Why is this important?
Renting from a public sector landlord
This information applies to Scotland only
Table of contents
Housing law is very complex and this information only gives a basic outline of public sector tenants' rights. Most people will need the help of an experienced adviser, such as:-
- housing advice centres
- solicitors with expertise in housing law
- legal advice centres
- Shelter. For more information see scotland.shelter.org.uk
- Citizens Advice Bureaux. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
You are a public sector tenant if you live in property rented to you by:-
- a local authority; or
- a registered social landlord (that is, a housing association or housing co-operative registered with the Scottish Housing Regulator).
Anyone who is a tenant of the above will be a Scottish secure tenant or exceptionally a short Scottish secure tenant.
Scottish Homes ceased to function from the end of June 2005. All tenants of Scottish Homes are Scottish secure tenants.If you are an ex-Scottish Homes tenants you should consult an experienced adviser if there are problems about your rights, see under heading Specialist sources of advice for a list of sources of advice.
If you are a Scottish secure tenant you have the right to stay in your accommodation unless the landlord can convince the court that there are special reasons for eviction, for example, that there are rent arrears, damages to the property or that one of the terms of the agreement has been broken. There are special rules about the help that the landlord must give you from 1 August 2012 before they can evict you for rent arrears. For more details on eviction see under heading The right to stay in the accommodation.
You can enforce your rights, for example, to get repairs done, without worrying about being evicted. In addition to the right to stay in your home as long as you do not break the terms of the tenancy, you also have other rights by law including:-
- to a tenancy agreement
- the right to have certain repairs carried out by the landlord
For more details on repairs see under heading Repairs.
- with the landlord’s permission, the right to take in lodgers, to sublet or have a joint tenancy
- the right to transfer to another landlord
- the right to be given information on the rules on allocation, transfer and exchange
- with the landlord's permission, the right to assign (pass on) the tenancy to someone else
- the right of access to personal files
- the right of succession (that is, the right of a spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner including same sex partners or resident member of the tenant's family or carers 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.
Some Scottish secure tenants may also have the right to buy.
For more details on the right to buy, see Scottish Government guide to your right to buy your home.
The tenant will have a written tenancy agreement which may give them more rights than those set out above.
Complaints about Scottish secure tenancies
You have the right to complain if you are not satisfied with the service provided by your local authority or housing association. If you are unhappy with the way in which your complaint is handled you can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
For more information about the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, see How to use an ombudsman in Scotland.
If you were a secure or an assured tenant of a housing association immediately prior to 30 September 2002, you may have preserved rights from your previous tenancy and may need more specialist advice, see under heading Specialist sources of advice.
Rights of short Scottish secure tenancies
Public sector landlords can convert a Scottish secure tenancy to a short Scottish secure tenancy if a tenant or a member of the tenant's household has had an anti-social behaviour order granted against them. A short Scottish secure tenancy must be given for a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 12 months. At the end of the term of the short Scottish secure tenancy, the landlord must either convert the tenancy back to a Scottish secure tenancy or end the tenancy. The landlord does not have to go to court for possession.
The rights of a short Scottish secure tenant are the same as those of a Scottish secure tenant, except that a short Scottish secure tenant does not have
- the right to buy
- the right to succeed
- the right to stay or leave (security of tenure).
For more information on anti-social behaviour orders, see Antisocial behaviour.
Standards of service
The Scottish Government publishes The Scottish Social Housing Charter, which sets out the standards that all social landlords (local authorities and registered social landlords) should meet. The Charter sets out what you can expect from your landlord and it is used by The Scottish Housing Regulator to assess how well the landlord is doing in meeting the standards.
The Charter can be found on the website of The Scottish Housing Regulator at www.scottishhousingregulator.gov.uk.
Rents for Scottish secure tenants are fixed according to the landlord's housing policy and guidelines from the Scottish Housing Regulator. Landlords must consult with tenants over rent increases and give them four weeks notice of any rent increase. While landlords must 'take account' of tenants' views, they are not bound by them and tenants have no further recourse over rents. A tenant cannot control the amount of rent payable, but may be able to claim housing benefit to help pay it.
For information on housing benefit, see Help with your rent – Housing benefit.
