Extend the Covid eviction ban, says GLC

Mike Dailly, solicitor advocate at Govan Law Centre, is calling for the Scottish Government to extend COVID eviction ban, in his latest Glasgow Times column

BUT for a last-minute decision to keep Glasgow in level 3 lockdown last week, the eviction and removal of homeowners and tenants from their homes would be happening across the city this week.

Make no mistake evictions and mortgage repossessions will be taking place across Scotland from today – as all areas move into level 2 lockdown except for Moray and Glasgow.

Scottish ministers must act

The eviction ban was first introduced as a temporary measure last December but was extended as the threat from Covid-19 spiked from mutations and variants and Scotland remained at level 4.

The ban doesn’t apply to evictions based on the grounds of anti-social behaviour or criminal conduct related to a property.

The eviction ban only applies to geographical areas in level 3 or 4 lockdown. The current law can be found in paragraph 9A of schedule 4 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020/344.

There seems to be a common misconception that Covid-19 protections against eviction from residential properties run until the end of September – they don’t.

Protections to 30 September are only for extended eviction notice to leave periods for renters, as well as making certain mandatory grounds of eviction discretionary.

Yesterday’s mass gathering of thousands of football fans celebrating Rangers FC’s premiership title win caused a lot of damage; not just the carnage to George Square and the three police officers injured from shameless drunken thugs, but to Glasgow’s Covid-19 infection rates.

Many of those who assembled at Ibrox and in the town travelled from across the country, so it may take some time to assess the full impact of this incident.

Glasgow remains in Tier 3

All of this raises an obvious question for me: why have we designed a temporary eviction ban with a cliff-edge cut-off point when the public health threats from Covid-19 are fluid and ever changing?

For example, the highly infectious Indian Covid-variant is thought to be swelling cases in Glasgow. These will now move across Scotland.

Clearly, there may be other virus mutations ahead of us, and as we know, easing out of lockdown is subject to the need to return to tougher rules to deal with infection spikes.

Having a cliff-edge end to the temporary eviction ban linked to levels 3 and 4 seems short sighted when the virus is so capricious. Imagine you are evicted from your home on a Friday, then lockdown goes back up to level 3 or 4 on the Monday. Where is the public health protection rationale in that?

“Surely it would be more pragmatic and prudent for the eviction ban to have a run-off period by continuing to protect people in level 2 for a number of weeks to avoid the kind of problem we are seeing in Glasgow. It could be argued the temporary ban should extend to all areas under level 2 lockdown.

Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions have had a see-saw effect, and our legal protections need to reflect that. Ending legal protection on a cliff-edge fails to do that.

Remember no-one doesn’t want to pay their rent or mortgage. Everyone values the roof over their head for themselves or their family. In my experience of defending tenants and homeowners over the best part of 30 years very few folk ever wilfully refuse to pay their way.”

Mike Dailly, solicitor advocate GLC

On Saturday, the Scottish tenant’s union – Living Rent – planted hundreds of eviction notices outside the Scottish Parliament to protest against the return of evictions this week. Living Rent rightly appreciate there are thousands of court or tribunal decrees or orders for eviction awaiting to be implemented. They rightly appreciate that the courts and tribunals are back in business – so more evictions are on the way.

This is all at a time when the threat from Covid remains very real – and the difference between having that threat under control or not remains on a knife-edge.

Sure, we are better at track, trace and testing and sure, the vaccination programme is making a big difference. But we aren’t safe yet with the propensity of the virus to mutate and being far from full vaccination.

For those subject to an eviction order and worried about being made homeless remember you may be able to recall the decree from court or recall the order from the First Tier Tribunal.

There are always options available to you even if you think there aren’t. For homeowners or renters facing homelessness it’s unusual if an adviser can’t find a solution, so whatever you do please take advice.

You can chat to a qualified adviser in confidence each weekday from Govan Law Centre’s new Debt Navigator service here: https://www.debtnavigator.scot

The service is available to anyone in Scotland for free, thanks to funding from the Scottish Government and Scottish Legal Aid Board.

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