#stuc19 The STUC has voted to back a campaign to ban evictions during winter months, following the example of new laws in France.
Along with Trades Union Councils, it will lend its weight to Living Rent’s Winter Break campaign in Scotland which seeks to stop evictions for anyone who has a legal tenancy agreement, or in a mortgaged home, or in sheltered accommodation even if they cannot afford to pay their rent.
While landlords can begin eviction proceedings, they cannot forcibly remove tenants until 1 April onwards. It is meant as a humanitarian measure, to ensure that people do not end up homeless in the coldest part of the year.
It also avoids costly eviction proceedings (on average £16,000 each) and emergency accommodation and allows time for people to get support to address the problem.
Supporting a Glasgow Trades Union Council motion, UNISON’s Kim McLachlan, who represents members working for the biggest social housing landlord in Scotland, told delegates: “I suppose the biggest question is whether the suspension of evictions for rent arrears is actually feasible? And I believe the answer to that question lies in the answer to the first question I asked Glasgow Housing Association’s managing director. How many evictions had Glasgow Housing Association carried out to date this winter?
“The answer – none. So, it can be done.”
Kim said the language and practice around rent arrears and evictions has to change.
“Sorting out an issue with rent more times than not will only shift the emphasis from rents to something else. Landlords must consider not just arrears free but debt free.
“Everything ranging from support with budgeting skills, assistance with fuel costs, Welfare Benefit advisers, food packages, financial assistance and even furniture packages are offered to social tenants to support them with overall budgeting. This clearly has a knock on effect on a tenant’s ability to pay rent.”
She also slammed the effects of Universal Credit. “In the past, commercial landlords saw benefit claimants as a bit of a “golden ticket” and a “cash cow”. However, with the introduction of the criminal and odious Universal Credit and in particular the 4 – 5 week waiting period (which incidentally will take up to 8 weeks or more) with no backdate, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict that for private landlords the goose that laid the golden egg has long flown. This will leave more and more vulnerable people on the streets.”
The STUC will facilitate a Winter Break summit, alongside all relevant stakeholders, commit to a day of action on 1 November; and urge all trade unions to affiliate to Living Rent.