SFHA: Scottish Government must consider full consequences of extending eviction notice period
The Scottish Government should revert the notice period for evictions in the social housing sector on the grounds of anti-social behaviour back to one month from three to prevent suffering from other household members, tenants, and communities, according to the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).
The SFHA made the call after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed last week that the government will extend the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 legislation, subject to parliamentary approval. SFHA said while it supports protecting tenants who are struggling to pay their rent as a result of COVID-19, it is vital housing associations can act quickly when the actions of some tenants are negatively affecting others.
SFHA is also making two further asks of the government, which it said are critical if the act’s provisions are extended:
- Increased investment in Discretionary Housing Payments and the Scottish Welfare Fund and consideration of other support required for tenants who are struggling to pay their rent due to COVID-19
- A major national campaign, with clear messaging, that highlights the importance of rent payment by tenants who are able to do so; details sources of support that are available to help tenants to pay their rent; and explains how non-payment of rent could affect investment in homes and services in the future.
Sally Thomas, SFHA chief executive, said: “It is absolutely the right thing to do that we protect tenants who are struggling to pay their rent as a result of the financial effects of COVID-19, but the Scottish Government must revert the notice period for evictions related to anti-social behaviour back to one month. We are hearing increasing evidence from our members of serious cases of anti-social behaviour that is making other tenants’ lives a misery, and our members must have the power to act quickly when this is the case.
“We will continue to do everything we can to work with the Scottish Government to minimise the impact of the pandemic on tenants – but also on our members. Non-payment of rent can have serious consequences for housing associations and co-operatives. Rent is a vital source of income as it allows them to provide support and services for tenants and to carry out essential repairs and maintenance work. These frontline services are needed to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of tenants.
“Our members already work hard to support their tenants to pay their rent through tenancy sustainment and welfare rights services, but the government must take the lead, through a national campaign, and highlight the importance of paying rent and the sources of support that are available to help people to do this. Our members are concerned about a minority of tenants – some of whom were in arrears before the pandemic – viewing this period as a ‘rent holiday’ and accruing further, non-COVID related arrears. The government must make clear that this is not a rent holiday, and non-payment could have consequences for future investment in homes and services.”
Ms Thomas added: “SFHA is closely monitoring the financial impact of rent arrears on our members. With data showing arrears have increased since the start of the pandemic, we may get to a point where support for social landlords is also vital in order to allow them to continue providing services that are needed now, more than ever.”
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said the Scottish Government has confirmed its intention to lay regulations which will, subject to approval by the Scottish Parliament, extend the Scottish Coronavirus Acts to March 31, 2021.
He said: “We will continue to work with stakeholders to finalise the details of the extension. This will be set out in full later this month in the regulations for Parliament to consider.
“We don’t want anyone to face financial difficulty because of this pandemic, and the Scottish Government continues to work with tenant and landlord stakeholder groups to ensure people are fully aware of the relevant support around finances and housing costs during the current crisis.
“I recently issued an open letter to social housing tenants in Scotland and wrote to every private rented-household in Scotland, highlighting their rights and providing information on where they can find financial help and support.”