Embargoed Until: 00:01hrs Wednesday August 1 2012
COMMENTING on the introduction of new laws from the Scottish Government to try to prevent evictions in the social rented sector, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) warned that impending financial hardship for tenants, and the introduction of a complicated new benefits system, may pose a bigger problem for tenants.
From today (Wednesday August 1 2012), under amendments to the Housing Scotland Act (2010), social landlords (housing associations, co-operatives and councils) will be required to undertake a series of actions before they can refer a tenant to court for eviction action.
Tenants must be offered housing benefits advice and landlords must take proactive steps to put in place a reasonable payment plan.
Andy Young, policy manager at the SFHA, said:
“Scotland’s housing associations and co-operatives do not evict tenants in a cavalier fashion and evictions are only ever used as a last resort. Our members have worked hard over recent years to drastically reduce the number of tenants being evicted for rent arrears, and now only less than 1% of tenancies end this way.
“We do however view it as a necessary, if sparingly used, sanction for persistent non-payment of rent.
“These additional requirements coming into effect today reflect the good practice that currently exists within the sector and will therefore have a negligible effect on our members, most of whom already provide high quality advice and financial planning to tenants who are struggling to pay their rent.
“However, forthcoming changes to welfare payments will prove a bigger challenge, as the proposed changes are likely to cause confusion, additional financial hardship for tenants, and increased work for social landlords to help prevent evictions.
“This massive extra burden on housing associations and co-operatives comes at a time of decreasing budgets and extra pressure on resources.”
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1) The SFHA was established in 1975 and has around 170 members providing affordable housing and wider community services in Scotland, as well as a further 200 commercial members. The SFHA is owned by its membership and exists to support the work of housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland by providing services, advice and good practice guidance.
2) The SFHA is the voice of the principal builders and managers of new affordable housing for rent in Scotland. Housing Associations own and manage around 40 per cent of the country’s affordable rented housing stock, over a quarter of a million homes across Scotland.
3) Housing associations and co-operatives are not-for-profit bodies regulated by the Scottish Housing Regulator.