03 Sep 2020

An Update on the Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts

In previous blogs we explained the emergency provisions put in place to limit a Private landlord’s ability to evict tenants during the covid-19 outbreak. These provisions increased the notice periods to be given to tenants and removed the “mandatory” nature of some grounds for possession. These changes applied regardless of the tenancy type.

These changes were put in place for an initial period of 6months, but with an option to extend them for 2 further 6 monthly periods. The first 6-month period for these emergency changes is due to end on 30 September 2020 and the 2 main questions being asked by the PRS are:

  • Will the Scottish Government extend the emergency protection beyond the first 6 months; and
  • If they do extend the legislation, will there be any relaxation in the restrictions on landlords?

It has been a bit of an open secret that the emergency provisions were never going to end after 6 months. The Coronavirus (Scotland)(No.2) Act 2020 introduced the concept of new pre-action protocols for rent arrears recoveries after 27 May 2020. As at the date of writing this blog, the draft legislation setting out such matters is not available (although drafts have been sent to various stakeholder bodies for comment). It is understood that, in mid-September 2020, the draft legislation will be published with an intended effective date of 6 October 2020. So, for some time now we have known that the initial period would be extended.

On 1 September 2020 we finally got the answer to the first of these questions and some indication as to how things may look for the next 6 months at least.

As expected, the current legislation is to be extended for at least another 6 months. In terms of any relaxation, the Scottish Government has indicated that they intend to reduce or “return” notice periods for evictions for anti-social behaviour and criminal behaviour to “one month”. New regulations are expected to provide the details, but the announcement does not appear to differentiate between tenancy types and only appears to be discussing grounds applicable to Private Residential Tenancies.

The announcement can be found using this link https://www.gov.scot/news/supporting-tenants/.

Contrary to what is suggested by the Housing Minister in that announcement, there is not and never has been a “ban” on evictions. Notices served before the emergency legislation came into force remain unaffected. The legislation increased notice periods for most grounds for recovery. Notices served in April this year under the current rules will expire in October meaning applications for eviction and possession orders can be made then.

The Scottish Government also announce a new “Tenant Hardship Fund” which will offer interest free loans to tenants who cannot access other forms of support for their housing costs. It will be open in November. Details of how tenants can apply are to be announced in due course.

If you require any further information or advice, please contact Rory Cowan (https://bkf.co.uk/people/rory-cowan/#more-272).