We understand that the figure of 224 that the member quotes relates to the number of eviction hearings or case management discussions that were scheduled to take place up to 15 March 2023. That is not the number of eviction applications that have been received by the tribunal. Each application can involve a number of hearings or discussions, so the number of those will not be the same as the number of eviction applications received.
The Cost of Living (Tenant) Protection (Scotland) Act 2022 does not prevent landlords serving a notice to leave or making an application to the tribunal, and the tribunal will still make a decision on whether to issue an eviction order or decree. However, enforcement of the eviction must be paused for up to six months, except in certain narrowly defined circumstances.
I am pleased that the Scottish Government has confirmed that the moratorium on evictions, plus a rent cap, will remain in place until September. However, the number of eviction cases being lodged per month appears to be actually higher than before the eviction ban, due to various loopholes in the legislation. The ban does not apply to tenants with arrears of six months or more, to social tenants with debts of more than £2,250 or where the landlord chooses to sell the property.
Would the minister be willing to look at whether it might be possible to remove those loopholes and at how that would impact on the real situations that tenants face?
We are keeping the operation of the 2022 act under continual review. We will report on it regularly to Parliament, as the act requires us to do.
The member will recall debates during the passage of the legislation on the question of rent arrears. I made the case that, although the arguments are balanced in some ways, the help that people with rent arrears need is not simply to be stuck where they are as they build up ever more unpayable debt. The form of help that they need is direct assistance, and that is what the Government has made available in other ways.
Rather than thinking that we will go back and unpick the legislation, which was passed with the support of Labour colleagues, let us make sure that we continue to operate it as effectively as we can to give tenants in Scotland the protection that they so badly need, and which is so completely lacking in other parts of the United Kingdom.