Christmas eviction ban introduced for private tenants

Enforcement of evictions from rented properties will be halted in Scotland for a six week period until mid-January, the Scottish Government has announced.

Christmas eviction ban introduced for private tenants

Regulations will now be introduced that will prevent eviction orders being brought between 11 December and 22 January, with the exception of cases of serious anti-social behaviour.

The temporary law applies to all eviction notices issued on or after 7 April 2020. Originally scheduled to end on September 30, the Scottish Parliament has extended the law until March 31, 2021, with some changes to notice periods.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said the move will give extra protection to tenants during the coronavirus pandemic and reduce the burden on local authorities, who have a duty to rehouse people made homeless through evictions. It will also make it easier for people to self-isolate if they choose to form extended bubbles during the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions over Christmas, he added.

Mr Stewart said: “We took early action to, in effect, halt eviction action until March 2021 due to the pandemic. We have supported tenants throughout this difficult period through a number of actions including increasing our Discretionary Housing Fund from £11 million to £19m to provide additional housing support and shortly we will introduce our Tenant Hardship Loan Fund.

“We are now taking this additional, temporary step after carefully assessing the unique housing situation created by the pandemic.

“A temporary ban on carrying out evictions will give additional peace of mind to tenants over Christmas and into the new year. 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.

“It will allow tenants who are facing eviction, and may decide to take the opportunity to form extended bubbles over the festive period in line with relaxed guidance, time to effectively self-isolate afterwards should they come into contact with a positive person.

“Where there is evidence of serious anti-social or criminal behaviour, including in cases of domestic abuse, evictions can still proceed as normal.” 

The new regulations come after consistent pressure from tenants union Living Rent and Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman, who pushed for greater protections for tenants in the COVID emergency laws in May, and whose campaign for a winter eviction ban gathered over 1,000 signatures.

Mr Wightman said: “I am delighted that the First Minister has finally recognised the urgent need for more protections for tenants during this pandemic. These new regulations will ensure that no sheriff officers can kick down a tenant’s door and throw them out this winter.

“This is welcome reprieve for tenants on evictions, but only brings Scotland in line with what has happened in England. It would have been far better if ministers had listened to my proposals in May for a full evictions ban so that no one would be getting served notices during this crisis.

“As we look towards creating a fairer post-COVID Scotland, the pandemic has raised wider questions about whether anyone should be ordered to leave their home during a Scottish winter. France, for example, does not allow it to happen in a normal year.”

Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement that no evictions will be enforced over the next six weeks. No one should be forced out of their home this Christmas.

“But this is a short-term fix, and the damage this crisis has done to people’s jobs and incomes will be long-lasting. We need permanent solutions to prevent a wave of homelessness further down the line, and to end the use of unsuitable temporary accommodation.”

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