Council record sharp increase in evictions

East Dunbartonshire Council headquarters, Kirkintilloch.
East Dunbartonshire Council headquarters, Kirkintilloch.

The number of residents facing eviction from council homes in East Dunbartonshire has risen by more than 60 per cent in the last year.

Figures released by the Scottish Government show that East Dunbartonshire Council has pursued a total of 267 evictions in the period spanning 2013-14.

By law, the council can only take court action if it first issues a pre-action requirement known as a notice of proceedings (NoP).

This provision was brought in by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 and came in to force back in August 2012.

After issuing an NoP, landlords must then try to resolve debt arrears with the tenant through negotiation first.

Last year’s tally shows there were 100 more of these cases than in the previous term, with all evictions taken in response to rent arrears.

Raymond Heath, housing advisor at East Dunbartonshire’s Citizen’s Advice Bureaux, has argued the rise in eviction notices could be a delayed effect from the introduction of the bedroom tax.

He said: “The pre-action requirements are probably resulting in an increase in eviction decrees being awarded.

“Also, the bedroom tax could have contributed to the increase in NoP’s, due to the initial difficulties with Discretionary Housing Payment applications and their initial problems applying it.

“Since April 2014, a clear application form has been adapted for these payments and people who are due it now get it, stopping the need for NoPs. I expect a drop in the numbers this year.”

From 2013-14, the council issued 267 notices to tenants, up from 167 the year before.

They also took court action 147 times, representing a 58 per cent rise from the previous year’s total of 94.

And while the number of eviction orders obtained dropped by 13 per cent, the total number of evictions carried out rose by almost 30 per cent.

Council officials argued the increase is due to a backlog of paper work brought on as a result of the Housing Act.

Grace Irvine, director of neighbourhood services, said: “The new legislation meant we needed to update our letters and procedures, as well as taking several additional steps in the process, before being able to serve an NoP.

“The additional work meant there was a delay in proceeding with some cases, resulting in a higher figure in 2013-14.

“The drop in the number of eviction orders taking place is really a positive, as it was due to more tenants taking the opportunity to engage with us, rather than facing the prospect of eviction.”