Still time to prevent 'tidal wave' of evictions says MSP after 350 notices served to tenants during pandemic

John Devlin 03/01/2020. GLASGOW. Stock shot of For Sale sign. property for sale, housing, GV, general view, property market. builders, building, file pic, for sale, flat.John Devlin 03/01/2020. GLASGOW. Stock shot of For Sale sign. property for sale, housing, GV, general view, property market. builders, building, file pic, for sale, flat.
John Devlin 03/01/2020. GLASGOW. Stock shot of For Sale sign. property for sale, housing, GV, general view, property market. builders, building, file pic, for sale, flat.
Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman said the Scottish Government need to act “urgently” to prevent widespread evictions.

The Scottish Government have been told to act “urgently” by a Scottish Green MSP to avoid a potential “tidal wave of evictions” following the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Housing spokesman for the Greens, Lothians MSP Andy Wightman, said the Scottish Government has sided with landlords “at every turn” during the pandemic.

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His comments come after it emerged 350 eviction applications have been received by the dedicated tribunal service which deals with private renting since the start of the pandemic in March, The Ferret reported.

Temporary rules were put in place at the start of the pandemic which banned evictions for social and private tenants, but the legislation only applies to those who received notices after April 7 when the rules were made law.

Hearings have already restarted in the tribunal, and landlords can wait until the law expires in September to continue the eviction process.

Scottish Greens Housing Spokesperson Andy Wightman MSP said: “The Housing Minister has repeatedly rejected my proposals to protect tenants, preferring to create a ‘hardship fund’ for landlords instead. Scottish Greens proposed various tenant protection measures throughout this crisis from debt forgiveness to a rent freeze but at every turn the Scottish Government has sided with landlords.

"Now we see the predictable result of that policy; hundreds of renters across the country with eviction notices hanging over their heads in the middle of a global pandemic. There is still time to prevent a tidal wave of evictions, but ministers need to act urgently. Disgracefully, They show no sign of doing so.”

Homelessness charity Shelter Scotland said it was “unreasonable” to allow evictions and called on the protections for tenants to be extended until April 2021.

Director of Shelter Scotland, Alison Watson said there is a “huge amount of uncertainty” around what happens when people lose their homes in the middle of a pandemic, and said there is “too much at stake” to risk more evictions.

She said: “It’s unreasonable to put people out onto the streets when we’re still far from safety and it could affect their health and the health of other people. We just have to look to Aberdeen, where clients are coming to us in crisis, facing the threat of eviction when restrictions on movement are being reintroduced.

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“We’ve argued all along that people whose cases have already begun should be covered by emergency protections. When parliament meets next week the Scottish Government can make that happen. We must see protections extended to the end of April next year and expanded to cover people still at risk of losing their homes in a health crisis.

“There is a huge amount of uncertainty about what could happen to people who lose their homes. There is already a bottleneck in temporary accommodation, we haven’t got confirmation on the continued use of emergency hotel accommodation and the private market still can’t operate as normal.

“The Scottish Government can’t leave it to tenants and landlords to sort out on their own. There is too much at stake and it is clear from the figures for eviction order applications that many tenants aren’t being offered flexibility by their landlord.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said housing minister Kevin Stewart has written to tenants explaining their legal position and pointing them in the direction of where to find help.

The spokesperson said: “No one should face eviction during this emergency period. Emergency legislation is in place until 30 September, which requires landlords to follow extended notice periods before a landlord can go to the Tribunal.

“By extending the notice period a landlord must give, we are ensuring that tenants have time to access available support in the short term and - if necessary - give them time to plan for the longer term, as we recover from this unprecedented crisis.

“Emergency legislation also gives the First-tier Tribunal discretion when determining eviction cases where the notice to leave was issued after 7 April. This ensures that a Tribunal can take into account the impact of the pandemic on the tenant when determining whether to grant an order for eviction.

"And we are introducing a new requirement so that the Tribunal also considers whether a landlord has undertaken certain actions to support their tenant before pursuing an eviction, and therefore formalising the need for constructive discussions between tenants and landlords in order to reduce rent arrears.

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“This week, Housing Minister Mr Stewart will also be writing to private tenants, providing information on their rights and signposting them to where they can find more information on tenancy issues, financial concerns and other subjects. These letters will be received by private tenants across Scotland at the end of this week and early next week.”

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