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Council tenant evictions concern

17 December 08 00:32 GMT

Twice as many people are losing their homes due to evictions by social landlords than mortgage repossessions, a housing charity has claimed.

A Shelter Scotland report found 13.1 out of every thousand social housing tenants had an eviction decree granted against them, most for rent arrears.

The rate for homeowners with a decree against them was 6.8 per thousand.

However, council representative body Cosla disputed the Shelter figures on council evictions.

Shelter said councils had evicted 2,089 tenants last year but Cosla said council figures showed 1,221 were evicted.

Shelter said the majority of the 3,600 evictions by social landlords, including councils, last year were for rent arrears.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said more support was needed for social tenants.

He said: "We have campaigned for better protection for homeowners because each repossession is an individual and social tragedy.

"This report makes sobering reading. It shows that eviction rates in the social sector, primarily for rent arrears, which should be recovered without resorting to such Dickensian measures, are alarmingly high.

"Being forced to leave your home should only be used as a last resort whether you are the tenant of a social landlord or the owner of a property."

The report showed that councils took 13,382 tenants to court last year, evicting 2,089 of them - the disputed figure.

It said housing associations took 6,657 tenants to court, evicting 1,484 of them.

Harry McGuigan, community wellbeing and safety spokesman for Cosla, said:"Councils only evict tenants as an absolute last resort. Councils are working hard to meet the 2012 homelessness target.

"Scotland's councils are committed to addressing and preventing homelessness.

"Every effort is and will continue to be made to minimise the sad reality of eviction and its consequences.

"We will continue to do all that we can to avoid the drastic and sometimes unavoidable step of eviction."

Shelter Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to offer a protection package for tenants comparable to that developed for homeowners.

It also wants social landlords to develop alternative ways to deal with debt and breach of tenancy grounds that will avoid making families homeless.

Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell said: "In the current economic climate when many more people find themselves in financial difficulty, evictions for rent arrears are a particular concern.

"I expect social landlords and other agencies to use eviction proceedings as a last resort, and to do all they can to prevent tenants getting into arrears.

"I would also expect that this is the basis by which the Scottish Housing Regulator carries out its inspections and ongoing scrutiny of social landlords.

"I am also concerned about the difficulties delays in paying benefits cause for vulnerable households, and I would urge the Department for Work and Pensions to improve efficiency to ensure the process is as fair as possible."

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