Since the First Minister’s announcement last week of a freeze on rent increases and a ban on evictions, we have been inundated with queries from members on how these policies will work in practice. Draft legislation is not expected to be published for another few weeks and to date we’ve been unable to get any concrete guidance from the government on how these measures will operate. Based on the limited information we have available just now, we believe that the measures may operate as follows:

Eviction ban – we believe this may operate in the same way as the eviction ban which was in place during the first winter of the Covid-19 pandemic. If so 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 or criminal behaviour. It is possible that exemptions could be put in place to allow evictions in other scenarios such as extreme rent arrears. We have no clarity so far on the date an eviction ban will commence although the First Minister did make it clear that it will be in force until at least 31 March 2023.

Freeze on rent increases – we believe that the government’s intention is to legislate to prevent landlords issuing any rent increase notices from 6 September 2022 until at least 31 March 2023. Rent increase notices issued already which come into force before the legislation comes into force (this date is so far unknown) are likely to be enforceable. Whether rent increase notices issued more recently will be enforceable is more uncertain.

The government has reiterated that they 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.

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