Social landlords warned against evicting tenants during coronavirus crisis
The Scottish Government has warned it will take action against social landlords if they attempt to evict people over rent arrears during the coronavirus pandemic but stopped short of a complete ban against evictions for all renters.
At First Minister’s Questions yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon said any landlord in the social sector “contemplating” evicting people will be challenged and insisted no-one should lose their home because of the outbreak.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “We will continue to look at the action we can take and need to take and I rule nothing out and want to rule as much in as possible.
“But let me say today, categorically, as First Minister – no-one should face eviction because of rent arrears accrued as a result of the coronavirus.”
The First Minister said the Scottish Government “will not hesitate” to intervene in issues “that put people in an unfair position” during the crisis.
She added: “The government will take action if we find that any social landlord was contemplating raising the eviction proceedings against anyone in these circumstances.”
Ms Sturgeon was responding to a question from Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie who warned renters are left the choice between losing their home and racking up debt while eviction threats remain in place.
Communities secretary Aileen Campbell had announced that the Scottish Government will introduce a temporary extension of the arrears period required for tribunals to rule in favour of evictions, from three to six months.
But opposition parties believe this does not go far enough because it does not rule out evictions.
Mr Harvie asked: “I’ve heard from landlords who are being responsible and recognising people’s needs but also from people being forced out of their homes using a range of existing grounds for eviction – not just rent arrears.
“The Scottish Government’s announcement (Wednesday) will still leave people facing a choice between the threat of losing their home at this dangerous time or building up unpayable debts over the coming months, while in many cases their landlords are benefiting from a mortgage holiday.
“Isn’t it clear that we need a complete ban on evictions during this crisis, on any grounds, and a rent holiday for those who need it?”
Scottish Labour has launched a petition calling for an evictions ban and rent breaks for tenants in response to the pandemic.
The party has called for a ban on evictions resulting from coronavirus rent or mortgage arrears. The petition also echoes calls from Scottish councils that rent breaks should be underwritten by the Scottish Government.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Owner-occupiers have been given the assurance of a mortgage holiday, meaning they will not lose their homes if they fall behind with payments. Renters deserve the same assurance.
“Scottish Labour has consistently called for action on high rents and greater rights for tenants, through the Mary Barbour law that my colleague Pauline McNeill is introducing.
“We need action now for a rent break and a ban on evictions resulting from this crisis, but we are also clear that there can be no going back to business as usual when this crisis is over. Tenants should never again face the fear that they could lose their home as a result of a public health emergency.
“I would encourage people across Scotland, of all party affiliations and none, to sign our petition and join our campaign to ensure no-one loses their home as a result of this pandemic.”
Reiterating pledges announced on Wednesday by Aileen Campbell, Ms Sturgeon said: “Housing tribunals, in any event, are not sitting right now so no proceedings would be taken forward at this time anyway.
“But let me repeat – no-one should face eviction because of this crisis we’re living through.”
Already this week, the UK Government announced emergency legislation which will suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation in England while the emergency is taking place.
And West Dunbartonshire Council was granted a motion at Dumbarton Sheriff Court to sist all summary cause eviction cases currently in process.
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