Housing Law Updates - Coronavirus (COVID-19)

This page intends to support advisers who are giving housing advice in Scotland during the Coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak.

This content applies to Scotland

General information

For the latest health information, please refer to NHS inform.​

For the latest information on the government response please refer to the Coronavirus information on the Scottish Government website.

Extension and expiry of Coronavirus Acts

The Scottish Parliament has expired and extended parts of the emergency Coronavirus Acts. The Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts (Early Expiry of Provisions) Regulations 2022 and the Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts (Amendment of Expiry Dates) Regulations 2022 came into force on 29 and 30 March 2022.

This means that the extension to notice periods expired on 30 March 2022, and notice periods will revert back to their original lengths.

The following will remain in place until 30 September 2022:

  • all private rented sector eviction grounds remain discretionary

  • pre-action requirements in the private rented sector

  • the right for people in student accommodation to end their tenancy early

Protection for tenants once notice periods change

Transitional provisions are in place to extend some protections to tenants as coronavirus legislation expires. [1]

This means that:

  • all notices served between 7 April 2020 and 29 March 2022 remain subject to the extended notice periods, and cannot be shortened

  • if a landlord issues a new notice on or after 30 March 2022 using the same ground as an existing notice served prior to this date, they will not be able to apply to the court or tribunal for an eviction order until the original notice period has expired

This applies to:

  • Scottish secure tenancies

  • private residential tenancies

  • assured and short assured tenancies

  • regulated tenancies

Where clients receive eviction notices on or after 30th March 2022 advisers may want to check whether this is a reissued notice in an effort to circumvent the longer notice periods.

Illegal eviction

Illegal eviction remains a criminal offence. Advisers should continue to follow the same steps and can advise on strategies to prevent unlawful eviction or have a client be able to re-enter their home as they would normally. See the section on Unlawful eviction.

Eviction - enforcement

Eviction ban

The Scottish Government brought in emergency regulations to temporarily prevent the enforcement of evictions during the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

  • the ban covered both social rented and private rented sector tenancies as well as mortgage repossessions

  • the ban applied in Level 3 and 4 areas

  • it was a ban on enforcement action - sheriff officers could not attend a property to serve a Charge for Removal or carry out an eviction or a mortgage repossession during period where the ban applies unless the eviction was granted due to criminal or antisocial behaviour

Scotland moved out of the levels system on 9 August 2021, so the ban is no longer in force anywhere in the country.

Eviction – private tenants

On 7th April 2020 the Scottish Government commenced the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020.

The Scottish Government has extended and expired parts of this legislation, meaning that the following all remain in place until 30 September 2022.

Broadly, where notice was served after 7 April 2020:

  • all eviction grounds for PRT, assured and short assured tenancies are discretionary. Where a ground is discretionary, the tribunal may still grant an eviction order but only where it is reasonable to do so

  • this includes a requirement for reasonableness to be considered where short assured tenancies are being recovered under a section 33 notice

The following parts of the legislation expired on 30 March 2022:

  • the increase in the length of notice required for most eviction actions (ranging from 28 days to 6 months depending on tenure and grounds)

  • all actions for eviction due to rent arrears required 6 months’ notice

  • short assured tenancies being ended using the section 33 procedure required 6 months’ notice

Where notice was served between 7 April 2020 and 29 March 2022, the increased notice periods stand and cannot be shortened [2].

The details of how the Act affects possession procedures can be found on the page on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Eviction and security of tenure.

Actions raised prior to 7 April 2020 and from 30 March 2022

Actions where notice was served prior to the 7th April 2020 and on or after 30 March 2022 will be covered by the old rules. See the relevant section for the clients tenure in the pages on Security of Tenure.

Mortgage breaks for landlords

The UK Government asked the finance industry to include buy to let mortgages in their proposed mortgage holidays for mortgage holders affected by the Coronavirus. The deadline to apply for payment holidays was 31 March 2021, and all payment holidays must have ended by 31 July 2021. See the page on Mortgage payment advice - Coronavirus.

Eviction – social rented tenants

Coronavirus legislation expiring

On 7 April 2020 the Scottish Government commenced the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020. The Scottish Government has extended and expired some parts of this legislation.

Actions raised between 7 April 2020 and 29 March 2022

  • there was an increase in the length of notice required for most eviction actions (ranging from 28 days to 6 months depending on tenure and grounds)

  • all actions for eviction due to rent arrears required 6 months’ notice

These protections expired on 29 March 2022.

Details of how the Act affects possession procedures can be found on the page on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Eviction and security of tenure.

Actions raised prior to 7 April 2020 and after 30 March 2022

The extended notice periods only apply to notices served between 7 April 2020 and 29 March 2022.

Actions where notice was served prior to 7 April 2020 and on or after 30 March 2022 will be covered by the old rules. See the relevant section for the clients tenure in the pages on Security of Tenure.

