March 2021 update
The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund and the Private Rent Sector Landlord (non-business) COVID-19 Loan Scheme, both of which offer interest-free loans, will continue to receive applications beyond the original deadline of 31 March 2021.
Applications for the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund and the Private Rent Sector Landlord (non-business) COVID-19 Loan Scheme can be completed online.
Both schemes form part of the range of support and interventions in response to the pandemic, including the extended notice periods within the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act and introduction of private landlord pre-action requirements. The current ban on the enforcement of eviction orders in Scotland has now been extended to 30 September 2021, it will remain unlawful for any person serving a charge for removing or executing a decree for removing from heritable property in any level 3 or 4 areas.
This means that Sheriff Officers are unable to attend a property for the purpose of serving an eviction notice or executing an eviction.
Exceptions are made where the cases are for serious anti-social behaviour, including domestic abuse.
The temporary regulations will be subject to review every 21 days and therefore the general ban on enforcement of eviction orders may be lifted earlier than 30 September
Following the recent announcement that the current restrictions will stay in place until at least the end of February, we would again stress the importance of everyone continuing to take steps to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
We are asking businesses and organisations to continue to look at their functions to see how they can be delivered in a manner that will ensure the risk of transmission is reduced, and there is enhanced compliance with keeping people safe. Where work is required to take place within a home, all precautions should be taken to ensure this does not put you, your employees and others at risk of COVID-19.
The guidance on businesses and workplaces that must close and can open confirms that in level 4 organisations and businesses involved in home or business moves including those involved in purchase, sale, letting or rental can remain open but should note that work from home where possible is a legal requirement.
By law, employers must take all reasonable steps to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus. This includes supporting staff to work from home for those roles that can be undertaken remotely. The stay at home guidance also makes clear that where staff were working from home during the first lockdown in March 2020 they should be working from home now.
Where working from home is not possible businesses and organisations are encouraged to manage travel demand through staggered start times and flexible working patterns.
It remains vitally important that we all continue to follow the advice designed to help people stay safe, protect others and save lives.
Where to get advice on responding to the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak
You should keep up to date with and have regard to the latest advice from Government, the NHS and the Chief Medical Officer. The position is changing on a daily basis and therefore it is important to check that advice regularly.
- Scottish Government advice
- Public health advice
- Latest advice and information from the UK Government
- Health Protection Scotland has published guidance to support those working in non-healthcare settings give advice to their staff and users of their services about COVID-19. In particular section 1.2 has information on how to prevent spread of infection in the workplace.
- Further public health information for your staff and tenants.
- Landlord Certificates Glasgow
On 23 October 2020, the Scottish Government published Scotland's Strategic Framework to reflect the strategic approach to suppress the virus level and the move to a five levels of protection approach.
Supporting tenants if they are in financial difficulty or are worried about being able to pay their rent over the coming months
It is important you encourage your tenants to contact you as soon as possible if they are, or think they will be, in financial difficulty and unable to pay their rent.
Tenants affected by coronavirus who are concerned about paying their rent can claim Universal Credit from the Department for Work and Pensions which includes support for housing costs, if eligible. The UK Government has introduced some temporary changes to make this easier.
If a tenant is getting Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, but still can't afford their housing costs, they may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). Further information on DHPs and how to apply can be found here.
Further support is available for people on low incomes from the Scottish Welfare Fund if facing an emergency situation.
The Scottish Government has put together information and sources of support for tenants in the private rented sector during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Chartered Institute for Housing Scotland, Homes for Good and the Scottish Association of Landlords Glasgow have produced guidance on maintaining tenancies and other Covid-19 related advice.
Tenant Hardship Loan Fund
The Scottish Government has established a £10M Tenant Hardship Loan Fund as part of the range of support and interventions to help tenants who are struggling with rent because of changes to their finances and/or employment during the pandemic.
Eligible tenants can use the loan to clear rent arrears (a maximum of 9 months of agreed rent) from 1 January 2020. Tenants can also borrow up to 3 months of future rent payments as part of the 9 month total.
The loan provides an additional short-term offer that supports tenants to manage rent arrears and help them to come back into paying their rent. Loan repayments will be deferred for 6 months as standard and repaid over a 5 year period. This recognises the continuing uncertainty around the impacts of the pandemic.
The loan will not be an appropriate choice for every tenant and before applying for the loan, tenants should seek further advice about non-repayable financial support that they may be eligible for. Before being awarded a loan, applicants will need to pass an affordability check and a credit check.
To confirm the level of any arrears, the loan administrator will contact the tenant’s landlord, or where applicable the landlord’s letting agent, for verification of the tenant’s current circumstances. This will include the amount of monthly rent due, the level of outstanding rent arrears and the dates that the arrears relate to.
Landlords will also be asked to sign an agreement not to take action to repossess a property on the grounds of rent arrears, the landlord or their family member intend to live in the let property, the landlord intends to sell the let property and the landlord intends to use the let property for a purpose other than housing for the period of future rent covered by any loan.
Any formal action to end a tenancy on these grounds that has already been started will also need to be withdrawn. To avoid delays in offering the loan to eligible tenants, landlords and letting agents are asked to provide the requested information as soon as possible.
