Social housing evictions 'harder'

housesA law which makes it harder for councils and housing associations to evict tenants for failing to pay their rent has come into place in Scotland.

Changes introduced by the Housing Scotland Act 2010 mean social landlords now need to undertake a series of actions before going to court to evict a tenant.
Housing charity Shelter Scotland welcomed the move, saying that, in the past, too many of these landlords have used the threat of eviction as a method of collecting rent.

Director Graeme Brown said 78,000 threats of eviction were issued against council and housing association tenants last year.

The new legislation requires social landlords to meet seven key actions, called pre-action requirements, such as offering tenants advice on housing benefit and making reasonable efforts to agree a repayment plan for rent arrears. Tenants will also get a final chance to reach agreement with the landlord on repayments after a court eviction order has been granted.

Councils carried out 1,061 evictions in the 2010-11 financial year, with other social landlords evicting 761 tenants, Shelter Scotland said. Overall, 1,822 evictions were made by local authorities and housing associations that year, 17% less than in 2009-10 and 49% lower than four years ago.

Mr Brown said Shelter Scotland has long-campaigned to make eviction for rent arrears a last resort for social landlords. "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."

Infrastructure and Capital Investment Secretary Alex Neil said: "Social tenants are required to meet the obligations in their tenancy agreement, including paying their rent. From today all social landlords will be required to follow a consistent set of practices before they can evict tenants who fall behind on their rental payments."

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