Coronavirus: Charities welcome extended eviction ban in Scotland

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Housing charities have welcomed a proposal for a six-month extension to Scotland's ban on evicting renters amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the ban, due to end in September, should now run until March 2021.

Charity Crisis said the move showed "real leadership," whilst Shelter said the "decisive action" would help thousands of renters.

A similar ban in England and Wales is due to end later this month.

In England, ministers have said allowing eviction hearings to resume is an important step towards protecting landlords' rights.

The Welsh Government has announced a £8m loan scheme for private sector tenants who have built up rent arrears during the pandemic.

The ban on new evictions in England and Wales, for both social and private renters, is now due to be lifted on 23 August.

It was originally due to finish at the end of June before being extended for two months.

The government has said new repossession rules in England will provide appropriate protection for renters after eviction court hearings resume.

Under the new rules, landlords will have to say how the pandemic has affected their tenants financially when applying for a hearing.

They will also be required to produce a tenant's full rent arrears history in advance of proceedings, rather than at the hearing itself.

But Labour has branded the new rules "toothless" and called for emergency protection to strengthen protection for renters.

Ms Sturgeon said extending the eviction ban in Scotland would help stop people becoming homeless as a result of the pandemic.

The move will require the consent of the Scottish Parliament but is unlikely to be blocked.

Speaking on Wednesday, the SNP leader said it showed Scottish ministers were doing "everything we can" to protect renters.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the move would "help thousands keep a roof over their head".

"It's really encouraging to see the Scottish and Welsh governments taking decisive action to protect renters," she said.

She called for ministers in England to give judges "new powers to ensure no renter is made homeless because of Covid-19" when Parliament returns from its summer recess in early September.

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Image caption,
Shelter estimates the number of private tenants in arrears in England has doubled since March.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said the Scottish government had shown "real leadership" by prolonging the evictions ban.

He added that it would provide renters with "much-needed breathing space" whilst they deal with pandemic-related financial difficulties.

In response to the proposal to extend the ban in Scotland, the National Residential Landlords Association said any move to do so in England and Wales was "not necessary".

Its deputy director of policy and research John Stewart said its research showed the "vast majority" of landlords and tenants were "working together constructively to sustain tenancies".

"Over 95 per cent of tenants are paying their rent or have made an arrangement with their landlord to avoid arrears," he added.

"We need the courts to deal with cases where tenants are committing anti-social behaviour or there are long-standing rent arrears that have nothing to do with the pandemic.

"Over the last five months landlords have been powerless to take any action against those who cause misery for fellow tenants and neighbours."

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