SCOTLAND’S leading housing and homelessness charity has welcomed new Scottish Government legislation which aims to avoid eviction of people struggling to pay their rent without giving them a reasonable chance to pay their arrears first.
Under new rules set out by Scottish Ministers which come into force today (1 August), all social landlords such as housing associations and councils, will have to show they have taken reasonable steps to try and avoid eviction before starting proceedings to force a tenant to leave their home.
The legislation – known as Pre-Action Requirements or PARs – sets out seven key actions landlords must take before starting eviction proceedings for rent arrears. These include providing the tenant with advice and assistance on financial help available and making reasonable efforts to agree a plan for the payment of arrears and any future rent.
The requirements do not cover anti-social neighbours whom the charity believes local communities need to be protected from.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said:
“We have long-campaigned to make eviction for rent arrears a last resort for social landlords. As a result of our work, eviction numbers have almost halved over the last four years. However, with 78,000 threats of eviction issued last year, too many social landlords are still using the threat of eviction as a rent collection method.
“From today, social tenants will be afforded the same protection as homeowners, which, at a time when cuts are hitting home and more people are struggling with household budgets, can only be good news.
“There are instances where eviction is an appropriate course of action – for example for anti-social behaviour where the removal of problem neighbours protects communities. However, where families and individuals are struggling to pay their rent, we hope that landlords continue to work with tenants and use the pre-action requirements as a means of solving the problem.
“Eviction is a blunt and often ineffective way of dealing with debt and along with progressive landlords, tenants groups and everyone who is committed to homelessness prevention, we hope the introduction of pre-action requirements will further reduce the number of evictions for rent arrears.”
According to Shelter Scotland’s annual investigation into evictions, there were 1,822 evictions in 2010/2011 – 17 per cent fewer than the previous year – bringing the total cut in evictions to 49 per cent since Shelter Scotland started publishing its annual analysis four years ago.
In 2010/11 there were 1,061 evictions by local authorities and 761 by RSLs. Of the 26 local authority landlords, only two showed a significant increase in evictions.
Graeme Brown added:
“Our research shows that in the last year the number of tenants in arrears actually fell by 1% while the total amount of rent arrears rose slightly by six per cent. Significantly, several social landlords saw a reduction in both evictions and arrears – dispelling the myth that reducing evictions leads inevitably to an increase in money owed.
“The introduction of pre-action requirements will build on this progress to ensure security and affordability remains at the heart of social housing and that families and individuals struggling to pay their rent are at least given a chance to pay off what they owe and keep their home.”
Notes to Editors:
- A copy of Shelter Scotland’s latest Evictions Report can be downloaded from here: http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/professional_resources/policy_library/policy_library_folder/evictions_by_social_landlords_in_scotland_2010-11
- Shelter Scotland provides expert support services, online advice and a free national helpline for everyone facing housing and homelessness difficulties. For advice and support visit http://scotland.shelter.org.uk or call 0808 800 4444.
- Spokespeople are available for interview – call the media office on 0844 515 2442. An ISDN line is available for broadcast interviews.
- Follow Shelter Scotland on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/shelterinscotland Twitter – http://twitter.com/shelterscotland
Shelter Scotland believes everyone should have a home. We help people find and keep a home. We campaign for decent housing for all.
Contact: Shelter Scotland