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Renting from a private landlord

This information applies to Scotland only

Tenancy began after 2 January 1989

If you have a private tenancy which began on or after 2 January 1989 you will be either:-

Assured tenants

If you are an assured tenant you will not normally have a resident landlord and your landlord will not provide food or services. You will be paying rent for accommodation which you occupy as your only or principal home.

You will not be an assured tenant if your accommodation is:-

  • a student let in university or college owned accommodation or privately owned but sublet through the accommodation service of the educational institution
  • a holiday let
  • a company let
  • business premises
  • private accommodation arranged by the local authority because you are homeless.

Rights of assured tenants

As an assured tenant you have the right to stay in your accommodation unless the landlord can convince the court there are good reasons for eviction, for example rent arrears or damage to the property, or that one of the terms of the agreement has been broken.

If your tenancy begins after 1 May 2013 your landlord must give you a tenant information pack before your tenancy starts. Visit the Scottish Government's website for more information about the tenant information pack.

For more details on the right to stay, see under heading The right to stay in the accommodation.

For more about being taken to court for rent arrears see You are taken to court for rent arrears.

You can enforce your rights, for instance, to get repairs done without worrying about getting evicted.

As well as the right to stay in your home as long as you keep to the terms of the tenancy you also have other rights in law including:-

  • the right to have the accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair
  • "the right of succession" (the right of a spouse, civil partner or partner of either sex to take over the tenancy on the tenant’s death
  • the right not to be treated unfairly by your landlord because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, sex, religion or sexuality.

Short assured tenants

You will be a short assured tenant if the tenancy is for a fixed period of not less than six months and if before you moved in the landlord gave you a written "Notice of a short assured tenancy".

If you were not given a Notice of a short assured tenancy, or were given it after the tenancy started, you will usually be an assured tenant (see under heading Assured tenants). A short assured tenancy is a less secure type of tenancy than an assured tenancy. It is granted for a fixed period of not less than six months and after this ends the landlord can apply to the court for possession as long as they have given two months’ notice.

You are not a short assured tenant if the accommodation:-

  • is a holiday let
  • is a company let
  • is rented by a student in university or college owned accommodation or privately owned but sublet through the accommodation service of the educational institution
  • is private temporary accommodation in which you are housed because you are homeless
  • has a resident landlord
  • is accommodation for which you pay no rent.

Rights of short assured tenants

As a short assured tenant you have the right to stay in the accommodation until the fixed term ends, unless the landlord can convince the court there are reasons to evict you, for example, rent arrears, damage to property, or that one of the terms of the agreement has been broken. You can stay on after the end of the fixed term, even if the agreement is not renewed.

For more details on the right to stay see under heading The right to stay in the accommodation.

For more about being taken to court for rent arrears see You are taken to court for rent arrears.

If your tenancy starts after 1 May 2013 your landlord must give you a tenant information pack before your tenancy starts. Visit the Scottish Government's website for more information about the tenant information pack.

You also have other rights by law including:-

  • the right to have the accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair
  • "the right of succession" (the right of a spouse, civil partner or partner of either sex to take over the tenancy on the tenant’s death
  • the right not to be treated unfairly because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights.

You can enforce your rights to get repairs done, but if you do, the landlord may decide not to renew the tenancy agreement at the end of the fixed term.

Your written tenancy agreement may give you more rights than the minimum provided by law. However, even if your agreement appears to give fewer rights than you are entitled to in law, your minimum legal rights still apply.

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Tenancy began before 2 January 1989

If you have a private tenancy which began before 2 January 1989 you could be either:-

Regulated tenants

If you are a regulated tenant, you will:-

  • be paying rent for the accommodation
  • not normally have a resident landlord
  • not be provided with food or services by the landlord.

You are not a regulated tenant if your accommodation is:-

  • a bed and breakfast letting
  • a company let.

Regulated tenants have the strongest rights of any type of private tenancy. If you think you are a regulated tenant and the landlord asks you to move or to sign a new agreement you should contact an experienced adviser for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau, immediately because you may lose your rights by signing a new agreement - where to get advice.

Rights of regulated tenants

As a regulated tenant you have a number of rights by law including:-

  • security of tenure. The landlord can only repossess the accommodation in certain specified circumstances (see under heading The right to stay in the accommodation)
  • the right to have the rent fixed by the rent officer (see under heading Fixing and increasing the rent)
  • the right to have rent increased only in certain circumstances (see under heading Fixing and increasing the rent)
  • the right to have the accommodation kept in a reasonable state or repair (see under heading Repairs)
  • the right to assign (pass on) the tenancy after your death to surviving family who live with you
  • the right not to be treated unfairly by your landlord because of your race, sex, religion, sexuality or disability.

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Unprotected tenants

You are likely to be an unprotected tenant if you are not an assured, short assured or regulated tenant. You will normally be an unprotected tenant if you:-

  • occupy accommodation because of your job
  • have a "company" letting
  • are a student granted a tenancy by an educational institution
  • have a resident landlord
  • are a tenant in accommodation which includes over two acres of agricultural land
  • pay a very low rent
  • pay no rent
  • are a tenant of the crown or a government department.

