Eviction ban extended until end of March
The Scottish Government has announced that its temporary ban on eviction orders will be extended until the end of March.
Regulations will be laid in the Scottish Parliament on January 14 to extend the current ban, which is in place at present until January 22. The extended ban – will apply to all evictions in areas subject to level 3 or 4 restrictions, except cases of serious anti-social behaviour, including domestic abuse. Subject to review every three weeks to ensure it remains necessary to protect against the spread of coronavirus, it will remain in force until March 31.
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said the move will provide renters with safe homes during the pandemic, reduce the burden on local authorities and will also make it easier for people to follow the guidelines during the current lockdown.
Mr Stewart said: “Extending the temporary ban on the enforcement of eviction orders in the private and social rented sectors in areas subject to level 3 and 4 restrictions will support tenants, and offer people protection from transmission of the virus by being able to stay safe in their homes.
“It will also prevent additional burdens being placed on health and housing services during a time where they are already working hard due to the impact of the pandemic. This is a proportionate response to an extremely challenging set of circumstances.
“In the case of serious anti-social or criminal behaviour – including domestic abuse – eviction orders can still be enforced.
“We have been clear that no landlord should evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to the pandemic. Tenants in difficulty should engage with their landlord and seek advice on the options open to them.”
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said it supports protecting tenants who are struggling to pay their rent due to Covid-19 but welcomes exemptions to the ban remaining in place.
Sally Thomas, SFHA chief executive, said: “It is absolutely the right thing to do that we look after people’s health and wellbeing and we protect tenants who are struggling to pay their rent as a result of the financial effects of Covid-19, but it is of paramount importance that our members can act when there are cases of serious anti-social or criminal behaviour. We are pleased that the government has kept the exemptions in place for such incidences.
“It’s vital that tenants who can pay their rent do so. Rental income is crucial for housing associations and co-operatives as it comprises the majority of their income. It allows them to provide support and services for tenants and to carry out essential repairs and maintenance work.
“We welcome the government encouraging people who are struggling to pay their rent to speak to their landlord. Housing associations and co-operatives have worked hard to support their tenants to pay their rent and to cope with the financial effects of the pandemic, for example, with welfare rights advice and tenancy sustainment services, and they will continue to do so.”
Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer had challenged the First Minister to extend the ban after Monday’s lockdown announcement, saying that evicting people during this fresh outbreak would be “downright dangerous”.
Following yesterday’s announcement, the Greens have now called on the Scottish Government to introduce a permanent ban on evictions every winter, a measure which is commonplace across Europe.
Ross Greer MSP said: “The winter eviction ban, introduced following pressure from tenants’ groups such as Living Rent and discussions between the Scottish Government and Green MSPs, gave protection and peace of mind to those at risk of homelessness this winter. We certainly welcome the government’s response to our call for the ban to be extended in light of the lockdown and this third wave of the virus.
“It would have been grossly unjust and downright dangerous to have people losing their homes during a lockdown, so I’m grateful the minister has ensured that won’t be the case.
“Scotland is decades behind many of our European neighbours when it comes to tenants’ rights. Protections like a winter eviction bans are commonplace across the continent. Chucking people out of their homes in the cold of winter should be unacceptable whether there’s a pandemic raging on or not. So, while we warmly welcome the extension of the emergency ban, the Greens want to see the housing minister to go further, ensuring winter evictions are permanently banned.”
Shelter Scotland has raised concerns about tenant debts once the ban comes to an end.
Director Alison Watson said: “This is a hugely welcome step from the Scottish Government. No one wants to see people losing their homes in these difficult times.
“But the end of March isn’t far away, and we know that huge numbers of people are struggling with their housing costs. To avoid a flood of evictions later in the year, ministers must put a plan in place to help people manage their debts.”
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) also warned that further support is needed for tenants to keep their homes beyond that date.
CAS social justice spokesperson, Nina Ballantyne, said: “We’re glad to see the Scottish Government respond to the concerns we’ve repeatedly raised through the Private Rented Sector Resilience group about how vulnerable tenants are in this pandemic.
“Stopping evictions and preventing homelessness during this renewed crisis period is absolutely the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to keep tenants safe, but also the right thing for public health too.
“The experience of the Citizens Advice network in Scotland clearly shows that tenants struggling with rent need time to access advice and support. This extra time will give more people the opportunity to seek advice, access financial support and agree repayment plans or rent reductions to address arrears.
“However, many tenants including students, people with no recourse to public funds and others who are not eligible for Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or Discretionary Housing Payments, still cannot access grant support to help them pay rent. We hope to continue working with Scottish Government on further options for these groups so no group of tenants is left.”