Housing Scotland Act to protect tenants from eviction

A law which makes it harder for councils and housing associations to evict tenants for failing to pay their rent has come into force.

Changes introduced by the Housing Scotland Act 2010 mean landlords must offer help before going to court.

Landlords must now show they have taken steps like trying to set up repayment plans for rent arrears, before taking eviction action.

Housing charity Shelter Scotland welcomed the move.

According to the charity, councils carried out 1,061 evictions in the 2010-11 financial year, with other social landlords evicting 761 tenants.

Shelter director Graeme Brown said: "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."

Other pre-eviction requirements landlords now have to meet include offering advice on housing benefit and giving tenants the opportunity to agree repayments after a court eviction order has been granted.

'Early intervention'

The Scottish government's Infrastructure and Capital Investment Secretary, Alex Neil, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme the legislation would ensure it was still possible for bad tenants to be evicted.

He added: "People who absolutely refuse to pay, for example, should be evicted, but that number of people will be very, very few indeed.

"There were 14,500 court cases brought by councils and housing associations, and only 12% of them ended in eviction.

"What we are putting in place should prevent a lot of those cases ever having to get to court, because early intervention will be much more successful".

But the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations claimed the new law was like using a "hammer to crack a nut".

Andy Young, the association's policy manager, told Good Morning Scotland the legislation would not result in fewer evictions.

He added: "It is not in anybody's interests to evict a tenant, either from a business sense or from a social sense either.

"The new rules that come into force today simply reflect what's currently happening in the sector anyway.

"Just over a quarter of 1% of housing association tenancies ended in eviction last year - around 750 or 760 tenancies. That is a tiny proportion and I think that proves we do only evict as a last resort".

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