The above list is not exhaustive and if you think you may be an unprotected tenant you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

If you occupy accommodation because of your job (for example, a launderette assistant or a caretaker) you will not necessarily be an unprotected tenant. This could mean that you do not necessarily have to give up the accommodation if you leave the job.

If you are in this situation you should consult an experienced adviser (for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau) to check your status if you are, or think you may be, about to lose your job - where to get advice.

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Landlord registration

All landlords of a private tenancy have to be registered with their local authority. This is to ensure their details have been checked and they are a ‘fit and proper’ person to let property. If your landlord has not registered s/he is committing an offence unless there is an exemption on the property.

For more information on how to check if your landlord is registered, see Common problems with renting.

For more information on private landlord registration see Scottish Government guide to private landlord registration.

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Fixing and increasing the rent

If you are a tenant and cannot afford to pay your rent, you may be able to apply for housing benefit. First, however, you should check below to see whether the rent has been fixed correctly.

For more information on housing benefit, see Help with your rent – Housing benefit.

Assured tenants

If you are an assured tenant you must pay whatever rent you agreed with the landlord when the tenancy began. The rent cannot be increased unless the tenancy agreement allows it, or you agree. If the tenancy agreement does not mention rent increases or the landlord tries to increase the rent other than in the way laid out in the tenancy agreement, you do not have to pay the increase. You should consult an experienced adviser.

If you think a proposed increase is too high, you can end the tenancy agreement and then apply to a Private Rented Housing Committee to decide on a reasonable "market rent" for the property. This is a complicated process and you must consult an experienced adviser before doing this.

Short assured tenants

As a short assured tenant you must pay whatever rent was agreed with the landlord when the tenancy began. You can apply to the Private Rented Housing Committee to compare the rent to rents for similar tenancies in the area and, if it is higher, to reduce the rent. However, the committee does have the power to increase the rents, if it is lower than rents for similar tenancies.

If you have your rent reduced, the landlord may refuse to renew the short assured agreement when it expires.

If you think that a proposed rent increase is too high you can ask the Private Rented Housing Committee to decide on a reasonable "market rent." However, the Private Rented Housing Committee may decide a reasonable "market rent" higher than the amount proposed by the landlord.

If you want to take your rent to the Private Rented Housing Committee you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Regulated tenants

As a regulated tenant you must pay the rent agreed with your landlord when the tenancy began. However, either you or the landlord can subsequently ask the Rent Officer to fix a "fair rent".

If you intend to take action about your rent you should make sure you are a regulated tenant. You should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

A landlord cannot increase your rent if it has been registered as a fair rent by the Rent Officer. If no fair rent has been registered, the landlord cannot increase the rent unless you agree formally in writing or the landlord applies to the Rent Officer and the Rent Officer fixes a fair rent.

Unprotected tenants

If you are an unprotected tenant you must pay the rent agreed with the landlord when you moved into the accommodation. You cannot apply to the Private Rented Housing Committee to have the rent reduced. If the landlord wants to increase the rent, in practice there is nothing that you can do to prevent this.

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Repairs

The landlord’s general responsibilities

A landlord has these general responsibilities about repairs no matter what type of tenancy the tenant has. This is called the Repairing Standard. The landlord must keep in repair and working order:-

  • the structure and exterior of the premises, including drains, gutters and external pipes
  • the water and gas pipes and electric wiring (including, for example, taps and sockets)
  • the basins, sinks, baths and toilets
  • fixed heaters (for example, gas fires) and water heaters (but not gas or electric cookers)
  • any furnishings provided as part of the tenancy.

Discrimination and repairs

Your landlord is not allowed to refuse to carry out repairs to your home just because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, sex, sexuality, religion or belief. This is discrimination and is against the law. It may be difficult to prove that repairs are not getting done because the landlord is discriminating against you for one of these reasons.

If you think your landlord is refusing to carry out repairs because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, sex, sexuality or religion, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

For more information about how to complain about discrimination see Complaining about discrimination in housing.

For information on how to get repairs carried out see Getting repairs done while renting.

Safety of appliances

Landlords have to make sure that electrical and gas appliances and heating supplied with the accommodation are safe. For more information on the safety of appliances and duties of landlords, including landlords of houses in multiple occupation, see common problems with renting.

Adaptations

Private tenants have the right to make certain limited adaptations to their homes, subject to their landlord’s consent. They can carry out works to make the accommodation suitable for disabled tenants. This could include the installation of a stair lift or hoist or changes to a bathroom or toilet. Private tenants also have the right to install central heating or other energy efficiency measures (for example, insulation) for which a grant is payable under the Scottish Government’s Energy Assistance Package. Landlords cannot unreasonably withhold consent. However they can attach certain reasonable conditions to their consent, such as requiring the tenant to return the property to its original state when their tenancy ends.

For more information about the Energy Assistance Package, see Fuel costs and saving money.

If you want to get any adaptations made you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

A disabled tenant may also be able to get a housing grant to make the home more suitable.

For more information about housing grants, see Housing grants and loans.

