The Scottish Government’s decision to extend its eviction and repossession ban has thrown a lifeline to many Scots and their families.
However, although the Scottish Government has said they have an option of extending the ban beyond the 31st March 2021, people should not assume they will and should use this time to take steps to help themselves.
In this post we look at what tenants and homeowners can do to help themselves.
The most important thing you can do if you have mortgage or rent or mortgage arrears is get advice.
The second most important thing you can do is speak to your Landlord or Mortgage providers. They may be able to help you.
In terms of Landlords, it is in their interest to help you. Currently the law states that if they want to evict you, they must first give you six month notice before they even initiate legal action. Even if they have done that and obtained an order to evict you, the eviction ban means they currently cannot remove you from the property. The most effective way for them to get their money, therefore, is to work with you.
Also, Mortgage Providers have been told by they UK Financial Regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, that they must work with home owners and where it is required give them support.
If you don’t feel able to do this or you need help claiming benefits, then contacting your local advice agency is important as they can assist you.
Maximise your Income
If you have been affected by the Covid 19 Crisis fiancially, then you may be entitled to financial assistance from the UK Government.
This may come in the form of the UK Furlough Scheme (speak to your employer) or the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme .
Also you may be entitled to additional social security benefits such as Universal Credit and help with your housing costs.
Unfortunately, you cannot get help with your mortgage through Universal Credit, but there is some support in the form of a secured loan available through the UK Government’s Support for Mortgage Interest Scheme (although you do need to wait 39 weeks before that support becomes available).
The most important thing you can, therefore, is look at how you can maximise your income.
One way of doing this, is by completing a full benefit check for yourself.
Discretionary Housing Payment
If you are a tenant and you are having difficulty paying your rent, you may be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Payment.
A Discretionary Housing Payment is a payment that your Local Authority can pay to you or your Landlord to help you with your rent.
These payments can be in addition to other payments to help you with your housing costs, such as through Universal Credit.
They cannot be use to pay rent arrears, however, where you cannot pay your full rent because Universal Credit won’t cover the full cost, or you have been affected by the Benefit Cap, or your income has dropped, DHPs can be awarded to make up the difference.
They can also be backdated, so they may reduce your rent arrears.
If you are interested in applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment, you should contact your Local Authority.
Scottish Welfare Fund
All of Scotland’s Local Authorities can provide people with non-repayable grants through the Scottish Welfare Fund.
The types of grants that are available are Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants.
Non of these can be awarded to help pay rent or mortgage costs, however, they can be provided for other reasons if you are struggling financially and this may help you with other costs.
Crisis Grants can be paid to help you with your day to day living costs if you are experiencing any financial hardship and are intended to pay for essential living costs such as food and ensuring you home is heated.
Community Care Grants can be paid to cover the cost of larger items that need replaced, and are essential, such as beds, flooring, curtains and cookers.
If you want to apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund, you should contact your local authority.
Tenancy Support Hardship Fund
The Tenancy Support Hardship Fund should be the last option you should explore if you have rent arrears.
This is because it means borrowing from the Scottish Government a loan to pay your rent arrears, that you then must repay.
However, the Loan is interest free and does not need to be repaid immediately. Once you have borrowed from it, you don’t need to make any payments for the six months.
After that you have up to five years to repay the loan.
In addition to that if you are financially struggling to repay the loan, you cannot be evicted, unlike if you don’t repay your rent.
The Tenancy Support Hardship Fund can only cover rent arrears that have been accrued since the 1st of January 2020.
If you want to apply to the Tenancy Support Hardship Fund, you do online via a Scottish Government Webpage.
Once the sequestration is awarded by the Accountant in Bankruptcy, or by the Court (where a creditor makes you bankrupt), the Trustee notifies the creditor and the wage arrestment should cease.
Dealing with Rent Arrears
If you are experiencing difficulty with your rent arrears, our page on Rent Arrears and how to deal with them will provide you with more information.
Dealing with Mortgage Arrears
Our page on Mortgage Arrears also explains the process that mortgage providers must use when you get into mortgage arrears and tell you what your rights are. For more information, click below.