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Financial support for tenants in Highlands with Covid-19 rent arrears

By Gavin Musgrove

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Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Highland Council has received funding to provide financial help for tenants in social housing and the private sector at risk of becoming homeless after falling behind with rent payments during the pandemic.

The Tenant Grant Fund is in addition to services already available for those struggling with rent arrears and are worried about eviction.

The funding will help tenants who have struggled financially as a direct result of the pandemic, allowing them to reduce or pay-off any rent arrears they have built up.

The grants do not have to be repaid and are available to tenants in council, housing association or privately-rented accommodation.

Highland Council has received an allocation of £296,000 from the Scottish Government which is only available until 31st March 2022.

The scheme is designed to be flexible but there is an eligibility criteria set by Ministers.

Grants are limited to helping with rent arrears that built-up between 23rd March 2020 and 9th August 2021.

They can be used to make a full or partial payment of arrears depending on individual circumstances

Grants will be targeted towards current tenants who are at risk of becoming homeless and do not have any other way of clearing the arrears

Payments will be made to landlords rather than tenants on the strict condition that the payment will be used to credit the tenant's rent account, and that any ongoing proceedings to end the tenancy will be ceased.

Councillor Margaret Davidson, Leader of Highland Council, said: “Highland Council has an excellent track record of supporting tenants to maximise their income and manage their rent accounts in both the social and private housing sectors.

"We are well aware of the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the support offered by the council has been essential in sustaining tenancies.

"We are now in a position to consider enquiries relating to the Tenant Grant Fund...

"The council looks forward to working with tenants and landlords to support them at this difficult time.”

Initial enquiries can be made to housing.policyteam@highland.gov.uk by tenants, landlords or third party organisations that are supporting either a tenant or landlord.

Meanwhile Highlands MSP Ariane Burgess (Scottish Greens) has said soaring rents across the Highlands and Islands show need for controls

New statistics published earlier this week show that between 2010 and 2021 the average rent for a two bedroom property in the Highlands and Islands increased by 21.6 per cent.

The Scottish Greens have secured a commitment to introduce a national system of rent controls, as part of an agreement with the Scottish Government, which will see a package of enhanced rights for tenants delivered.

Ms Burgess said: “Many of my constituents across the Highlands and Islands, along with tenants across the country, have faced eye watering rent rises in recent years.

"We simply cannot leave something as fundamental as people’s homes to market forces. That’s why I’m proud that the Scottish Greens will bring rent controls back to Scotland as part of a fair deal for Scotland’s renters.”

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