New deal for tenants - rented sector reform proposals: consultation

Background for tenants and landlords who wish to respond to our landlord and tenant engagement questionnaire on rented sector reform, which is asking for views on some of the details of the proposals.

Changes to social housing pre-action requirements to reflect the potential impact of domestic abuse

The issue

The Pre-action requirements are a number of steps social landlords must take in all rent arrears cases before commencing legal action to recover possession of a property.

They are aimed at providing further protection for tenants facing eviction for rent arrears by: creating greater consistency in practice between landlords; making sure landlords and tenants explore other ways of resolving arrears; and ensuring that eviction for rent arrears is a last resort

Pre-action requirements do not currently require specific consideration of rent arrears caused by domestic abuse.

The Improving Housing Outcomes for Women and Children Experiencing Domestic Abuse report explains that financial abuse is a significant element of coercive control in domestic abuse. Research suggests that 89% of women experience financial abuse as part of domestic abuse. It involves a perpetrator using or misusing money to limit and control their partner. It can leave a woman with personal debt including rent arrears, which she may not know about.

Families in which there is domestic abuse are four times more likely to lose their homes because of rent arrears than the general population of tenants.

We want to strengthen the protection for domestic abuse victims and their children to remain in the home, or to be rehoused, if that is their wish and ensure rent arrears accrued as a result of domestic abuse are not a barrier to accessing social housing.

Overview of proposed change

76. We are considering a new pre-action requirement to ensure social landlords have fully considered all forms of domestic abuse, including coercive control, and the impact it can have before commencing legal action to recover possession of a property.

77. Domestic abuse would be defined by reference to the definition in the Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Act 2021 which defines abusive behaviour as behaviour likely to cause the person the behaviour is directed against to suffer physical or psychological harm. This definition covers financial abuse.

78. Where a social landlord has reason to believe that a tenant has experienced domestic abuse, and that domestic abuse is a factor in the reason why the tenant failed to pay rent or has accumulated arrears in the tenants name, the landlord would be required to fully consider further actions that could assist the individual.

79. If progressed, this would include for example, the social landlord considering their own domestic abuse policy and any further specialist services that the individual could be referred on to for support when assessing the further actions the social landlord could take in respect of the individual.

80. To support implementation, we expect that information about how to assess whether someone is experiencing arrears caused by domestic abuse would be set out in guidance.

81. As is currently the case, landlords would be required to confirm to the court that they had met all of the pre-action requirements where the grounds for possession include rent arrears. This would include the new domestic abuse related pre-action requirement.

82. The questionnaire seeks views on the proposal.



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