This year Scottish Housing Day 2020 is focusing on the value of social housing and the difference it makes. At Brodies, we have been considering the crucial role social housing has played in Scotland's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The eviction restriction

To prevent the possible housing crisis arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 extended the notice period required to be given to tenants before they could be evicted. Specifically, a tenant must be provided with a six month notice period, where eviction is sought for non-payment of rent. The Scottish Government's position has been crucial in keeping tenants in social housing and relieving the strain on homelessness services; because, as a result of the pandemic many will have seen their income reduced.

This has ensured the continuity of social housing. The Scottish Housing Regulator's monthly COVID-19 dashboard show that, since they started tracking the statistics in June, only 4 social landlord tenancies have been recovered for non-payment of rent. This compares with a monthly average of 178 for the year 2018/19.

The use of temporary accommodation – Homeless persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2020 ("Order")

In response to the pandemic, the Scottish Government brought forward the extension of the restriction on temporary unsuitable accommodation (e.g. bed and breakfast accommodation). This provides that no homeless person should spend more than seven days in temporary accommodation. However, an exemption has been applied. Local authorities will not be in breach of the Order where bed & breakfast accommodation or hotels are being used as a necessity to assist with the COVID-19 response.

This has led to the number of households in temporary accommodation rising from 11,665 on 31 March 2020 to 14,174 on 31 July 2020. While this has been necessary to reducing the number of those without any accommodation and in fighting the pandemic, it also demonstrates the continued need for social housing. When the pandemic has passed, these households will need to be moved to permanent accommodation so that local authorities do not breach the Order.

Social housing after the pandemic

One clear negative effect of the pandemic has been an increase in the instances of domestic abuse. In an effort to tackle this, the Scottish Government has introduced the new Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament. This will give the police the power to bar a suspected abuser from a property and will make it easier for social landlords to transfer a tenancy from an abuser to the victim of abuse. The aim is that no victim is made homeless as a result of domestic abuse.

Social housing has been instrumental in the Scottish response to COVID-19, both in terms of ensuring people are not hit by financial hardship and that people are not street homeless where they are more exposed to the virus. This highlights the value of social housing and how it can be used by the public sector to fulfil their legal duties.

For more information on any of the topics raised above, please contact Fiona McLeod or your usual Brodies contact.


Fiona McLeod

Legal Director