'It's ludicrous' - Tenant groups and politicians blast Edinburgh City Council over 'heavy handed' eviction cases

Council chiefs have come under fire for launching eviction proceedings in court against Edinburgh renters amid fears the ‘heavy handed’ move will fuel homelessness.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 4:55 am

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People from sixteen households are facing eviction for rent arrears at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today including Edinburgh City Council and housing association tenants.

Campaigners say it’ is ‘ludicrous’ that tenants could be booted out during the pandemic.

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A string of cases go before Sheriff Court on Friday 4 June
A string of cases go before Sheriff Court on Friday 4 June

A temporary legal ban on evictions that was in place previously under levels 3 and 4 restrictions no longer applies in the Capital after it was moved to level two.

The string of court cases has sparked fresh calls for an extension of the temporary ban.

Lothian Conservative MSP Miles Briggs warned it will push people into homelessness while the city’s services are already stretched.

The shadow cabinet secretary for social justice, housing and local government said: “It’s deeply concerning given all the pressures people that the council could be driving these people into homelessness.

"The services for them if they do lose their homes are simply not there. The city already has an unacceptable number of people including families with children in temporary accommodation. On what grounds the council are escalating these cases? It seems heavy handed to press ahead with evicting tenants. If people are struggling to pay rent arrears, they should be supported to spread the costs."

He added: “I understand the council is under pressure but they have just recently said they can’t don’t have enough temporary accommodation. They vowed to end homelessness but these evictions will create that situation, with much greater costs to people who will be taken out of their communities, their mental health will suffer and they will be pushed further into poverty.”

The Scottish Tenant’s Organisation said it’s ‘ludicrous’ that tenants could be forced out of their homes for rent arrears in the middle of a pandemic and demanded the council halt legal action.

A spokesperson said: "We are calling on Edinburgh council and all other landlords not to proceed with evictions of tenants and their families for rent arrears who are in severe financial hardship due to the pandemic.

"We have also written to the Scottish Government demanding that the eviction ban be reinstated and that means no evictions take place for rent arrears. If this is delayed hundreds of tenants will be unjustly evicted in the weeks to come.”

People from 13,650 households across Scotland lost their homes between April and September of last year – despite the eviction ban being in place during that time.

Edinburgh reported 370 breaches of its legal duty to offer households temporary accommodation between April and September 2020.

Alison Watson, director of homelessness charity Shelter Scotland, said: "No one should be made homeless as a result of the pandemic. We're calling for the Scottish Government to implement a Covid Exit Plan with social justice at its heart; with continued protection and more support for renters. Home is everything. Taking it away from people after all we have been through in the past year is unthinkable."

A council spokesperson said: “We will never serve a notice to evict any tenant who is working with us and engaging with us to address rent arrears. But we must collect rent so that we can continue to invest in council homes and provide the service that tenants expect.

“Unfortunately, in a very small number of cases, we do need to serve notices to tenants where they have accrued a high level of rent arrears and aren’t engaging with us on how to address them. Often this helps to prompt engagement, and we will then work with the tenant to do everything we can to help them sustain their tenancy and prevent eviction.”

“We’re one hundred per cent committed and working hard to support people to engage with us to prevent these situations. Our new multi-disciplinary response team will be crucial to help keep our council tenants in their homes, offering enhanced engagement and joined-up support from a range of council services.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are deeply aware of the financial difficulties facing many people as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and are doing all we can to support them.

"We have made clear since the start of the pandemic that taking eviction action against those who have suffered financial hardship should be an absolute last resort, and have put legislation in place requiring landlords to work with their tenants to manage rent arrears before seeking eviction. We also have emergency legislation in place to extend the notice period a landlord must give.

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