The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 (“the 2020 Act”) contains emergency powers relating to coronavirus and health protection in Scotland. In exercising these powers the Scottish Government have introduced rules which have afforded additional protections to tenants by increasing the notice periods required before eviction action can start and banning the enforcement of eviction orders in certain circumstances.
Eviction ban update
Since December 2020, the enforcement of eviction orders has been prohibited unless the order is based on the tenant’s antisocial behaviour or criminal activity. The ban applies in all areas which are within Tier 3 and Tier 4 of the Scottish “lockdown” levels.
The ban on the enforcement of eviction orders will continue until an area is moved to Tier 2. The most recent announcement from the First Minister indicated that it is hoped that the whole of Scotland will be moved move to Tier 1 by June 2021.
Until 30 September 2021, the current amendments to the required notice periods will remain in place and all private landlords must continue to give their tenants a period of six months’ notice before raising legal proceedings in most cases. The notice period may be shorter in certain circumstances. For example:
The notice period will be three months where:
- the landlord or member of the landlord’s family intends to live in the let property;
- the landlord is not registered under the Antisocial Behaviour etc.(Scotland) Act 2004; or
- the let property is not licensed under Part 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006.
The notice period will be 28 days where:
- the tenant is not occupying the let property as their home;
- the tenant has a relevant conviction;
- the tenant has engaged in relevant anti-social behaviour; or
- the tenant associates in the let property with a person who has a relevant conviction or has engaged in relevant anti-social behaviour.
The above notice periods relate to notices served on or after 3 October 2020.
It is also important to be aware that the 2020 Act made all of the above grounds for eviction discretionary. The Tribunal will now be required to decide whether it is reasonable for an eviction order to be granted. This will allow the Tribunal to consider all the circumstances of the case.
Pre- Action Requirements
In addition to extended notice periods, the recent changes have seen the introduction of pre-action requirements for private landlords seeking to evict tenants for rent arrears. These requirements include providing your tenant with information regarding their tenancy, attempting to enter into an affordable repayment arrangement and providing your tenant with details of free and independent sources of debt management advice. The Scottish Government have published guidance for private landlords on pre-action requirements which might be of assistance.
Additional support is available to both you as a landlord and your tenant during these unprecedented times.
Both the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund and the Private Rent Sector (non-business) Covid-19 Loan Scheme will continue to offer interest-free loans beyond the original deadline of 31 March 2021. The former scheme offers loans to those tenants unable to access other forms of financial support while the latter offers loans to private landlords whose tenants are struggling to pay rent during the pandemic.
The UK government also increased the Local Housing Allowance Rates in 2020 which is a change that is set to stay in 2021/22.
The government have indicated that the eviction bans will be reviewed every 21 days to ensure that they remain necessary in the protection against the spread of Covid-19. Should you wish further information or advice, please get in touch with our team.