Rules protecting tenants in Scotland from eviction notices are to remain in place until March next year, it has been announced.
There were concerns among campaign groups and charities that letting those legal protections expire at the end of September, as was initially planned for, would result in a massive wave of evictions in all parts of the country.
As it is, those same rules and protections are now set to stay in place until the spring, which will represent good news for thousands of households in Scotland who might otherwise have been struggling to keep a roof over their heads in the coming months.
Emergency legislation was introduced to provide extra protections to renters in April, shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic initially hit Scotland and the UK.
But with coronavirus still very much a major public health issue and so many people having lost income because of it, fears were growing that a relaxation of emergency protections might soon see thousands of Scottish households made homeless.
There are still concerns that homelessness, problem debt and serious financial difficulties are becoming more widespread across Scotland but hopes are that stopping people from being easily evicted will at least give struggling households some relief.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon was asked recently in Holyrood how she and the Scottish government will respond to the prospect of a “tidal wave of evictions” later in the year.
She responded by saying that the government wants to extend protections from eviction for people in rent arrears until March 2021.
Patrick Harvie, a Green Party SMP, posed the question and was told by Ms Sturgeon: “I can’t say that is definitely happening because it is up to this parliament to vote on that but if my party and his party vote for it there should be no block on that.”
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) welcomed the first minister’s announcements and said it hopes MSPs support the plan when the relevant legislation comes back to parliament.
“As emergency financial support schemes wind down, there is a growing risk of a housing crisis,” said the CAS’ social justice policy manager Nina Ballantyne.
“We made clear to the Scottish government that withdrawing [protections from eviction] before the full economic impact of Covid-19 is understood would risk a rise in homelessness and destitution, so we are pleased to see today’s announcement.”
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More than a third of workers in Scotland are fearful that they might lose their jobs at some point over the next 12 months.
Large numbers of households across Scotland could be facing serious financial problems once the option to defer their bills or their debt repayments ceases to be available.
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