The eviction ban put in place during the pandemic should be extended, Scottish Labour has said.
As part of emergency measures put in place early in the pandemic, the Scottish Government moved to ensure eviction proceedings could not begin.
Then, in December, protections were extended to ensure no tenants could be removed during the pandemic.
But changes meant that eviction notices and enforcement is only prohibited in areas where Level 3 or Level 4 restrictions are in place – meaning the ban is now effectively not in place in Scotland.
The number of people living in private, rented accommodation who approached Citizens Advice Scotland for help with rent arrears doubled between 2019 and 2020, while there was an increase of 280% in the number of eviction proceedings initiated in social housing because of rent arrears from June last year to March this year.
Covid Recovery Secretary, John Swinney, said last month that the extension of protections was “under close consideration”, but Scottish Labour housing spokesman Mark Griffin pushed for action.
“Make no mistake, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Scots are on the line,” he said.
“With the whole of Scotland only now entering either Level 2 or Level 1, and no guarantee that the country will remain at those levels, it would be deeply irresponsible to allow evictions to begin again in earnest.
“Statistics clearly show that tenants are struggling and still need support.
“That’s why Scottish Labour is calling on the SNP to extend the eviction ban, reform the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund, and deliver easier access to discretionary housing payments.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to Scotland’s tenants in their hour of need.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government 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.
“We introduced the temporary eviction ban for when Covid-19 cases were at their highest as a public health measure to keep people safe in their homes.
“The ban remains in place until September for areas subject to Level 3 and 4 restrictions.”