With the global pandemic still here and everyday life a little strange, some tenants have found themselves in a struggle or a deeper struggle with financial difficulty. This effects the rental process as tenants cannot afford to pay the rent, benefits have been cut, personal debt rises and utility bills rise as we all were in lockdown.
During lockdown our CEO Grant MacCusker took part in various zoom calls with the Scottish Government housing committee and along with other property industry experts he aired his views on the current situation, what could help and how to protect the future of tenants, landlords and agents as they all need each other to survive. He said “as an economy we can’t just throw money at situations and hope it solves the problem. There are many people that make-up the letting triangle and it is very complicated to solve this issue in the short term. There becomes a knock on effect when tenants are ill advised to not pay rent and that then effects the landlords who sometimes need to pay agents who then can’t pay staff or overheads. The hardship fund that the Scottish Government has provided is great and shows commitment to the rental crisis currently happening around us.”
The Scottish Government has established a £10 million Tenant Hardship Loan Fund. Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart said: “Tackling inequality and supporting people is a central theme of this year’s Programme for Government and this package of support for tenants is part of that.
“We already know that the pandemic has hit the lowest earners hardest and the Scottish Government has already put in place a range of actions in place to support tenants.
“This new £10m fund, along with a further increase in our Discretionary Housing Payment funds, will mean that no one should be left in a position where they cannot access support to pay their rent. The intention is that this fund will open in November for those unable to access other forms of support to help meet their housing costs.”
With our previous blog post regarding eviction notice periods, this fund has come at a crucial time to make sure the letting triangle survives in the UK. Each nation is devolved and we know from speaking with Housing Minister Kevin Stewart MSP and Shadow Housing Minister Alexander Stewart MSP that Scotland plans to follow with new regulations also be introduced to allow for the notice period for evictions for anti-social or criminal behaviour to return back from three to just one month.
Mr Stewart commented: “We have been clear that no landlord should evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to the pandemic. I fully expect landlords to be flexible with anyone facing such challenges, signposting them to the sources of financial support available, and tenants in difficulty should engage with their landlord and seek advice on the options open to them.
“I can confirm today that emergency legislation will be extended to ensure no evictions can take place until March 2021. However, since the initial legislation was introduced we have listened carefully to tenants and housing authorities concerned that a three month notice period is too long where tenants have behaved in an anti-social or criminal way. We are therefore reverting back to a one month period for repossession for such cases to ensure we can protect other tenants, neighbours and landlords who should not have to tolerate such behaviour.”
The Hardship fund will offer interest-free loans to tenants who can’t access other forms of support for their rent payments. The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund will be available later in the autumn and the details of how to apply will follow in due course.
The Scottish Government is also to increase the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) fund, which supports tenants in receipt of benefits, by £3 million to bring it to £19 million in total. This is in addition to the £60 million DHP budget already being used to fully mitigate the bedroom tax.