The Rent Arrears Pre-Action Requirements (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 came into force on 30 September 2020 and applies to any assured, short assured or private residential tenancy application to the First tier Tribunal for Scotland for an eviction order on or after 6 October 2020. These regulations would appear to be in force until at least March 2021.
The Scottish Government within their guidance note have made it clear that no-one should lose their home because they have suffered financial hardship due to coronavirus. They expect landlords to be flexible with tenants facing financial difficulties and to signpost them to the sources of financial support available.
While this seems challenging for landlords the Scottish Government have also made it clear that tenants must continue to pay their rent where they are able to do so.
The Scottish Government considers that the focus should always be on sustaining tenancies wherever possible and that eviction action should be a last resort given the negative impacts on tenants and landlords.
Landlords should aim to be flexible in their approach to helping tenants facing financial difficulties, especially during the coronavirus outbreak. Where rent arrears arise, dialogue and negotiation between landlord and tenant is required, and engaging with tenants at the earliest opportunity is essential to managing the situation to avoid the need for eviction action.
When a tenant falls in to arrears, the landlord, or their letting agent, should contact the tenant as quickly as possible to discuss the issue and offer support. It is helpful for the landlord to provide information to the tenant on the financial support that may be available to them as soon as arrears occur.
Tenants may face complex and evolving issues including sudden loss of employment, changing work patterns and reduced income and unexpected expense. When any changes occur in a tenant’s circumstances, early discussion can help both parties to agree a plan to manage any arrears that have already occurred and to prevent further arrears accumulating.
Landlords should consider what steps they can take to help the tenant manage arrears and move back into the payment of rent.
The pre-action requirements are broken down into 3 sections that must be complied with:
1- Provide the tenant with clear information (which can be by writing or email) relating to:
- The terms of the tenancy agreement
- The amount of rent for which the tenant is in arrears
- The tenant’s rights in relation to proceedings for possession of a house (including the pre-action requirements set out in this regulation and the need for an order to be granted by a tribunal)
- How the tenant may access information and advice on financial support and debt management
2 – Make reasonable efforts to agree a reasonable plan with the tenant to make payments to the landlord of:
- Future payments of rent
- The rent for which the tenant is in arrears
3 – Give reasonable consideration to:
- Any steps being taken by the tenant which may affect the ability of the tenant to make payment to the landlord of the rent for which the tenant is in arrears within a reasonable time
- The extent to which the tenant has complied with the terms of any agreed plan
- Any changes to the tenant’s circumstances which are likely to impact on the extent to which the tenant complies with the terms of an agreed plan