What happens to Scottish secure tenants who are in arrears with rent payments?
January 21, 2016
A Scottish secure tenancy means that your landlord will be a local council, housing association, or housing co-operative. Being unable to pay any type of debt is worrying, but having arrears of rent could mean losing the roof over your head if your landlord decides to take eviction action.
Social landlords in Scotland are legally obliged to follow specific procedures in this respect, however. We take you through each step below, to help you understand what could happen if you fail to reach an agreement with your landlord, or simply cannot afford to pay what you owe.
Grounds for eviction
Getting behind with your rent provides the grounds needed for your landlord to legitimately take action to evict you. It is worth remembering that if you are part of a joint secure tenancy and your partner fails to pay their portion of the rent, you become liable for the full monthly or weekly amount.
Your landlord is compelled to carry out certain actions before commencing the eviction process:
- Provide detailed information about the terms of your tenancy, including how much rent you should be paying, the amount owing, and any other costs outstanding.
- Offer advice on where to go for help, and how to find out whether you are eligible for housing benefit.
- Make attempts to formulate a payment plan with you
- Let you know about help that might be available from your local council, assuming that they are not your landlord.
You must also be given time to assess your financial situation, and access any help available from outside sources, such as state benefits, before any legal action is taken against you.
Notice of proceedings
This is a formal document outlining the reasons why your landlord is trying to evict you. It includes a proposed timescale for requesting court action, but the landlord must leave a minimum of four weeks before requesting a court date for the eviction hearing.
Confirmation also needs to be provided that the above pre-eviction actions have been complied with. The notice of proceedings is valid for a period of six months, after which your landlord will need to start the process again if they have not requested a court date.
Receiving a summons
Receiving a Summary Cause Summons is the next stage of the eviction process, assuming that you have been unable to arrange a new payment schedule with your landlord. It informs you that a court date has been arranged, and tells you the reason why action is being taken.
You should reply to the summons if you want to delay or stop the eviction. There is a reply section on the document where you can state why you disagree with the eviction, and provide a brief explanation of the reasons why.
Considering your case
The sheriff will consider various factors to determine whether or not the eviction process should go ahead. These include:
- Your financial situation – whether they think you will be able to pay off your debt and keep up with payments in the future
- Any previous history that has been detrimental to the tenancy – failure to pay in the past, or meet other terms of the agreement
- Why you have reached this situation – ill health, redundancy, or other specific reasons for getting into financial difficulties
- The actions your landlord has taken to recover the arrears
- If it is a joint tenancy, and your partner’s failure to pay has caused the problem
If an eviction order is granted, it will state how long you have to move out. Your landlord may also be given the right to recoup their money using measures such as earnings or bank arrestment.
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