The Scottish Government has welcomed statements from landlord and housing association groups that evicting tenants should be a “last resort”.
The Government’s ban on evictions is no longer in force but Housing Secretary Shona Robinson has stressed tenants who are in financial difficulty should only be forced out by landlords if all other options have been explored.
It follows an announcement by deputy first minister John Swinney of plans to create a £10m fund for people struggling to pay rent as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Joint statements, signed by representative bodies for local authorities, housing associations and private landlords, say there are “important responsibilities” for tenants to pay their rent but also stating that “eviction action should be an absolute last resort, when all other avenues have been exhausted and a tenancy is no longer sustainable”.
In the statement by the Scottish Association of Landlords, it says private landlords and letting agents should intervene early to offer support to renters, such as flexible, longer-term repayment plans, and “act compassionately and quickly” with those in financial hardship.
The statement from social housing groups pledges that tenants should not be evicted if they are engaging with their landlord and have agreed a way to repay any rent owed.
It adds that eviction will be a last resort and primarily for cases where there has been anti-social behaviour, criminality or “deliberate avoidance of paying rent which has been tested in court”, or where there is a long-standing history of unpaid rent or a repeated failure to respond to landlords.
Robison said: “We have been clear from the outset that eviction action must be an absolute last resort, when all other avenues have been exhausted and a tenancy is no longer sustainable, so I welcome these joint statements from across the rental sector.
“The actions already taken by the Scottish Government, local authorities, housing associations and private landlords have been essential to avoiding evictions.
“Our new £10m grant fund to support those who are struggling to pay their rent will shore up these efforts and extend more support to those facing crisis due to the pandemic.
“We will work towards making the grant fund available later in the year, and we will work with stakeholders over the coming weeks to develop the details.
“Paying rent is an important tenant responsibility, and tenants in financial hardship should engage directly with their landlord.”
Sally Thomas, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said: “Housing associations and co-operatives have always worked hard to help tenants who are struggling to pay their rent through tenancy sustainment services.
“This includes support to access benefits, budgeting advice, hardship funds and employability services – and this work has increased during the pandemic.
“They arrange manageable payment plans for tenants in rent arrears and will never evict someone who has agreed to, and is meeting, the conditions. Every effort is made to keep people in their homes.
“Any tenant who is struggling financially should contact their housing association or co-operative for support and help in paying rent.”
John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said: “The overwhelming majority of tenants and landlords are working together to sustain tenancies during the pandemic.
“We welcome the Scottish Government emphasising that tenants have a responsibility to pay their rent, and encourage landlords to work with their tenants and always treat eviction action as a last resort.”