A new study has been published, exploring landlords’ perspectives on temporary Coronavirus legislation which was introduced by the UK and Scottish governments to prevent a surge in evictions in both private and social rented sectors.
Conducted by University of Glasgow researcher, Andrew Watson, and director of Urban Big Data Centre and professor of Urban Studies at University of Glasgow, Nick Bailey, the report is a result of a survey of 1,732 private rented sector landlords in Scotland into the volume and value of rent arrears, the arrears management approach adopted by landlords and their intentions regarding evictions, as well as landlords’ financial resilience levels.
According to the research, whilst the Coronavirus legislation proved successful in preventing evictions on a large scale, it also contributed to an increase in rent arrears by transferring some of the pandemic’s costs from individuals and public bodies onto landlords.
The report revealed that 18% of landlords across Scotland (around 45,000) had current tenancies in arrears at July 2021. However, two thirds (67%) of those tenancies were not currently at risk due to landlords choosing not to pursue or being not in a position to proceed to evictions in the short term. Out of the tenancies with arrears of three or more months that landlords indicated they would pursue, only some will reach the eviction stage as the other cases will either be settled or tenants will move out having received Notice to Leave.
Navigating return to more normal conditions in the Scottish PRS
With many of the temporary measures not due to expire until March 2022, the study prompts a question how to ‘unwind’ the current situation without exposing tenants to high risk of eviction and not leaving landlords bearing rent arrears at the same time. The solutions included in the report to help achieve this are as follows:
- Retain pre-action requirements to encourage better approaches to arrears management by private landlords who may otherwise rely too heavily on legal action.
- Return notice periods to the pre-pandemic situation at the end of March 2022 but retain Tribunal discretion in arrears cases to allow individual circumstances to be taken into account.
- Continue the provision of additional financial support for tenants offered by the Scottish Government but monitor demand closely as the scale of the fund (currently £10m) appears very small in comparison with the scale of rent arrears (estimated £126m).
The report’s findings will be of particular interest to policy makers, local authorities, membership and third sector organisations, and questions need to be asked about suitability of private renting as an investment for those with limited ability to cope with rent arrears.