Scottish Government must consider full consequences of extending eviction notice period
SFHA responds to FM announcement that government will extend the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 legislation, subject to parliamentary approval.
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has called for the Scottish Government to revert the notice period for evictions in the social housing sector on the grounds of anti-social behaviour back to one month from three. The federation said if the government does not make this change, then other household members, tenants, and communities will suffer.
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 concluded:
“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 (1), 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.”
Anti-social behaviour example from an SFHA member: A tenant is displaying serious anti-social behaviour. The landlord served a Notice of Proceedings on 28 April which doesn’t become valid until 31 August due to the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 legislative changes. Normally, the notice would have been valid on 31 May, and the landlord would have raised court proceedings immediately in such a case. The other two tenants in the block have moved out as a result of the anti-social behaviour, and the landlord has taken the difficult decision to leave the property empty due to the volatility of the tenant. The unintended consequence of the act is that all of the neighbours continue to suffer, and two homeless households remain homeless as the empty properties cannot be let. There is significant pressure from neighbours and local politicians on the landlord to act. However, the landlord is unable to rectify the situation while the provision is in place.
Anti-social behaviour example from an SFHA member: During lockdown, the landlord has had to move three households in and out of one property while the perpetrator remains in place nearby. The impact of this on the families affected by the perpetrator’s behaviour is severe – mental health issues, children moving to stay with other family members to avoid harm, sleep deprivation, and their employment is affected.
Example of non-Covid-19 related arrears from an SFHA member: Tenant had rent arrears before the pandemic, and the landlord was agreeing a payment plan with them. However, since the coronavirus legislation was enacted, the landlord has contacted the tenant many times to offer support and arrange a payment plan and other advice, however, the tenant has never responded. With each month that passes, their arrears build up further.
For further information, please contact SFHA Interim Communications Lead Kirsten Walker by email: email@example.com or m: 0788 788 8348.
Notes to editors:
- SFHA is the membership body for, and voice of, housing association and co-operatives in Scotland www.sfha.co.uk