Landlords in Scotland have told researchers that ‘malicious non-payment of rent’ should be included within the legal definition of theft and become a specific mandatory ground for eviction.

Following months of Covid-related eviction bans and evidence of increasing rent arrears, researchers at Glasgow University’s UK Centre for Housing Evidence polled hundreds of private landlords to find out how they thought the rental sector could be improved.

Its ‘CaCHE report‘ concludes that: “The challenge, of course, would be finding a definition of ‘malicious non-payment’ which courts could actually work with.

“However, the challenges posed by malicious non-payment suggest that it is worthy of further consideration.”

Nearly two thirds of the landlords polled, who were presented with a range of options, singled out malicious non-payment as the key solution to rent arrears, along with direct payment of benefits, a streamlined arrears processes, a tenants register and making it easier to chase rent debts.

John Blackwood, Chief Executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords (pictured), says: “We welcome any contribution to the debate that moves us forward in solving Scotland’s housing crisis and what role the PRS should have in meeting that goal, particularly after the effects of the pandemic which has seen both landlords and tenants struggle. 

“We support the findings of the CaCHE report and measures which help tenants fulfil their responsibility to pay their rent and encourage landlords to be understanding and flexible as they have shown throughout the pandemic.”

The report’s authors Andrew Watson and Nick Bailey agree with this point, saying: “Landlords are a very heterogeneous group and not all have the ability to easily absorb the resulting losses.

“Some have themselves been adversely affected by the pandemic in terms of their own employment and their health.

“Over one fifth (23%) of landlords report that their PRS income is ‘critical’ as it is their ‘primary income’.

Read more about the current Scottish evictions situation.


  1. If I take something from a shop and don’t pay it is theft so I really don’t understand why not paying your rent isn’t. There are a small number of tenants who seem to know how to play the system, living rent free for long periods whilst the LL goes through the courts and then causing further distress with the mess they leave behind. Maybe the threat of a criminal record would deter them. Certainly the stress and financial costs they leave behind warrant it in my view.

  2. The ‘authors’ make the point that not all landlords have the ability to absorb such losses. Why is that remotely relevant? It’s like saying that it’s OK to steal from people as long as they can afford it!!! It’s never OK to maliciously withold rent, whether your landlord can afford it or not.

    • Totally agree. Since when has theft been OK as long as the victim “can afford it”. The victim would have spent part of his life time, which he will never get back again, to get to the stage where he “can afford it”. Disgusting attitude isn’t it?

  3. Best point for me about this article is that it’s in Scotland…possibly because the law courts might entertain the concept…England…nah!
    Just got procession of a property, £8100 rent debt, £1650 costs, property a tip, basic carpets, cleaning, decorating, removal of garden sized amount of waste:- £1800 minimum….. yeah I can afford to ‘absorb’ that…. Well I could if I wasn’t paying taxes like large companies (Amazon etc!)…..

  4. LL need to stop deluding themselves that Govt will ever do anything to assist LL to prevent and recover rent arrears.

    Of course rent defaulting is indefensible.

    But Govt makes it perfectly possible for feckless rent defaulting tenants to easily defend against LL seeking to repossess.

    This was made even more possible during the Govt eviction ban.

    Govt presumed that LL could afford the rent defaulting and even if they couldn’t……………………TOUGH!!!!

    So LL I’m afraid that unless you have a magic money tree Govt will force you to cover rent defaulting losses from your own pocket irrespective of the detriment that might cause to the LL.

    In extremis you could have LL seeking to use foodbanks though I can’t see the JC handing out foodbank vouchers to LL.

    LL must as a financial imperative be resilient to at least 2 years of rent defaulting and other costs for that property.

    If not then the LL shouldn’t be a LL.


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