Given the current, unprecedented, situation resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, landlords conducting eviction proceedings and other business, such as access requests, in the First Tier Tribunal (‘FTT’) have been particularly affected.
Guidance released by the FTT, Housing and Property Chamber, on 18th March outlined the Chamber’s decision to postpone all scheduled hearings and Case Management Discussions from 18th March. This postponement is due to continue until at least the 28th May 2020, but as with most things currently, it is highly likely this date will change. It is inevitable that once the Tribunal begins operating again there will be significant delays in a system that was already painfully slow for applicants.
As a result, landlords have seen their cases put on hold, meaning they are unable to obtain any orders from the Tribunal.
Further, following the confirmation by Aileen Campbell MSP, Community Secretary, the emergency Covid-19 legislation to be introduced will include a six month ban on evictions from both social and privately rented accommodation. This move is in line with the Scottish Government’s position that no one should face eviction as a result of this pandemic. As such, although the First-tier Tribunal have suspended all business until May, it is likely that the proposed emergency legislation will see a suspension on eviction orders, and evictions, until sometime in September 2020.
Though these moves affect future orders, if a landlord has already obtained an eviction order prior to 18th March, the enforcement of such an order is now almost impossible. Indeed, in line with both the UK and Scottish Government’s guidance, Sheriff Officers have taken the decision to limit their activities to essential and urgent services only (for example, child protection orders, child custody orders, interim interdicts, etc.). Already scheduled evictions have been postponed, and there is no possibility of instructing any new evictions, leaving landlords facing a further, extended, void period where they cannot evict a tenant even where the tenant is failing to pay rent.
While this will cause landlords significant frustration and delay, particularly in situations where they will not be receiving any rent, it is extremely unlikely that the situation will change until such a time as the Government restrictions are lifted.
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