North goes against national trend as evictions rise by more than 30%

Evictions among Highland Council tenants have increased by more than 30% in three years, despite a reduction nationally.

Figures released by Shelter Scotland yesterday revealed there have been 34 evictions during 2009-10, which is a 36% increase on last year.

In the past three years, since the homelessness charity started publishing its annual analysis, evictions have risen by 31%.

Launching its third annual report on evictions, Shelter Scotland said that while 20 of Scotland’s 26 local authority landlords showed significant reductions, there was a room for improvement among others.

Charity director Graeme Brown said: “It’s disappointing news that evictions in Highland are up by 36%. We have been campaigning to make eviction the last resort for social landlords, but these figures show the council is not making the improvements the majority of local authorities across Scotland are making.

“We urge Highland Council to revisit its policies and practices regarding eviction.”

Of the 34 Highland Council evictions, 29 were due to rent arrears among its 13,500 tenants, which is an increase of five cases compared to the previous year.

Councillor Alasdair Christie, vice-chairman of Highland Council’s housing and social work committee, said: “The council has a well-developed policy on dealing with arrears, which focuses on early intervention and aims to ensure that tenants have access to good-quality advice.

“We do consider eviction as a last resort, and our eviction figures actually indicate the low number of evictions we carry out compared to the number of houses we manage.

“I think Shelter’s report is correct to highlight the issue of rent arrears and eviction, but my message to tenants is that eviction is preventable.

“They should contact the council or independent advice services as soon as possible if they are having difficulty paying their rent, so that we can work with them to resolve their problem and avoid the risk of eviction.”

The report also revealed that housing associations and local authorities have reduced the amount of total evictions carried out in Scotland each year.

There were 2,204 evictions in Scotland in 2009-10 and only 942 of them were by housing associations, which is a drop from the 1,524 terminated tenancies carried out in 2008-9.

The number of evictions by local authorities dropped from 1,773 in 2008-9 to 1,262 in 2009-10.

Mr Brown added: “It’s great news that evictions by social landlords in Scotland as a whole are down by one third.”