It is easy to find examples of how unjust this current system is. A family caring for elderly relatives, one with dementia, had only a matter of weeks to find a new home when their heartless letting agency decided to evict them. We can only imagine how stressful this was for them. Our members have stood up for their rights, only to receive a letter saying they are being evicted. In all these kinds of cases, tenants have no way to defend themselves.
The main problem with the current system is that you can be evicted very easily once the ‘minimum period’ (usually 6 months) of your lease is over. Your personal circumstances are irrelevant if it goes to court, and this is referred to in the consultation as the ‘no fault ground for repossession’. If successful, these new proposals would remove the ‘no fault’ ground, and security of tenure is likely to be greatly improved as a result.
Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group, part of ACORN Scotland, has been involved in a Scottish Government tenancy review working group, and has helped inform many of these recommendations. We recognise the need for a modern, easier to understand, tenancy system. However we have also identified several problems with the Scottish Governments proposals.
The main one is with the new proposed ‘grounds’ for eviction. They propose that if a ground is proved to be breached, then eviction is mandatory. For example, rent arrears is a ‘mandatory’ ground. However, some tenants have problems paying the rent, due to wages being late, or delays with housing benefit payments. We believe being unable to pay the rent should not automatically mean eviction, and so we propose that a tenants circumstances are always taken into consideration.
The other problem relates to reducing the flexibility of tenants to move when they need to. It is often essential for tenants to be able to leave a tenancy for work, at the end of the academic year, or if a property is in a state of disrepair. We would therefore like to see security increased, but not at the expense of tenant’s flexibility.
EPTAG proposes that housing campaigners should work together on four main demands for a new tenancy system:
- The abolition of the ‘no fault’ ground for evictions
- No ‘mandatory grounds’ for evictions, including rent arrears
- Increasing security without reducing flexibility for tenants
- Introducing rent controls for affordable rents
Current housing policy is heavily skewed toward the interests of landlords, and this proposed new tenancy system makes some important steps towards safeguarding tenants rights. Landlords and their industry bodies are going to fight tooth and nail to water down these proposals, so housing campaigners need to be more united than ever in fighting for a better rental system.