policy officer at Shelter Scotland, said stagnating progress in the reduction of evictions is “concerning”.
Ms Gaughan added: “In 2008/09 local authorities made significant advances in reducing evictions despite a tough financial climate, and in 2012 pre-action requirements were introduced which intended to hold all social landlords to a number of steps to engage with tenants before eviction action was taken. However, in contrast to their policy intention and initial progress, since 2013/14 the number of evictions has been increasing.
“We know that the majority of social sector evictions are for rent arrears, in fact 93% of the 2,267 evictions in 2017/18 were as a result of rent not being paid. Whilst we know there are many financial pressures on social housing providers we would argue that evictions are an ineffective response to this.”
“First and foremost, evictions are extremely stressful for tenants, many of whom will face imminent homelessness if an eviction is successful. Eviction proceedings can run over the course of a number of months and can lead to anxiety for tenants, many of whom could be dealing with a multitude of other issues.
“For social landlords, evictions are costly and time consuming. Local authorities also face the potential additional costs of fulfilling their homelessness duty, should the household apply as homeless when threatened with eviction. For this reason, evictions are an ineffective way of dealing with rent arrears, particularly for local authorities.”
Shelter Scotland said it is looking to the landlords who are managing to keep their evictions low to see what lessons can be learned.