The Scottish Government’s ban on evictions should not end at the same time as lockdown, MSP have heard.
Over the winter, landlords were not allowed to actively remove tenants from their properties in most circumstances, extending the policy already in place through emergency coronavirus laws which meant eviction proceedings could not begin.
Following an extension in January, the Scottish Government has announced it is continuing the ban on evictions beyond March 31.
Shelter Scotland said the measures should remain in place for some time to come, so the full economic impact, particularly on workers and their jobs, is understood.
Alison Watson, director of the charity which helps vulnerable people with concerns over housing, told the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 Committee: “I think there’s a real sense for us of the worst is still to come for a lot of people who rent.
“So I don’t think we can have the ending of eviction measures just when we come out of lockdown.
“I think we need to understand what is the full extent of the economic fallout and consequences for people in terms of jobs and income going forward before we can make definite measures.”
Ms Watson also said there could be a chance for Scotland to reshape its already world-leading housing policy and make it even better.
“I think there’s an opportunity for us to be more progressive here,” she said.
“Scotland has a fantastic track record on housing rights, we have internationally recognised housing rights – they are the most progressive housing rights in the world.
“So I think there’s an opportunity to say, through the lens of those progressive rights, how do we want evictions to be managed?”
On rent arrears, one of the major causes of evictions, Ms Watson said there is an opportunity to ask why anyone should be evicted from their homes because of trouble paying their rent.
“Where are the arguments for ever evicting people simply on the grounds of rent arrears when we have such fantastic examples of good practice, both in our local authorities and in registered social landlords, where if you make changes like intervening early when somebody is only starting to get into difficulty, if you put money and debt advice for people, if you put benefits advice in place for people,” she said.
“If you put these measures in place, you can stop evictions happening in the first place.”
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “Given the continuing risk the pandemic poses to people’s health, we are extending the temporary regulations banning the enforcement of eviction orders in the private and social rented sectors. We know this policy has offered people much needed security to be able to stay safe in their homes whilst the current restrictions apply to the majority of Scotland.
“We have been clear that no landlord should evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to the pandemic and that tenants in difficulty should engage with their landlord and seek advice on the options open to them.”
Regulations will come into force on March 5 to extend the current ban on the enforcement of eviction orders in the private and social rented sector beyond March 31.
They will be subject to review every 21 days.