Student lets - right to give notice

In force from 27 May 2020, the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 gives a temporary legal right for people living in student accommodation to end their tenancy early by giving notice. Student accommodation is defined as it is in the 2016 Act – tenancies excluded from being a private residential tenancy. Broadly this means halls of residence and purpose-built student accommodation.

For a notice to be valid it must:

  • be in writing, which includes electronic communications and

  • state the day on which the tenancy is to end (which is the day after the last day of the minimum notice period)

  • give a minimum notice period of 28 days

The right to give 28 days notice to terminate a tenancy remains in place until 30 September 2022.

Full details can be found on the page on student accommodation.

Benefits and income

See the page Coronavirus (COVID-19) Benefits and Income for full  information on measures introduced and options for those whose benefits and income have been affected.

Tenant hardship grant and loan funds

The Scottish Government introduced a tenant hardship grant fund and a loan fund during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. These were for tenants who had their finances impacted by the pandemic, who missed rent payments and did not have other means of support.

The grant fund closed on 31 March 2022 and the loan fund closed on 31 December 2021.

The grant fund

Tenants applied for a grant through their local council’s homeless prevention team. The grant did not need to be paid back.

Protection against eviction:

Any landlord evicting a tenant over rent arrears needs to follow the pre-action requirements both in the social rented sector and in the private rent sector.

Landlords will also need to agree not to start or proceed with any repossession action to receive a grant payment. When preparing a defence at a tribunal, advisers should note where:

  • a landlord has failed to signpost to the grant fund or

  • refused to accept a grant fund payment

The loan fund

The loan was administered by the Scottish Government. Applications were made through the tenant hardship loan fund website.

The loan fund closed to new applications on 31 December 2021.

Any applications made prior to that date will still be processed. 

Any tenants who were given the loan should continue to make repayments as required by the loan fund. 

Tenants will not need to start paying off the loan for 6 months from the application being accepted.  Loan payments can then be split monthly for a maximum of 60 months. 

Protection against eviction:

For a tenant to receive the loan private landlords must have agreed not to repossess a property on certain eviction grounds. These grounds are:

  • rent arrears

  • the landlord or their family member intend to live in the let property

  • the landlord intends to sell the let property

  • the landlord intends to use the let property for a purpose other than housing

Any action to end a tenancy on these grounds that has already been started will also need to be withdrawn.

Any tenant who has received an eviction notice after receiving the loan fund should contact a housing adviser or solicitor for further advice.

Moving house and accessing services

Moving house

All home moves are permitted, provided they can be carried out safely. This includes students moving home and other home moves resulting in two households merging. See the Scottish Government guidance for more information.

Members of the public are allowed to leave their homes in order to move home and undertake activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property including:

  • visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes

  • viewing a residential property to look for a property to buy or rent

  • preparing a residential property to move in

  • moving home or

  • visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property.

Private tenants might find it helpful to refer to the Scottish Government advice for private tenants.

Social sector tenants can check Scottish Government guidance for social landlords.

Moving home and people who are self isolating or have symptoms

The current guidance on moving home advises that people moving should be flexible, and be prepared to delay where people need to self isolate. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for households with individuals in this group. This includes where someone in the chain of those involved in the proposed move is in this group, particularly where that person is being shielded from the virus.

Mortgage payment difficulties

See the page Coronavirus - Mortgage Payment Advice for more information.

There is additional information for mortgage borrowers on the FCA website.

Home energy

The government has launched an emergency package with energy suppliers to ensure customers don’t face any additional hardships in heating or lighting their home during the coronavirus outbreak. Customers with prepayment meters who are self-isolating or unable to leave their home can now speak to their supplier on the options. This may include:

  • someone being sent to top up the prepayment card or token

  • having funds added to meter credit

  • having a preloaded gas or electricity card sent in the post

Suppliers must take reasonable steps to avoid disconnecting an energy supply for debt during the COVID-19 period. It should always be a last resort and avoided wherever possible.

Suppliers must tell customers:

  • what customer service support is available, particularly if they are vulnerable

  • how customers will be supported if they can’t top up or could go off supply.

For more information see the Ofgem webpage: Coronavirus and your energy supply.

The contact numbers for the main energy suppliers are

BRITISH GAS 0333 202 9802

EDF 0333 200 5100

EON 0345 052 000

N POWER 0800 073 3000

SCOTTISH POWER 0800 027 0072

SSE 0345 026 2658

Homelessness

The statutory duties in relation to homelessness remain in force at this time.

Local authorities are likely to put in place measures in response to public health advice. For example, to take applications over the telephone where a client is able to do so.

In some local authority areas, there may be emergency accommodation arrangements for people where there may be no statutory duty or who are currently street homeless for other reasons, but who have not been accommodated. Whilst some of these may be provided by third sector organisations, advisers should contact their local authority in the first instance to inquire about any emergency provision.

