Second coronavirus bill ‘must not be end of help for renters’



Renters will face a second calamity if further protection isn’t given to those who build up arrears because of the pandemic, according to Shelter Scotland.

Graeme Brown

A series of amendments to Scotland’s coronavirus legislation proposed by Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman, including a two-year rent freeze and measures to have arrears built up during the emergency period disregarded, were yesterday rejected by Holyrood’s COVID-19 committee.

The housing and homelessness charity said that while it welcomed the change to legislation for purpose-built student accommodation, the failure to offer further protection to renters meant they were still vulnerable.

The changes allow students affected by the pandemic to be able to leave their accommodation with seven days’ notice for the current year and 28 days’ notice in the new academic year.

Shelter Scotland said that it was still unclear what was going to be done to stop private renters who build up arrears during the pandemic from facing eviction and homelessness in the aftermath, when the lockdown measures preventing eviction are lifted. 

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “While we have seen tremendous leadership from the Scottish Government on its emergency response there is an enormous question-mark hanging over the future for renters in debt.

“Both governments; in London and Scotland need to pledge to ensure that before the immediate public health emergency is over, they will act to prevent a further calamity from unfolding.

“It is hard to see now what is going to prevent a tidal wave of evictions sweeping people into homelessness services which were barely coping before the pandemic. Both governments in London and Edinburgh can and must act; by providing an adequate safety net through the social security system and by putting in place measures to stop homelessness before it blights more lives.”

Yesterday, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated an increase of 66.9% in out of work benefit claimants in Scotland in April. The housing element of Universal Credit currently only covers the full rent for three out of 10 private renters.  

Mr Wightman revealed he has notified the Scottish Parliament of his intention to lodge amendments at Stage 3 of the bill.

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