Illegal Evictions in Scotland
The truth about illegal evictions in Scotland - and it's not a pretty picture
by Aoife Deery, CAS housing spokesperson.
This article was first published in the Herald on 6 May 2023.
In October, I wrote here about the importance of knowing your housing rights and how to spot an illegal eviction. Since then, we’ve been doing a deep dive into the evidence from across the network of CABs in Scotland and what it can tell us about CAB clients’ experiences of this issue.
We looked at the numbers of people approaching us for advice on this area, as well as individual cases of people affected by the issue since 2019. We are indebted to the CAB advisers across Scotland who report these cases to us (anonymously of course) which allow us to better understand what’s happening in reality.
First and foremost, our data told us that demand for advice about illegal eviction did not decline during the pandemic. This indicates that the practice carried on despite the public health orders in place during the pandemic, which mandated people to stay safely at home to reduce the risk of spreading COVID.
When most people think about illegal eviction, a picture of belongings thrown out onto the street and forced lock changes springs to mind. Our data tells us that it’s often much less ‘dramatic’ than this, but no less damaging. Many of the cases we looked at showed that there’s a big problem with people not being provided with the right (or any) tenancy or eviction paperwork, being given very short notice periods, and being unaware that this is illegal until after the fact.
We also saw many cases of tenants being asked to leave in response to reasonable requests for repairs. Advisers also frequently found that landlords engaging in this practice were not registered, and many did not lodge their tenants’ deposits properly, further breaking the law.
Standing out among all the cases was how often clients affected by illegal eviction had to apply as homeless. With Scottish homelessness figures at their highest since records began in 2002 and over 14,400 families in temporary accommodation, this is putting even more pressure on an already stretched system. Even more concerning was that some local authorities turned away clients who could not produce tenancy or eviction paperwork, despite this being a failure of their landlord to provide them with this.
Our research also told us that people’s safety was being threatened: in more than one case, the landlord threatened to ‘send someone round’ if the tenant did not leave the property, often with very little notice. It’s unacceptable that anyone should feel unsafe in their home. This is an abuse of power against often vulnerable tenants.
To be clear, there are many valid reasons that a landlord may evict a tenant. The law allows for this. However, our evidence suggests that there is a large ‘shadow’ rented sector made up of unregistered and unscrupulous landlords operating in Scotland. We believe our evidence is just scratching the surface of the depth and breadth of illegal eviction, with many other organisations also regularly assisting clients affected by it. We know that the Scottish Government is keen to address the issue in the upcoming Housing Bill and we hope these new insights can help remove bad landlords and make the rented sector fairer for both good landlords and tenants.
You can read our full report on the issue here.