Rent freeze & eviction ban update

Following a meeting today with the Scottish Government we are able to provide some details on how the government expects the eviction ban and rent freeze, which were announced by the First Minister on 6 September, to operate. Some details are still to be finalised and all policy detail is subject to ministerial change and parliamentary approval. Both measures will be in force initially until 31 March 2023 but could be extended beyond this date.

Eviction ban – it is expected that landlords will still be permitted to serve tenants with notice to end the tenancy as normal. If the tenant doesn’t vacate during the notice period landlords can then apply to the tribunal for an eviction order as normal and the tribunal can still grant an eviction order if they consider it reasonable to do so. However, sheriff officers would not be permitted to enforce eviction orders issued by the tribunal, other than where the eviction is for anti-social behaviour, criminal behaviour, mortgage lender repossession or abandonment. It is possible that further exemptions could be added to this list. If the eviction ban was to be extended beyond 31 March 2023 then each individual eviction order would be subject to a maximum delay of 6 months e.g. an eviction order issued in December 2022 could be enforced in June 2023 at the latest (or on 1 April 2023 if the ban isn’t extended). We have no clarity so far on the date an eviction ban will commence but it is likely to be in the next 2-3 weeks.

Freeze on rent increases – it is expected that a rent increase cap of 0% will apply to any rent increase notices issued from 6 September 2022 until at least 31 March 2023 – which effectively voids any increases issued between these dates. Rent increase notices issued before 6 September are expected to be enforceable as normal. It is possible that safeguards may be put in place to allow rent increases in exceptional cases where a landlord can demonstrate that without one they will suffer extreme financial hardship. The rent freeze will only apply to mid tenancy rent increases and will not affect a landlord’s ability to apply a rent increase between tenancies.

Draft legislation is expected to be laid before parliament within the next week. It will then be subject to three stages of scrutiny by MSPs and it is possible that changes could be made to the wording of the legislation during this process. However, with the SNP/Green partnership having a significant majority in parliament, it is unlikely that amendments proposed by other parties would achieve sufficient votes to be adopted. It is likely that the legislation will come into force within the next 2-3 weeks.

The government has reiterated that they still are looking at how to support landlords negatively impacted by these policies but no information has been provided on what support, if any, will be provided.

SAL chief executive John Blackwood will be giving evidence to parliament next Tuesday on how these policy decisions will create financial hardship for landlords, putting many out of business and further reducing the supply of much needed homes to rent.

We are currently considering our next steps and what potential legal action could be taken to protect your interests. However, until draft legislation and details of any landlord support are made available we are unable to properly assess our next steps.

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