02/04/2020

Greater protection for Scottish tenants during coronavirus outbreak

02/04/2020

Greater protection for Scottish tenants during coronavirus outbreak

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People who rent their homes in Scotland now have greater protection from eviction during the COVID-19 outbreak, thanks to emergency powers unveiled yesterday (April 1).

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill, which was unanimously supported by the Scottish Parliament, increases the minimum notice period for private and social tenants facing eviction for up to six months, depending on the grounds used.

As well as protecting the public, the new legislation also helps maintain essential public service and aid the economy during the coronavirus crisis.

What is the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill?

The bill allows the Scottish Government to use new emergency measures to offer more support for people renting their homes in the private and social sectors.

The measures will also aid in delivering provisions to help businesses, consumers and public services to continue to operate during the outbreak.

People and some small businesses that are unable to repay debts due to the outbreak will be able to apply for a six-month ‘breathing space’ period. This will allow them to seek money advice and find long-term solutions to repay debts.

Furthermore, it will also allow the Scottish Government to make adjustments to the criminal justice system to ensure the continuation of essential services.

MSPs voted unanimously to pass the legislation which will work alongside additional emergency legislation passed at Westminster last week.

Speaking of the bill, Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said: “Scotland is facing an unprecedented situation. This emergency bill delivers necessary powers that will allow us to prioritise tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

“People across the country have responded magnificently as we work together to save lives. It is in that spirit of co-operation and consensus that we have worked across parliament to pass these vital – time-limited – measures,

“By unanimously passing this bill, the parliament has ensured practical help will be given to many businesses and to people struggling financially because of the crisis.

“The Scottish Government will continue to engage across parties to help the country get through this most testing of times.”

 “This is absolutely the right thing to do”

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has welcomed the suspension of evictions, hailing it as a ‘the right thing to do.’

As people across the country face a reduction in hours, being furloughed or redundancy, the new legislation offers welcome breathing space for those most in need.

Sally Thomas, SFHA Chief Executive, said: “SFHA agrees with the Scottish Government that evictions should be suspended for those experiencing financial hardship caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

“This is absolutely the right thing to do in order to support people who are struggling financially.

“We welcome the measures that are being put in place for evictions in relation to anti-social and criminal behaviour as it is vital that housing associations can put the safety and wellbeing of those affected by such actions first and take appropriate steps to deal with this.”

Housing associations should provide welfare support

However, Ms Thomas called on tenants to continue to pay their rent if they are still able to in a bid to support social landlords during the crisis.

As rent payments cover the cost of essential repairs and maintenance work, continued payment is essential to ensure the health and safety of Scots as coronavirus continues to impact communities across the country.

She also urged housing associations to continue to help residents access welfare support – ensuring financial inclusion for all, especially those impacted by the virus.

“Rental income is vital for social landlords,” she continued.

“It allows them to provide support and services for tenants and to carry out essential repairs and maintenance work. These frontline services are needed to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of tenants, and it is critical that they can continue during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It is crucial that tenants who are able to do so continue to pay their rent. Social landlords have always worked hard to help their tenants to manage their rent through tenancy support, welfare advice and financial inclusion services – and they will continue to do this.

“Housing associations will work with tenants to ensure they are aware of, and accessing, the social security support, such as Universal Credit, for which they may be eligible.

“However, we have alerted Scottish Government to the likely need for financial support for housing associations and co-operatives that experience income loss due to a reduction in rent payments.

“This support is more important than ever as we all work together to minimise the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable people in our communities, many of whom live in social housing.”

Advice for those facing employment and financial uncertainty

Anyone facing employment and financial uncertainty during the coronavirus outbreak should be aware of the financial support that is available to them.

If you are unable to work because of the virus, have your working hours reduced, or are self-employed you may be entitled to benefits.

Anyone self-isolating because they’ve fallen ill because of the virus or forced to self-isolate because a family member has shown symptoms, can apply for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

SSP pays £94.25 per week and is available to those who earn at least £118 per week.

For those who aren’t eligible for SSP could also be eligible for welfare benefits such as Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance to cover you whilst you can’t work.

Further details about benefit support available during the outbreak and advice about how to apply can be found here.

 

If you’re worried about managing debt during the coronavirus outbreak, talk to Carrington Dean. Our team of expert advisors is proud to provide a dedicated and professional service to help you through this difficult time. Call 0808 253 3466 for free advice.

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