22 May Joint Call For Extension of Moratorium on Evictions
Evictions in Scotland do not take place immediately should a tenant find themself in financial trouble. The system for starting eviction proceedings in Scotland takes a number of months from when a tenant first finds themselves unable to pay their rent. Eviction is not inevitable. The rationale for protecting tenants from eviction and preventing homelessness during COVID extends beyond any return to a normal version of society.
To be evicted in Scotland takes a number of months from start to finish. The moratorium on evictions, although welcome will not necessarily protect people who have been or will be affected by COVID. While we commend the Scottish Government for placing a moratorium on evictions during these trying times, it is evident that in order to actually protect people affected by COVID the moratorium on evictions must be extended beyond the Scottish Government currently plans
We would go further to say that where a person or family can demonstrate that their financial difficulties came about due to COVID, no eviction should take place as long as the person or family are actively trying to ensure their rent arrears are dealt with.
We need to give tenants time to fix their financial affairs. Due to changes in their circumstances, many existing claimants have been moved onto Universal Credit. Many other people are finding themselves in situations where they are relying on the state for their income for the first time in their lives. Others are facing financial hardships they would not normally be facing had it not been for COVID. People who lack experience of using the benefits system are confused by its complexity and it can be a difficult process to go through both practically and emotionally. If we accept this, then we also have to accept that in order to protect people who are affected by COVID we need to extend the moratorium on evictions
We know that the UC system can take a long time to process. This has been further impacted by the tens of thousands of additional claimants that have recently tried to access the benefits system for the first time.
We understand that housing associations, private landlords and local authorities require rents to be paid. However, we strongly believe that during this time period we need to ensure that tenants are afforded rights in order to avoid becoming homeless. To make it clear, we are not calling for tenants to not pay their rent. We are asking for tenants to be given additional time to get their finances in order.
For the Scottish Government to actually protect people affected by COVID, they must extend the moratorium on evictions beyond the timescales originally set out. As this is dependent on when the various restrictions are lifted, it is not possible to set a date as yet. We call on the Government to extend the moratorium on evictions and only decide when this moratorium is to be lifted AFTER the restrictions around COVID have been lifted.
Now is not the time for action plans and complicated but vague requests of the Scottish Government from our industry. Now is the time for simple, yet effective legislation which protects our vulnerable citizens who have suffered at the hands of the worst pandemic in modern history.
The Scottish Government has given a handout to landlords with the passing of the second Coronavirus Bill. We recommend that the Scottish Government now considers giving a hand up to tenants.
We are calling on a moratorium on evictions due to the financial fallout of COVID-19 until we can be sure the horrors of COVID have left Scotland and people are able to live normal lives again
Homeless Action Scotland, Govan Law Centre, Cyrenians, Age Concern, Unison Scotland, Aberdeen Cyrenians, Living Rent Campaign and LSA have all jointly called for this measure and we hope that our colleagues across the homeless sector and ultimately the Scottish Government take heed.
If you would like to add your voice to this call you can sign and show your support here.