Social housing evictions slowed

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New laws making it more difficult for social landlords to evict tenants have been welcomed by South Ayrshire Council.

After changes to the Housing Scotland Act (2010) were approved by the Scottish Parliament last week, councils and housing associations will be required by law to undertake ‘pre-action requirements’ before they can start eviction proceedings.

Statistics from Shelter Scotland indicate there were nearly 80,000 threats of eviction issued last year, while nearly more than 1800 evictions went ahead.

But under new regulations landlords will have to go through seven stages before going to court, including offering their tenant advice on housing benefit and make reasonable efforts to agree a payment plan for rent arrears.

Tenants will also have a final chance to agree this after a court eviction order has been granted.

While Shelter’s figures show evictions have nearly halved in the past four years, director Graeme Brown said the new rules will help stop threat of eviction – which he termed a “blunt and often ineffective way of dealing with debt “ – being used as a rent collection method.

“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,” he said.

Kenny Leinster, South Ayrshire Council’s head of community care and housing, said the new legal requirements reflect South Ayrshire Council’s existing policies and “strong track record” on financial support.

He said emphasis on the early stages of resolving rent arrears will be implemented more consistently across Scotland under the new rules however.

Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Alex Neil, added: “This Government is committed to ensuring that all social housing tenants have access to the information and advice they require to live in a peaceful and secure environment.”

Mr Neil also referred to the “huge drain on public resources” resulting from court proceedings, few of which result in tenant eviction.