Care and Repair services

Private tenants who are over 60 or have a disability can get advice and assistance to help repair, improve or adapt their homes from Care and repair services in their area. More information about services throughout Scotland can be found on the Care and Repair Forum Scotland website at www.careandrepairscotland.co.uk.

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The right to stay in the accommodation

Your right to stay in the accommodation will depend on the type of tenancy you have.

If you are asked to leave your home by the landlord you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

If the landlord wants you to leave in order to get possession of the property, they have to write to you giving notice that you should leave. If you do not leave, the landlord must go to court and apply for an order telling you to leave.

Regulated and assured tenants

The landlord can only get possession of the property if they can convince the court that there are specific reasons why the tenant should be evicted, for example, they have rent arrears, have damaged the property or have broken one of the terms of the agreement.

Short assured tenants

A short assured tenant has the right to stay in the accommodation for the duration of the tenancy agreement unless they breach a term in the tenancy agreement or, for example, are in rent arrears, or has damaged the property. What happens at the end of the tenancy can be affected by what is in the tenancy agreement.

If a short assured tenant stays in the home after the agreement ends and the landlord does not intend to renew the agreement and wants possession, they will have to give the tenant at least two months' notice to leave the property, and will have to go to court for possession of the property if the tenant does not leave.

If the landlord takes no action the tenancy agreement will be automatically renewed for its original period, or one year, whichever is less unless a clause in the tenancy provided different rights. For example, your tenancy agreement might say 'the property is let for a period of six months and then monthly thereafter'. This would mean that your tenancy agreement would be for six months and that it could renew itself one month at a time after that.

Unprotected tenants

An unprotected tenant has no real security but if they will not move out when the landlord has given them notice and the notice period has expired, the landlord has to go to court for a possession order. This will normally be granted.

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Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

Definition

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is accommodation which is shared by 3 or more unrelated people, and it usually has to be your main home. Examples include:-

  • a house or flat let out in separate ‘bed-sits’; or
  • a ‘bed and breakfast’ establishment or ‘guest house’ which the occupants use as their home; or
  • a house or flat where each tenant has a separate agreement with the landlord; or
  • communal accommodation such as hostels or student halls of residence; or
  • any student accommodation during term-time depending on the number of occupiers; or
  • homes for nurses.

Compulsory licensing scheme

A private sector landlord must have a licence from their local authority to rent out a house in multiple occupation (HMO) if there are three or more people living in the property who are not part of the same family. You can ask your local authority if your landlord has an HMO licence.

A landlord is not allowed to discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexuality.

The compulsory licensing scheme means that a local authority has the power to impose standards relating to the physical condition of the building and the management of the house in multiple occupation. The standards imposed will vary between local authorities.

Visit the Scottish Government's website for more information about HMOs. There is information about HMOs and private landlords in the Scottish Government guide to private landlord registration. There are penalties of up to £20,000 for landlords who operate an HMO without a licence and up to £50,000 for landlords who are not registered with the local authority.

The exact rules of the compulsory licensing scheme are complex and an experienced adviser should be contacted, for example a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Fire safety

HMO landlords must provide adequate fire precautions. There is more information on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.

Exempt properties

The following types of accommodation are exempt from the compulsory licensing scheme regardless of the number of people who occupy them:-

  • residential care homes; or
  • private hospitals; or
  • residential accommodation for school students.

Landlords who rent out accommodation in HMOs are not allowed to discriminate against you because of your race, sex, disability, sexuality or religion – see under heading Discrimination by private landlords. If a landlord who rents out accommodation in HMOs discriminates against you, you can report them to your local authority. Your local authority must take this information into account when they decide whether to grant the landlord a licence.

To find out more about HMOs and the licensing system, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

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Discrimination by private landlords

A private landlord must not discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. They are probably acting illegally if they:-

  • refuse to let a property to you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation
  • rent a property to you on worse terms than other tenants
  • treat you differently from other tenants in the way you are allowed to use facilities such as a laundry or a garden
  • evict or harass you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation
  • charge you higher rent than other tenants
  • refuse to carry out repairs to your home, simply because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation
  • refuse to make reasonable changes to a property or a term in the tenancy agreement which would allow a disabled person to live there

I've found this flat that I would really like to rent because it's near where I work. I'm profoundly deaf and have a hearing dog but the landlord says he doesn't allow pets. Does this mean I can't take the flat?

If you're disabled, you can ask a landlord to make changes to their policies which would allow you to live in a property. This would include changing a term in the tenancy agreement which bans pets, so that you can have an assistance dog. By law, your landlord must agree to this unless he has a very good reason for not doing so, for example, on health and safety grounds. If he doesn't agree to make this change, this may be discrimination against disabled people and he could be acting illegally. Try explaining this to the landlord. If he still refuses to change his policy, you should get advice.

If you think your tenancy agreement discriminates against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

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Further information

More about Common problems with renting.

You can find more information about your rights as a private tenant on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/.

You can find more information about fire safety, including special precautions for HMOs, on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.

There is also useful information for private landlords, as well as private tenants, on the Renting Scotland website at www.rentingscotland.org.

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