LABOUR has demanded the Scottish Government should extend the eviction ban immediately – warning ministers it would be “deeply irresponsible” to let the rules expire.

The eviction ban protects tenants in level 3 or level 4 coronavirus restrictions, but all parts of Scotland is either in level 0, level 1 or level 2.

Tenants’ organisations including Living Rent have warned of a ‘cliff edge of orders to evict’ in the event of the country entering level 2 rules.

Statistics from the Scottish Housing Regulator show an increase on notices of proceedings being served to social housing tenants which related to rent arrears of 280 per cent from June 2020 to the end of March 2021.

Citizens Advice Scotland has also reported that requests for advice about arrears with private landlords more than doubled from 2019 to 2020.

Scottish Labour has pointed to thousands of tenants still feeling the impact of the pandemic, many of whom are still on the furlough scheme.

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The party wants the evictions ban to be extended, the Tenant’s Hardship Loan Fund to be reformed by the Scottish Government and to allow people easier access to discretionary housing payments (DHPs).

Scottish Labour housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said: “Make no mistake, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Scots are on the line.

“With the whole of Scotland only now entering either level 2 or level 1, and no guarantee that the country we will remain at those levels, it would be deeply irresponsible to allow evictions to begin again in earnest.

“Statistics clearly show that tenants are struggling and still need support.

“That’s why Scottish Labour is calling on the SNP to extend the eviction ban, reform the Tenant’s Hardship Loan Fund, and deliver easier access to discretionary housing payments.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to Scotland’s tenants in their hour of need.”

Last month, Deputy First Minister John Swinney told MSPs that measures to further protect people from the threat of eviction were “under close consideration”.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We are deeply aware of the financial difficulties facing many people as a result of the coronavirus crisis and are doing all we can to support them.

“We have made clear since the start of the pandemic that taking eviction action against those who have suffered financial hardship should be an absolute last resort and have put legislation in place requiring landlords to work with their tenants to manage rent arrears before seeking eviction.

“We also have emergency legislation in place to extend the notice period a landlord must give.

“We introduced the temporary eviction ban for when Covid-19 cases were at their highest as a public health measure to keep people safe in their homes.

“The ban remains in place until September for areas subject to Level 3 and 4 restrictions.”