Find out more about the loan and how tenants can apply on the loan portal
Charging rent during the outbreak
Rent will still be due under the terms of the tenancy agreement and tenants who are able to pay rent as normal must continue to do so.
There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach, as each tenant’s circumstance is different and some will be worse affected in terms of their ability to pay than others. It is important for landlords to be flexible, and have a frank and open conversation with their tenants at the earliest opportunity, to allow both parties to agree a sensible way forward.
You should signpost tenants who are concerned about paying their rent to the financial assistance available. The Scottish Government has put together information and sources of support for tenants in the private rented sectorduring the COVID-19 outbreak.
Pre-action requirements which landlords should comply with for seeking repossession for rent arrears
Landlords should engage positively with tenants who are having difficulties paying rent, to work together to manage arrears as far as reasonably possible. The private rented sector (PRS) tenant resource can help your tenants, by signposting them to a range of financial support and advice.
New measures to support landlords to work with tenants who are struggling to pay their rent came into force on 30 September 2020 through The Rent Arrears Pre-Action Requirements (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020.
To help landlords understand what steps to take to support tenants in rent arrears to sustain the tenancy (which can be used regardless when the rent arrears occurred), the pre-action guidance is a useful resource and toolkit, which includes access to template letters.
Landlords Glasgow who have issued a notice to leave to a tenant on or after 7 April and who subsequently make an application to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) to repossess the property due to rent arrears, which occurred all or in part after 26 May 2020, will be asked by the Tribunal to demonstrate how they have complied with the pre-action requirements.
At the current time, the Tribunal has discretion to take all factors into account when determining whether it is reasonable to grant repossession of a let property.
Evicting a tenant
We have been clear that no landlord should evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19 and we expect landlords to be flexible with tenants facing financial hardship and signpost them to the sources of financial support available.
In recognition of the severity of the situation we now find the country in, the Scottish Government has passed emergency legislation to protect renters in Scotland during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 protects tenants in Scotland from any eviction action for up to 6 months. This will apply to both the private and social rented housing sectors and will ensure the position is absolutely clear for all landlords and tenants in Scotland.
This legislation temporarily extends the amount of notice landlords must give when ending a tenancy. In most cases landlords will now need to give tenants 6 months' notice, unless they are ending the tenancy for particular reasons, including antisocial and criminal behaviour by the tenant, or where the landlord or their family need to move into the property where the notice period is 3 months.
The legislation also temporarily makes all grounds for eviction in the private rented sector discretionary, ensuring that the Tribunal will be able to use discretion and take all factors relating to the impact of COVID-19 has had on both the landlord and tenant into account before deciding whether to issue an eviction order or not.
The new law applies in cases where a landlord serves notice on their tenant on or after 7 April 2020. Where a landlord has served notice on their tenant before 7 April 2020, the changes in the new law do not apply.
Read more information on changes to notice periods for private residential tenancies.
Read information on notice periods for short assured and assured tenancies.
Issuing a notice to end a tenancy
There is a formal process that you must follow if you want to end a tenancy agreement with a tenant. The exact process you must follow depends on the type of tenancy in place.
Information on ending a tenancy and the amount of notice a landlord must give a tenant during the COVID-19 crisis can be found at the following links:
- private residential tenancy
- short assured tenancy
If a landlord, or their agent, tries to physically or forcefully remove a tenant from the property it will be considered to be an illegal eviction which is a serious criminal offence. Illegal eviction attempts are not allowed and could impact on a landlord’s registration or a letting agent’s registration.
Process if the tenant doesn’t leave at the end of the notice period
If a tenant does not move out on or before the date in the ‘Notice to Leave’/AT6/section 33 notice the landlord must apply to the First-tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber) for an eviction order and the tenant does not have to move out until they are served with an eviction order granted by the Tribunal.
If a landlord, or their agent, tries to physically or forcefully remove a tenant from the property it will be considered to be an illegal eviction which is a serious criminal offence.
Enforcement of an eviction order
Due to the continued increase in cases caused by the new variant of the virus, a temporary ban on the enforcement of an eviction order by Sheriff Officers has been put in place from 22 January until the 31 March 2021 in areas subject to level 3 or 4 protection areas. These measures will help to mitigate the pressure on housing, health and other public services and offer people, including Sheriff Officers, protection from transmission of the virus in areas where there is a need for a higher level of restrictions.
While regulations apply to areas in level 3 or 4 until 31 March 2021, this is subject to a review every three weeks to ensure it remains necessary to protect against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Definition of an illegal eviction
An illegal eviction is when a landlord, or their agent, fails to follow the proper process for ending a tenancy. The following actions may be illegal and can result in a landlord committing a criminal offence:
- changing the locks to keep the tenant out of the property
- making life so uncomfortable for a tenant that they are forced to leave their home by for example cutting off water, gas or electricity supplies
- physically removing a tenant from the property, only a sheriff officer may do this
Illegal eviction attempts are not allowed and could result in the landlord being convicted of an offence. On indictment, the court can impose an unlimited fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both. An illegal eviction conviction will also impact on a landlord’s registration. Involvement by an agent in an illegal eviction will also impact on a letting agent’s registration.