News

Protecting tenants during pandemic

Published: 27 Jun 2021 00:01

Landlords reaffirm commitment to avoiding evictions.

Housing Secretary Shona Robison has welcomed new joint statements from landlords reaffirming their commitment to supporting tenants facing difficulties during the pandemic.

Signed by representative bodies for local authorities, housing associations and private landlords, the statements underline the sector’s commitment to only taking eviction action as a last resort.

The move follows this week’s announcement by Deputy First Minister John Swinney of a £10 million grant fund to support tenants struggling to pay their rent as a direct result of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The new fund takes the Scottish Government’s total support for tenants during the pandemic to almost £39 million.

Ms 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 £10 million 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. When landlords are flexible with their tenants, signposting them to the range of financial support that is available and coming to agreements to prevent and manage rent arrears, this sustains tenancies and keeps people in their homes, benefitting everyone. These actions are crucial to move towards a sustainable and fair recovery from the impact of COVID-19.”

Cllr Kelly Parry, COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, said:

“Local authorities have worked closely with tenants during the public health crisis, to support them to stay in their homes. This is something we were doing previously, but became even more important as our homes became even more important to us over the months of the pandemic. I am glad to see the sector restate their commitment to support tenants, and would encourage any tenant facing financial challenges to work closely with their landlord and seek advice and guidance early.”

Sally Thomas, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations Chief Executive, 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, Scottish Association of Landlords Chief Executive, 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. Our members have been working closely with tenants to reduce rents and write off arrears wherever possible.

“We strongly welcome the £10 million grant fund the Scottish Government has announced to help ensure tenants do not build up debt through rent arrears that they would struggle to repay. It is important landlords remain sensitive and constructive when working with their tenants, and that tenants struggling due to the pandemic speak to their landlord as early as possible.”

Background

Shared Statement: Social landlords working together with tenants to avoid evictions

Shared Statement: Private landlords and letting agents working together with tenants to avoid evictions

These statements have been agreed by the Scottish Federation of Housing Association, the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations and COSLA, as representatives of social landlords. The Scottish Association of Landlords has signed as a representative body for private landlords.

In December 2020, the Scottish Government introduced a £10 million tenant hardship loan fund, offering an interest free loan to those in financial hardship. We also increased the amount of money available through Discretionary Housing Payments this year by £8 million to almost £19 million in response to the pandemic.

Ministers will now explore policies and financial support available for supporting sustainable tenancies and work to improve our understanding of those evictions that do take place. A new campaign raising awareness of tenants’ rights will launch by the end of the year.