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Eviction by the council

This section looks at what Gypsies/Travellers can do if the council has asked you to leave an authorised or unauthorised site, and when the council has the right to make you move on.

Eviction by the council from an official site

If you rent a pitch on an official council site, you should have been given a written occupancy agreement, setting out your rights, when you moved in. This agreement should say how much notice you must be given before you can be asked to leave. Under common law rights, this should be at least four weeks, although in practice the council may ask you to leave sooner, especially if you have been causing problems on site. Talk to an adviser if you're in this situation, as they may be able to argue that it's illegal to evict you without enough notice.

If you remain after the notice period has expired, you'll no longer be authorised to stay on the site, and the council will have the right to move you on (see 'when can the council move me on' below). They may call in the police if necessary.

If the council tries to evict you from an authorised site and you don't want to move on, talk to an adviser on Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444, Citizens Advice or a local advice organisation or at a law centre. You may be able to argue that removal is against your human rights, and an adviser should be able to put you in touch with a solicitor who can take up your case.

Eviction by the council from an unauthorised site

If you are staying on an unauthorised site on council owned land, the council shouldn't evict you unless:

  • your presence is causing serious problems, for example, because your camp is becoming a health hazard or is getting in the way of other traffic, or
  • the council needs the land for something else, for example, because they are going to build on it.

If the council does need to move you on, they should take your welfare into account before doing so - see 'what does the council need to take into account' below to find out more.

Eviction for antisocial behaviour

If the council is evicting everyone on the site for antisocial behaviour, they should first make sure that your whole group isn't being punished for the bad behaviour of a few individuals. If you feel this is the case, talk to the site manager, Gypsy/Traveller liaison officer or other council representative and make sure they understand this. The council should then only evict the troublemakers, and leave you in peace. You can get help and advice on dealing with the council from an adviser on Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444 or Citizens Advice.

Read the page on avoiding complaints in the antisocial behaviour section for some tips on keeping the peace.

Eviction by the council from a private site

Even if a landowner has given you permission to park up on their land, the council may be able to evict you if your camp doesn't have planning permission. The council will first need to serve an enforcement notice or a stop notice ordering you to leave. If you don't comply with the notice, you may face a fine and even imprisonment for up to two years.

The council must also serve the enforcement notice on the owner of the land, and either of you can appeal to the Scottish Government. You can find out more about this by reading the page on planning permission. For help and advice, contact a solicitor or a planning law expert, such as Planning Aid for Scotland, who offer free advice on planning issues.

If you lose your appeal but still don't leave, the council has the right to move you on.

When can the council move me on?

The council has the power to remove anyone who lives in a vehicle and does not have permission to be on the land they're parked on, or who once had permission but this has now been withdrawn.

For example, this may be the case if:

  • you are staying on a council or private site but have been asked to leave and given the correct amount of notice
  • you are staying on an unauthorised site and have been asked by the council to move on.

The council also has the power to remove you if your camp is causing a public health hazard, for example, because it doesn't have proper toilets, is polluting water supplies or because rubbish is piling up.

What does the council need to take into account?

Before moving you on, the council should take into account your welfare and the welfare of anyone else in your household. This means that the council should consider:

  • its duties to look after the rights of any children in your household - by law, the council must provide accommodation for 'children in need', which could include providing your children with a site to stay on
  • its duties to provide education to all children of school age - for example, the council must consider whether your removal from the site will disrupt your children's education, or prevent them from being able to go to school
  • its duties to provide health and welfare services - the council may decide not to move you on if this means you won't be able to access health and welfare services
  • its duties to help homeless people - the council has a duty to do all it can to prevent homelessness, and to provide homeless people with a place to stay while it decides whether or not they are entitled to permanent housing. Again, this could include providing you with a site to stay on if you have nowhere else to go. The page on Gypsies/Travellers and homelessness has more on this.

In order to make a decision, an officer from the council must visit the site and talk to you about your situation. This will give you a chance to put forward your case, for example, to tell the council that you have nowhere else to go, that your children are attending the local school, or that you have health problems. You can ask an adviser to help you work out what to say.

What if the council decides to move me on?

If the council decides that you need to be moved, they'll give you a notice to quit or removal direction, requiring you to move on as soon as you're practically able to.

If you don't think the council has taken all the issues listed above into account, you should make an official complaint using the council's complaints procedure, and contact a solicitor or law centre as soon as possible. A solicitor will be able to help you challenge the council's decision. For example, they may be able to apply for a judicial review of the decision, or get an interdict preventing the council from moving you on.

Does the council need a court order to move me on?

The council doesn't legally need to get a court order (for example, a possession order or interdict) to make you move on. However, eviction without a court order may be against your human rights, so it's likely that the council will get a court order before moving you on.

In this case, you'll be sent a court document called a Summary Cause Summons, telling you when your case will be held in court. Get in touch with an adviser or a solicitor as soon as possible: they may be able to prevent the eviction in some cases, for example, if the council hasn't taken into account the welfare of your children or is disregarding your human rights.

What can the council do to make me move?

The council will usually get sheriff officers to carry out the removal itself. The police may also turn up, but they probably won't get involved in the removal unless there's trouble.

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The important points

  • If you rent a pitch on an official council site, you should have been given a written occupancy agreement, this sets out your rights in terms of notice and when you can be evicted.
  • If you rent on private land the council could still evict you if the camp doesn't have planning permission.
  • The council has the power to remove anyone who lives in a vehicle and does not have permission to be on the land they're parked on.
  • Before moving you on, the council should take into account your welfare and the welfare of anyone else in your household.
  • The council doesn't legally need to get a court order to make you move on. However, eviction without a court order may be against your human rights, so it's likely that the council will get a court order before moving you on.

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