20/03/2020

COVID-19: advice for renters in Scotland

20/03/2020

COVID-19: advice for renters in Scotland

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As the coronavirus spreads, most people will be living with the worry about how it’s going to affect their everyday life.

One of the biggest concerns in everyone’s minds is how to keep on top of your finances during this time of crisis. Within this, there’s the fear of losing your home, especially to those who are renting.

What does the coronavirus mean for Scottish renters?

Usually, if you default on your rent payments your landlord will go through the process of evicting you.

However, during this unprecedented time, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to protect tenants impacted by the virus from eviction, stating that “no one should become homeless during the coronavirus crisis as a result of rent arrears.”

She advised she will take action against social landlords threatening to evict any tenants suffering from financial difficulty due to the virus, stating that she will “intervene” in any situation that is putting a person in an unfair position.

It was also announced that the Scottish Government will be extending the period that protects tenants from being evicted from three months to six months.

However, when this will happen is unclear and many people will still be left confused.
As such, we’re offering advice and guidance about how to manage your rent through the coronavirus outbreak.

I’m struggling with my rent, what should I do?

If you find yourself struggling with your rent due to the virus, then contact your landlord immediately and make them aware. Given the current state of affairs, they’re more likely to be understanding and it will prevent any escalation.

If you can afford to pay even a small amount towards your rent, we advise that you do so. Paying something is better than nothing, and it will help you avoid building up a high balance to repay.

For those whose income has been reduced as a result of the virus, it’s also a good idea to check if you are entitled to any benefits that could give you a boost and help you pay something towards your rent. If you’re already on benefits, then you may see an increase in your payments in the coming weeks to help ensure your rent is covered.

Is it possible to defer your payments?

Unlike the UK government, the Scottish Government hasn’t made any announcements regarding the ability to defer rent payments for those affected by the coronavirus. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not an option for some.

This will depend on individual landlords, but you may be able to come to an agreement that allows you to have a break in rent payments until you can get back on your feet.

It’s important to note, however, that if you do manage to do this you will need to make an arrangement to catch up on the payments you missed.

I live in council/social housing, what support will I get?

Although nothing has been officially confirmed, it seems from the First Minister’s statements that these tenants will be protected from eviction.

However, our advice is to check with your individual landlord for their current procedures.

There have also been calls for a ban on evictions by other members of parliament such as the leader of the Green Party Patrick Harvie. As such we advise keeping an eye on the news for any updates on this.

What happens if I am off sick for some time, my hours are reduced, or I am put on unpaid leave?

Depending on your employer and contract, you may be entitled to full sick pay; so, it’s best to check this as soon as possible to help make sure you have plans in place.

For those who aren’t entitled to this, you could instead be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), which you will receive from day one instead of the usual four. This will be the case even if you have no symptoms.

SSP will pay you £94.25 per week, but in order to qualify, you must earn at least £118 a week.

It’s also been requested for the requirement for evidence of sickness to be relaxed or waived altogether, which could mean that you won’t need to hand in a sick note to your employer.

For those who are self-employed, then you will likely not qualify for SSP. Instead, you can apply for welfare benefits such as Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance to cover you whilst you can’t work.

What support do landlords have?

Although the focus from the government is on tenants, a thought does have to be spared for the landlords, who will also have trouble with their mortgage payments.

This, in a sense, is a chain reaction, meaning everyone is struggling in one way or another.

However, there is support available for landlords. The majority of banks are now offering temporary loans or the option to defer mortgage payments for up to three months.

If your finances have been affected by the coronavirus and you’re struggling with debts, we can help. Contact us today on 0808 2085 195.

You could write off up to 75% of unsecured debt with our debt assistant.

Get free advice

 

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