Homelessness and 'Unsuitable Accommodation'

The Scottish Government has increased the scope of the The Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014 to include all homeless households. However in practice this may be dependent upon supply. The legislation does not make any exceptions for reasons related to coronavirus after 30 September 2021.

From 6 May 2020 the new legislation:

  • extends the scope of the legislation to include all homeless households, not just pregnant women and households with children

  • makes changes to the ‘basic standards’ which must always be met

  • adds additional standards which must be met (only where the exceptions do not apply)

  • adds new exceptions

The temporary exceptions due to the coronavirus pandemic expired on 30 September 2021, and are no longer in force.

Full details of the changes can be found on the page Standard of Temporary Accommodation.

No recourse to public funds

COSLA has produced a framework to help local authorities to support people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF). The key points of this are:

  • local authorities have statutory Public Health duties to provide emergency accommodation to all people with NRPF who are roofless or rough sleeping during the pandemic in order to protect them from the virus and mitigate public health risks. This is in addition to continued duties to provide any support necessary to safeguard vulnerable people, including children in families with NRPF and adults with community care needs under devolved social care legislation

  • local authorities can provide financial support, food or other emergency assistance, so long as the source of funding is not a prohibited public fund (such as the Scottish Welfare Fund) and can work in partnership (e.g. with third sector partners) to ensure that support can be provided effectively. In circumstances where an individual is receiving assistance solely on public health grounds, this will be provided on a temporary basis, as part of an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic

  • any support provided and costs incurred should be clearly recorded and reviewed, in line with changes in public health advice and/or any relevant changes in UK immigration rules during this period

The framework COVID-19 Response Planning: Supporting Migrants with No Recourse to Public Funds can be found on the COSLA website.

Repairs, inspections and safety checks

There have been no changes made to the legislation relating to repairs for either the private or social rented sector. All statutory repairing duties continue to apply.

However, in both sectors the general rule is that repairs must be carried out within a ‘reasonable’ period of time. Advisers should ensure clients are aware that what is considered to be ‘reasonable’ in the current situation has not been tested and will in any case depend on the nature of the repair.

Gas safety

The Health and Safety Executive advise that 'Landlords should not suspend all gas safety checks at this time as it will unnecessarily put tenants at increased risk, particularly as people are spending most, and in some cases all, of their time at home. Each property should be considered on a case-by-case basis, completing safety checks where tenants permit access and gas engineers are available.' Where it is not possible to carry out a gas safety check, the landlord will need to evidence that they took reasonable steps to do so. There is detailed guidance for all UK landlords on the HSE website Gas Safety checks.

Practical steps

Advisers should continue to advocate for clients and collate evidence. In all cases it will be important to establish whether the landlord ‘will not’ carry out the repair or whether they ‘are unable’ to carry out the repair because of circumstances out with their control. However, it is possible to initiate proceedings to enforce repairs. It is important therefore to note all relevant information carefully.

Where an individual may be at risk if the repair is not carried out, both private and public sectors landlords can be reminded of their general duty of care in terms of the health and safety of any occupants and of their potential liability under s.3 Occupiers Liability (Scotland) Act 1960. If this does not resolve the matter, advisers should speak to a solicitor to discuss whether urgent enforcement action is possible.

In any cases where the repair puts anyone in the household at risk, but the landlord is unable or unwilling to make the property safe, advice should also be given on rights to make homeless application.

First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber

The First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber resumed business on 9 July 2020. Most actions can be carried out remotely via teleconferencing.  

Civil actions at sheriff court

Courts are now open and operating but procedures vary in each court building.

Advisers can check the procedures for their particular court on the Scottish Courts website. Information on the easing of court restrictions beyond level 0 has also been issued.

Useful organisations

Citizen's Advice Scotland

Citizen's Advice Scotland can provide advice on a great many topics including employment rights and money and debt advice. You may wish to signpost clients where the issue is not a housing matter. Bureaus may make arrangements for people to get advice or support via the telephone. Citizen's Advice Scotland have set up a specific page for the public in response to the outbreak. See the page Coronavirus - what it means for you for more information.

Covid Mutual Aid UK

A group of volunteers supporting local community groups organising mutual aid throughout the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK. They focus on providing resources and connecting people to their nearest local groups, willing volunteers and those in need. You can search for local groups via their website.

All Under One Roof

All Under One Roof provide advice for owners of all types of common property. They have set up a webpage: Coronavirus guidance for flat dwellers. The page includes guidance for cleaning of communal areas, difficulties paying factors fees, and how to manage meetings with other occupiers whilst maintaining isolation and social distancing rules.

Last updated: 30 March 2022

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s4 and 5 The Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts (Early Expiry of Provisions) Regulations 2022

  • [2]

    s4 and s5 The Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts (Early Expiry of Provisions) Regulations 2022