Campaigners warn of the hardship facing thousands of renters across the country.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has said an overhaul to Scotland’s housing policy should be at the forefront of attempts to “build back better” from Covid-19.
The charity has warned the coming months could prove particularly stressful for tenants across Scotland, calling for all of the multi-million pound hardship fund, introduced by the Scottish Government, to make its way into public pockets .
Writing in the Herald, Aoife Deery, senior policy officer at CAS, said that ahead of the loosening of protections for renters introduced to prevent evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic next month, the Scottish Government must continue to learn from the pandemic.
Ms Deery reiterated the promise that “no-one should lose their home because they have suffered financial hardship due to coronavirus” - made by the Scottish Government in 2020.
She said the CAS network will continue to work to get support and funding to those who are most in need of it.
Ms Deery wrote: “At the end of next month, the last COVID protections introduced by the Scottish Government against eviction – the extended notice periods - will fall.
“To some, this will signal a return to normal times, but for others it will be a significant cause for concern as they try to get out of the financial mess that COVID has left many in.
“With the furlough scheme having ended and several other support schemes wrapping up, opportunities to access financial help are narrowing.
“Coupled with the rocketing cost of living and soaring bills, it’s really important that people act now to check what help they might be able to access.
“CAS advocated strongly for the establishment of the £10million COVID Tenant Grant Fund and now we want to see every penny of it going towards keeping people in their homes.
“I’ve said this many times before in this column, but the lasting lesson of the pandemic for many of us has been how important having a safe, warm and affordable home is.”
The CAS policy officer also underlined efforts being made at a parliamentary level in Holyrood to strengthen the Scottish housing system, with many proposals made by the government building on the experiences of the pandemic.
She pointed to the Covid Recovery Bill, which includes putting greater onus on landlords to engage with tenants and would bring the private rented sector in line with social landlords.
Ms Deery added: “Looking further ahead, the Scottish Government has also now published its Rented Sector Strategy, which contains a host of policy proposals aimed at improving affordability, accessibility and standards in the rented sector.
“Some proposals look to strengthen existing housing policy, such as around evictions, while others introduce completely new policies, for example introducing a regulator for the private rented sector.”
“As we move into days where it feels like we might soon see the end of the pandemic, it’s easy to forget the bold pledges the Scottish Government made in the early days.
“It’s also easy to forget that people might still be feeling the financial effects of the pandemic.
“The Citizens Advice network in Scotland hasn’t forgotten, and will keep working to get cash into people’s pockets.”