Tag Archives: eviction

Six Ways For The Scottish Parliament To Now Tackle Poverty

As the Scottish Government take their turn to do the okey cokey and shuffle the cabinet, I suggest some ideas the Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers may wish to consider that could help reduce poverty and the worse effects of it in Scotland.

Margaret Burgess (Mininster for Housing)

We have already seen significant advances in housing law over the last few years, with Part One of the Home Owner and Debtor Protection (Scotland) Act 2010, the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Act 2011.

Here, however, is an interesting suggestion by Jon Kiddie, the Principal Solicitor of Renfrewshire Law Centre to end evictions during the coldest months of the year. Similar rules already exist in many EU countries. Why not have similar protections in Scotland, one of the coldest and wettest countries in Western Europe?

Fergus Ewing (Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism)

Or what if we follow the example of Norway and use our legislative authority over debt laws to right down mortgages when people are facing repossession and have negative equity?

Often people get into arrears as they can no longer maintain their mortgage payments. This result in their homes being repossessed and sold at a loss as they have negative equity. If we acknowledge the lenders are going to suffer a loss anyway, why not allow for the debt to be reduced and allow the borrower to repay the loan at the reduced rate?

We will have a new Bankruptcy bill  introduced in this parliament. As I have already blogged we should be bold and recognise the role such laws can have in not only assisting economic recovery, but freeing people from the vicious cycle that is caused by debt, whilst providing a social safety net for the poorest.  We could draw on the laws of Canada and the United States and increase protection for homes in bankruptcy by protecting certain levels of equity. This would allow more to access the remedy where debts are no longer manageable, without placing homes at risk.

We could also introduce a new Debt Payment Programme for pay day loans as has been suggested by Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor of Govan Law Centre which he has blogged about here and I have also covered.

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John Swinney (Cabinet Secretary for Finance)

We all know before the last election The Scottish Government had its efforts to reform local taxation (the council tax) blocked by Labour.

What’s now stopping us?

Council tax is recognised as an unprogressive form of taxation and even those on income support have to pay water and sewage charges.

Under the last Labour Government there was no guarantee also that if Scotland did replace local taxation with a Local Service Tax that the funds currently given in Council Tax Benefit would continue. The Coalition has now, however, devolved this benefit to the regions, including Scotland.

However after they made cuts, Scotland is now funding a benefit shortfall of £40 million per year on top of the current Council Tax freeze.

Why not reintroduce a bill to reform this tax and make local taxation fairer?

Mike Russell (Cabinet Secretary for Education and Life Long Learning)

More often than not, poverty is  the result of low income, illness and unemployment as well as an array of other issues. However, greater financial education can only help Scots.

Financial education should be taught in all primary and secondary schools. We must equip our children with the skills they need in a world where many by the age of 20  will already be sinking  into a sea of debt.

New Protection for Tenants of Social Landlords

New Protection for Tenants of Social Landlords

New legislation introduced today by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 should help stamp out bad practice by many social landlords and bring to an end the draconian practice used by many of holding decrees like Swords of Damocles over the heads of tenants.

S153 and 155 of the 2010 Act, which amend the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, should also make it more difficult for social landlords to evict tenants for rent arrears.

Section 153 introduces a new section 16(5A) and (5B) into the 2001 Act, which will mean that where court orders are now granted in relation to Scottish Secure Tenancies on grounds that include rent arrears, the date specified in the order for recovery will no longer be the date the tenancy ends. Instead tenancies will now cease on the date that recovery is made, ensuring technical evictions will no longer be required where agreements are reached and no new tenancy agreements will need to be signed.

The new amendments also require the courts to specify a maximum period within which the landlord must use the court order, which cannot exceed 6 month.

Section 155 does for Scottish Secure Tenants what the Home Owner and Debtor Protection (Scotland) Act 2010 done for home owners. It introduces new obligations in the form of Pre-Action Requirements (PARs) on Councils and Housing Associations which they must comply with before they can serve a notice of intention to raise proceedings. These PARs will only apply in rent arrear cases and landlords will be expected to comply with Scottish Government Guidance (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0039/00395195.pdf).

The PARs are very similar to those for homeowners in that they place heavy emphasis on tenants being provided clear information, directed towards advice and where they are attempting to seek agreements for reasonable efforts to be made by landlords to enter agreements. Landlords are also encouraged not to initiate legal action where applications are being made for housing benefit and to provide tenants with assistance in making such applications.

One of the most interesting topics in the Guidance relates to sequestrations, where landlords are encouraged to consider where it is appropriate for them to raise actions for eviction where tenants have become bankrupt. Although sequestration in itself does not stop eviction, the point is made that raising actions for eviction may be construed as an attempt to obtain unfair preference and arguably should be avoided.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations have claimed the new laws are unnecessary and will not result in less evictions, but this ignores the point that when the credit crunch began the political focus was on preventing home owners losing their homes, despite the fact a tenant was twice as likely to have a decree made against him/her. Traditionally, the plight of tenants has been neglected and the fact these provisions took over 18 months to be introduced when the equivalent for home owners came into force in 2010 emphasises that point. There may not be fewer evictions, but the purpose of the provisions is also to improve practices in dealing with rent arrears.

Where the practices of social landlord are as unimpeachable as they claim, they will have nothing to worry about, but where they are not the Sword of Damocles that some of them held over the heads of their tenants for years, may now drop on them.

English Bailiffs Threaten BBC With Legal Action 

????Although this blog normally deals only with issues of debt, I thought in this case I would make an exception as it relates to the conduct of Shergroup, an English High Court Enforcement Officer’s conduct.

Recently at the Democracy Village camped outside the House’s of Parliament, High Court Enforcement Officers were brought into evict the protestors, after Tory Mayor, Boris Johnstone obtained a court order to evict them. In one piece of video footage by the BBC, a bailiff appears to be kicking a protestor.

However Shergroup, the private bailiff firm employed to carry out the eviction, have now hit back and threatened to take legal action against the BBC. They have posted their own footage on YouTube, showing what they say was their employee only trying to free his feet from the protestor.

Although, I need to ask if stamping on the protestor was really necessary to free the bailiffs foot. Possibly it doesn’t show them in the good light they hoped.

It  raises an important point, however, and that is court officers, north and south of the border are representatives of the court and its authority, so when their conduct is unacceptable, they bring not only themselves, but the court into disrepute. In Scotland a complaint can be made to the Sheriff Principal when it concerns a sheriff officer or the Lord President of the Court of Session when it concerns messenger at arms.

You decide:

BBC footage can be seen here.

Shergroup footage can be seen here.

NOTE: Bailiffs do not operate in Scotland to enforce court orders, instead we have Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms. What is often not realised, however, is that although most people associate  bailiffs and sheriff officers with enforcement of debt, they can be required to enforce any court order, such as evicting people. One of the more stranger aspects of the court regulations which relate to sheriff officer  in Scotland is that there is actually a price for them to arrange and take possession of a child: a bargain at only £124.30.