Tenants in Scotland will be protected from eviction for six weeks under tough new legislation set to keep people in their homes over winter.
The full ban will make it illegal to evict anyone unless there is evidence of anti-social behaviour, after previous rules meant people could still be evicted if they were given notice before the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We welcome the announcement that no evictions will be enforced over the next six weeks,” housing charity Shelter Scotland said.
“No one should be forced out of their home this winter. Congrats to all the campaigners who fought for this.
“But this is a very short-term fix. We still need permanent solutions.”
We welcome @scotgov's announcement that no evictions will be enforced over the next 6 weeks. No one should be forced out of their home this winter. Congrats to all the campaigners who fought for this.
But this is a very short-term fix. We still need permanent solutions. https://t.co/IWHmJogfHK
— Shelter Scotland (@shelterscotland) December 3, 2020
From December 11 until January 22, the ban will reduce pressure on councils who have to find housing for people made homeless through evictions. It should also make it possible for people to self-isolate ahead of Covid-19 restrictions being eased over Christmas, the Scottish Government said.
Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman has been pushing for greater tenant protections since early in the pandemic, collecting more than 1,000 signatures for a petition demanding a full winter eviction ban.
“I am delighted that the First Minister has finally recognised the urgent need for more protections for tenants during this pandemic,” Wightman said. “These new regulations will ensure that no sheriff officers can kick down a tenant’s door and throw them out this winter.
“This is welcome reprieve for tenants on evictions, but only brings Scotland in line with what has happened in England. It would have been far better if ministers had listened to my proposals in May for a full evictions ban so that no one would be getting served notices during this crisis.”
Breaking: We're delighted to hear confirmation that relentless campaigning by @AndyWightman, @Living_Rent and campaigners across the country has paid off and no evictions will take place over the Christmas and New Year period! #FMQs | #EvictionBan pic.twitter.com/m2gmqDcP6S
— Scottish Greens (@scotgp) December 3, 2020
The UK Government banned mandatory evictions in England between March and September only before promising a “winter truce” – which told councils not to use bailiffs to evict people before January 11. This protection “may not be legally binding and may not be well understood by households vulnerable to eviction,” according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, “who may feel they have no option but to leave their home if they receive an eviction notice.”
Wightman added: “As we look towards creating a fairer post-Covid Scotland, the pandemic has raised wider questions about whether anyone should be ordered to leave their home during a Scottish winter. France, for example, does not allow it to happen in a normal year.”
Scotland’s housing minister, Kevin Stewart, said: “We took early action to, in effect, halt eviction action until March 2021 due to the pandemic. We have supported tenants throughout this difficult period through a number of actions including increasing our Discretionary Housing Fund from £11 million to £19 million to provide additional housing support and shortly we will introduce our Tenant Hardship Loan Fund.
“We are now taking this additional, temporary step after carefully assessing the unique housing situation created by the pandemic.
“A temporary ban on carrying out evictions will give additional peace of mind to tenants over Christmas and into the new year. It will also prevent additional burdens being placed on health and housing services, during a time where they are already working hard due to the impact of the pandemic.
“Where there is evidence of serious anti-social or criminal behaviour, including in cases of domestic abuse, evictions can still proceed as normal.”