The Scottish Government’s eviction ban legislation includes loopholes which could be used to unfairly evict student tenants.
A loophole in the Scottish Government’s eviction ban could be used to evict students from their tenancies. The legislation, which was introduced in October 2022, caps in-tenancy rent increases at 3% per year and pauses evictions in most cases.
In an address to the Scottish Parliament after the legislation was introduced, Living Rent secretary Aditi Jehangir said: “The commitment to rent controls today is exactly the type of leadership we need to address the scale of the housing crisis…For the reforms to the private sector to work, tenants need robust legislation. We need a system of rent controls that protects all tenants, not just sitting ones, brings rents down, and forces up quality. We need better protections against evictions, clear timelines for repairs and the right to make our houses homes. And across all of these reforms, we need enforcement mechanisms that ensure that landlords respect the law.”
The First Minister Humza Yousaf added that: “We recognise housing costs are a key factor in determining people’s standard of living…During the cost of living crisis, this government took prompt action to introduce emergency rent caps for most private tenants and to introduce additional protections against eviction.”
However, there remain exceptions to this legislation which allow landlords to evict tenants, for example if the landlord intends to sell the property due to “significant financial strain”, or if they intend to move into the property to prevent their own homelessness. In these instances eviction notices can be legally served. However, some have raised concerns about how robust the protections are for these exceptions, and whether or not they are being used fraudulently to exploit tenants.
University of Glasgow student, Fearghus Kennedy, has spoken to The Glasgow Guardian about his experience being served with an eviction notice for the ostensible reason that his landlord intended to live in the property to prevent his own homelessness. After moving into their flat in June of this year, Fearghus and his two flatmates were served with an eviction notice on 4 October, giving them 20 days to vacate the premises.
However, Fearghus had reason to doubt the authenticity of the eviction notice. For example, it made the contradictory claim that the landlord both intended to move back into the property to prevent their own homelessness and that the landlord also intended to sell the property.
“They [the landlord agency] revoked the eviction notice a couple of weeks later but they say now that our landlord has lost his job overseas and intends to return to the UK as of December 2023. They also rang us after the email was sent telling us another story about how the landlord wants to give us more time because they feel sorry for us.
“This is an obvious loophole in [the eviction ban legislation] because during this time the landlord has had to provide us with zero evidence to actually show that they are intending to move into the property. The only way that we could get them to do that is by bringing them to a tribunal after the eviction. So if you want to evict them you could claim that you intend to move in and bank on your tenants not bringing you to court afterwards, which I know a lot of students don’t have the means to do.”
Housing campaigners have also warned about the efficacy of the eviction ban, given that it does not apply to social tenants with debts of more than £2,250. It is estimated that the numbers with debts over that level would run into thousands as average household arrears in Scotland are believed to be running at over £4000.
Fearghus has now had his eviction postponed until 15 December but is yet to find alternative accommodation.