As COVID-19 continues to pose a significant threat to public health, the Scottish Government have moved to continue some of the emergency regulations which were introduced at the outset of the pandemic, including evictions.
Currently being debated, the Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill looks to extend the temporary changes in relation to the eviction of tenants and the pre action requirements required for property possession on the ground of rent arrears.
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 introduced temporary changes to the private rented sector that all grounds for possession would be discretionary until 30th September 2021, the date of expiry of the act.
With the pandemic an unknown quantity for everyone, agents and landlords accepted the changes pragmatically, appreciating the measures would be temporary.
But whilst a large focus has been on tenants affected by the pandemic; it must be remembered that landlords too have suffered. Many have lost business or jobs and are facing financially difficulty, and it is when those landlords have tried to recover their property, they have found that it is up to a tribunal to decide their fate; whose interests are best served and whether they will grant an eviction order or not.
There is a school of thought that the Bill is only the start of a long-term Scottish Government agenda to keep the grounds for possession as discretionary. In the 2021 Election manifesto they proposed introducing a Rented Sector Strategy and a Housing Bill which will ‘increase protection for tenants’ whilst separately carrying out a full review of the current tenancy regime.
The Bill, if passed will extend the temporary measures until March 2022 with the provision to be extended until September 2022, this would provide enough time for new legislation to go through the Parliamentary process and to be implemented.
If this is a long-term vision of the Scottish Government, there must be a plan to guarantee sufficient housing is available to replace those properties they are undoubtedly going to lose from the private rented sector.
The fundamental nature of property right is that the owner, within reason, should be entitled to use it as they wish and in leaving this right in the hands of another, who may be making them stay in the sector against their wishes will certainly see landlords leave the sector in droves.