Saturday 23 March 2013

GLC welcomes First Minister's commitment to 'No evictions for bedroom tax' but warns of a post-code bedroom tax eviction lottery in Scotland

The First Minister, Alex Salmond MSP announced today that all SNP-led local authorities would embrace a 'no evictions for bedroom tax' policy, ensuring that where tenants were paying their rent but struggling to cope with the bedroom tax, they would not be evicted by their local authority landlord.

This policy approach was first proposed in Scotland by Govan Law Centre, and our 'No evictions for bedroom tax' campaign has since been backed by a wide range of civic bodies in Scotland including the STUC, Oxfam, Shelter Scotland, tenants bodies, mental health charities and almost 5,000 signatures to our petition to the Scottish Parliament.

The SNP currently lead nine of Scotland's 32 local authorities although they only have a majority in one council, Dundee City Council, which has already implemented a 12 month 'No evictions for bedroom tax' policy.

GLC welcomes the First Minister's commitment to the 'No evictions for bedroom tax' campaign, but notes that the Scottish Government has the power to require all of Scotland's 32 local authorities and 183 registered social landlord housing associations and co-operatives to embrace the same policy which the First Minister has today embraced and approved.

GLC believes it would be grossly unfair for only some tenants to benefit from this policy in Scotland while others do not. We do not believe that a 'post-code bedroom tax eviction lottery' is in the Scottish public interest. We hope that the Scottish Government will embrace the need to ensure that all tenants in the social rented sector in Scotland benefit from a 'No evictions for bedroom tax' policy.


Monday 18 March 2013

GLC welcomes Housing Minister's advice on bedroom tax and apparent support for the principle of 'No evictions for bedroom tax arrears''

Govan Law Centre (GLC) has welcomed the Scottish Housing Minister's advice for landlords on the bedroom tax, which the Scottish Government has announced today.  In particular, GLC is pleased to see Housing Minister, Margaret Burgess, encourage social landlords to work with local authorities on the reclassification of 'bedrooms' where appropriate to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax.

This was a legal issue which GLC on behalf of the Glasgow Advice Agency Ltd (GAA) had obtained the opinion of senior counsel over a month ago, and which GAA had expressly called for the Scottish Government to utlise as a practical strategy to minimse the application of under-occupancy charges, especially where a household had a disabled person. We support the Minister's helpful words of encouragement to social landlords' today:

"There are also circumstances where a bedroom’s classification may be changed and tenants not penalised. Again, I would encourage landlords to consider this possibility and work with their local authority if at all possible".

GLC also welcomes the Minister's endorsement of Dundee City Council's 'No eviction for bedroom tax arrears' policy, which we believe is a very progressive initiative based upon the exact same principle as our 'No eviction for bedroom tax arrears' campaign. The Dundee City Council policy will last for 12 months and guarantees that no tenant who is doing their best to pay their rent arrears will be evicted for bedroom tax arrears. The Minister's statement on this issue is reproduced below, and GLC hopes that the Scottish Government will reconsider its position on amending section 16 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 in light of its apparent support for Dundee's no evictions for bedroom tax policy.

The Scottish Housing Minister said today: "You may wish to be aware of the policy adopted by Dundee City Council which I believe provides a useful template to protect tenants who genuinely cannot make up the shortfall in rent caused by the bedroom tax. The Council has committed that, where the Director of Housing is satisfied that affected tenants are doing all that can be reasonably expected to in order to avoid falling into arrears, they will use all legitimate means to collect rent due, except eviction. I would encourage you to consider this as a mechanism to protect the most vulnerable of your tenants.”

Friday 15 March 2013

Are UK mortgage lenders entitled to triple their tracker rates?

The proposed doubling and tripling of Bank of Ireland's (BoI) base rate tracker from May has caused shock and outrage among its 13,500 mortgage customers in the UK. Tracker mortgage rates are meant to track the Bank of England's base rate, which hasn't moved in four years. As many consumers get to grips with how they will find the many hundreds of unexpected pounds needed each month to stave off repossession, is BoI entitled to do this? GLC's Mike Dailly believes the bank appears to be acting oppressively and may not be entitled to do this. In a guest column for, he urges victims to fight back.


Thursday 7 March 2013

Scottish Government provide flawed reasoning and no evidence to reject the principle of 'No evictions for bedroom tax arrears'

Addressing a packed roundtable meeting of Scottish community groups, trade unionists and representatives of civic Scotland bodies organised by the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) tonight, Govan Law Centre set out why it believed the Scottish Government had based its decision to reject the 'No evictions for bedroom tax arrears' campaign on flawed reasoning and without any evidence.

The Scottish Government set out its position on why it would not amend section 16 of the 2001 Housing (Scotland) Act to prevent evictions caused by under-occupancy deductions to housing benefit during General Question Time in the Scottish Parliament today (the BBC Scotland video of GQT is below).

Govan Law Centre's analysis of the reasoning put forward by the Scottish Government today can be read here, and these points were discussed at the STUC this evening, where all participants very strongly rallied around the principle of 'No evictions for bedroom tax arrears' in Scotland.

GLC hopes that the Scottish Government will reconsider its position here, and take the opportunity to ingather empirical evidence, as well as taking evidence on the proposal from Scottish community representatives, trade unions, disability rights campaigners, advice agencies and civic Scotland.

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Tuesday 5 March 2013

Sheriff Principal rules on proper approach to section 16(3) factors in Scottish eviction case callings

Sitting at Glasgow Sheriff Court today, Sheriff Principal Bowen QC has recalled a sheriff's decree for ejection and payment in an action of recovery of hertiable possession upon the basis that the court had taken the wrong approach to section 16(3) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, and did not have a sufficient factual basis to determine the question of whether it was reasonable to evict the tenant. 

In the case of Glenoaks Housing Association v. DF the sheriff had granted decree after a sist was recalled on the hearing of an incidental application by the landlord, and the pursuers had advised that arrears had risen to almost £3,000. The defender had sought to continue the cause to resolve a housing benefit application and the pursuer had argued that housing benefit was not particulary relevant because the tenant had failed to provide relevant information to enable the claim to be determined. This was disputed by the tenant's solicitor who requested a continuation to resolve this key issue.

The sheriff at first instance had refused to grant a continuation or fix a proof and held that the facts were 'sufficiently agreed'  in terms of SCR 8.3 to enable him to dispose of the case on the merits at the hearing of the incidental application. At the appeal hearing, the defender and appellant had argued that sheriff had failed to properly have regard to the factors set out in section 16(3) of the 2001 Act and was wrong in law to have held the facts were 'sufficiently agreed'.

The Sheriff Principal held that there was substance in the appellant's arguments in terms of the proper approach to the evidential factors in section 16(3) and questioned whether the facts had been sufficient agreed, and doubted there was a sufficient factual basis to determine the reasonableness of granting decree; and therefore recalled the decree, allow 14 days for a Supplementary Note of Defence and fixed a diet of proof, reserving the question of expenses.

The cases of City of Edinburgh Council v. Forbes 2002 Hous LR 61, Northern Rock (AM) plc v. Youngson 2012 Hous LR 100 and Henderson v. Nova Scotia Limited (2006) UKHL 21 were considered. The pursuers' were represented by Mr Bauld of TC Young in the appeal hearing, and the defender by GLC's Mike Dailly and Laura Simpson.