MSPs to scrutinise proposed PRS eviction law reforms
Legislation proposing the permanent adoption or temporary extension of some beneficial measures enacted during the coronavirus pandemic, including pre-eviction protocols relating to rent arrears in the private rented sector, has now been published.
The Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill proposes changes in 30 specific legislative areas, which were modified by temporary provisions made under Scottish and UK coronavirus legislation.
Under the legislation, pre-eviction protocols relating to rent arrears in the private rented sector would be maintained, ensuring that tenants have all the information they need about their rights, and placing more responsibility on landlords to ensure correct procedures are followed.
It follows a 12-week consultation process held between July and November 2021. Almost 3,000 responses were received from individuals, and organisations such as COSLA, Shelter Scotland, and Victim Support Scotland.
MSPs will now scrutinise and debate measures proposed in the Bill, which include:
- maintaining provisions that enable Scottish Ministers to enact measures via public health regulations for any future public health threats, bringing Scotland into line with England and Wales where these powers are already permanent
- a temporary extension to statutory time-limits for criminal proceedings and the allowance for some procedural hearings to be held over audio or video link, to help manage the backlog of cases arising from the pandemic and ensure cases can continue to be heard, through greater flexibility in the programming of court business
- maintaining remote registration of deaths and still-births by phone or other methods, without the need to go to a registration office in person, in addition to a new proposal to extend this flexibility to live births
- adjusting the minimum debt level that an individual must owe before a creditor can make them bankrupt from £10,000 to £5,000, up from £3,000 pre-pandemic
- giving licensing boards the flexibility to be able to hold remote hearings, where they consider it appropriate.
Deputy First Minister and COVID recovery secretary John Swinney said: “Scottish Ministers have already removed many of the temporary measures that supported our response to the pandemic, which are no longer needed.
“However, we believe those pragmatic reforms that have delivered demonstrable benefit to the people of Scotland should continue. Whilst it has been incredibly disruptive, the urgency of the pandemic has driven the pace of digital adoption, and in some cases more efficient ways of working, and better service to the public.
“I am grateful to everyone who took the time to respond to our consultation, which has been considered very carefully in the drafting of this Bill, to embed these beneficial reforms in Scotland’s public services, along with the temporary extension of some justice measures to assist the courts with clearing the backlog of cases arising from the pandemic.
“Our priorities are to continue to lead Scotland safely through and out of the Covid pandemic, to address inequalities made worse by Covid, make progress towards a wellbeing economy and accelerate inclusive, person-centred public services, and this Bill supports those aims.”
Provisions that have already expired under the Scottish Coronavirus Acts include:
- the protection of advance notices in conveyancing while the Land Register of Scotland and the Register of Sasines were not fully open
- ‘stop the clock’ measures on the duration of guardianship orders and certificates authorising medical treatment for adults with incapacity, as the normal systems for processing these have resumed
- provisions requiring the Scottish Ministers and the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages for Scotland, to take steps to ensure couples could still marry or enter a civil partnership, now that local registration offices are open.