On Friday 18 June 2021, the Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill 2021 (the "Bill") was introduced to Scottish Parliament as an emergency bill on 18 June 2021 and was subsequently debated from 22 to 24 June. On Friday 25 June, the Bill was passed bringing into effect another set of extensions and expirations.
Of the extensions to be enacted (of which there are 34) is the continuation of the extended notice period for eviction from 28 days to six months (except in the case of criminal or antisocial behaviour). The extended notice period applies to social housing providers in all local authority areas. In addition, the Bill extends the provisions that eviction orders cannot be enforced in those local authority areas in Level 3 or 4.
The Bill proposes that the extended notice period is kept in place for a further six months beyond its original expiry date (30 September 2021) based on the negative impacts of the pandemic tenants may only now be experiencing. Potential redundancy following the end of the furlough scheme also forms part of the Scottish Government's justification.
With the enactment of the Bill the six months' notice period obligation on landlords will remain in force until 31 March 2022.
This additional extension (the third of its type) has attracted a mixed reaction across the sector as documented in the Bill's Policy Memorandum.
Groups including Shelter Scotland and Citizens Advice Scotland have reacted positively. They advise that the impact of the relatively recent easing of restrictions will likely not be felt until later in the summer, thus certainty and protections for tenants is vital. Representatives of a number of registered social landlords have also welcomed the provisions describing the approach as "sensible".
The Scottish Association of Landlords have recognised the importance of exhausting all other options before proceeding with eviction proceedings in a recent statement encouraging landlords to "work with their tenants and always treat eviction action as a last resort".
The SFHA, however, has expressed its scepticism stating that what is required is "increased support to people who are struggling to pay their rent…and further awareness of help that is available" as opposed extended notice period for eviction orders. The Scottish Association of Landlords has mirrored these concerns.
In response to these concerns and an additional report published by the SFHA, on 24 June 2021, the Scottish Government announced a £10 million grant fund for tenants who have fallen into rent arears as a result of the pandemic.
While the Bill's provisions cover extensions and expiries in relation to the housing sector (private and social), it stretches a lot further with particular emphasis on social work. For further information on how the Bill will affect those involved with social work within local authorities follow this link to our blog on the topic.
If you have any questions in relation to the above, please do not hesitate to get in contact with Fiona McLeod.