If you were a secure or an assured tenant immediately prior to 30 September 2002, you may have 'preserved rights' from your previous tenancy and may need specialist advice, see under heading Specialist sources of advice.
As a Scottish secure tenant you are entitled to have your accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair.
There are certain repairs which will almost always be the landlord's responsibility, whether or not they are specifically mentioned in the tenancy agreement. Many landlords give details of these repairing obligations in their tenancy agreements, but whether they do or not, the landlord is still responsible for these repairs. These are:-
- the structure and exterior of the premises (such as walls, floors and roof), and the drains, gutters and external pipes. If the property is a house, the essential means of access to it, such as steps from the street, are also included in 'structure and exterior'. It also includes garden paths and steps
- the water and gas pipes and electrical 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 electrical cookers.
The landlord will not be responsible for:-
- repairs to anything that has been damaged carelessly. If the landlord does the repairs, s/he is entitled to charge for the cost
- repairs to items which the tenant is entitled to remove from the premises, for example, electric or gas fires which have been installed by the tenant.
For problems with repairs see Getting repairs done while renting.
As a Scottish secure tenants you have the right to have certain repairs done within a specified time. This is called the Right to Repair. If these repairs are not carried out within a specified time (ranging from one to seven working days) of you reporting the need for the repair to the landlord, you may be able to have the repairs done and claim compensation up to a maximum of £350 from the landlord. Before getting any such work done yourself you should check that such repairs are covered by the Right to Repair scheme.
The scheme covers small (costing less than £350), urgent repairs, which if they are not carried out within a specified period would affect the tenant’s health, safety or security. These repairs include, for example, blocked drains, leaking roofs, broken entryphones and faulty heating systems.
For more information about the Right to Repair scheme see www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/housing/rtrl-00.asp
Tenants with disabilities
If you are public sector tenant with disabilities you may be able to have adaptations made to your home. You will first have to get the need for any adaptations assessed by the local authority department with responsibility for social work. Adaptations could include the installation of a stair lift or hoist or changes to a bathroom or toilet.
If you want to get an adaptation carried out you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
You may also be able to get a grant to make the home more suitable.
A landlord must ensure that any gas appliances s/he provides are safe. S/he must arrange for safety checks on appliances to be carried out at least once every twelve months. The inspection must be carried out by someone who is registered with Gas Safe Register. Their website is www.gassaferegister.co.uk.
The landlord must also keep a record of the date of the check, any problems identified and any action taken. As a tenant you have the right to see this record as long as you give reasonable notice.
If your landlord does not arrange for checks or refuses to allow you to see the record of the check, you could contact the local Health and Safety Executive office.
The HSE also operates a Gas Safety Advice Line 0800 300 363 (until 8pm each day).
For more advice on ways of getting repairs done, see Getting repairs done while renting.
Scottish secure tenants
As a Scottish secure tenant you have the right to stay in the accommodation as long as you keep to the terms of the tenancy agreement with the landlord. However, if the tenancy agreement is broken, for example, because of rent arrears or nuisance to neighbours, the landlord can serve a notice (of "proceedings for possession") on you and apply to the sheriff court for an eviction order. From 1 August 2012, if the eviction is for rent arrears the landlord must give you certain help before they can apply to court to get an eviction. The aim is to let you and the landlord do everything to sort out the rent arrears and avoid your eviction.
There is more information about eviction on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
A public sector landlord can only evict a Scottish secure tenant if they give the tenant proper notice and if one of the 'grounds for possession' applies and (from 1 August 2012) they have offered you help in trying to sort out rent arrears.
What constitutes 'grounds for possession' is complicated and if your landlord is seeking eviction you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
The landlord must apply to the sheriff court to seek possession of the property and a Scottish secure tenant can only be evicted if the court grants a possession order to the landlord.
More about rent arrears and going to court see, You are taken to court for rent arrears.
A local authority, housing association or other social landlord must not discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. This means that they are not allowed to:-
- rent a property to you on terms that are less good 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, sex, sexuality or religion
- charge you higher rent than other tenants
- refuse to house or re-house you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation
- give priority to people because of their disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, when deciding who to house or re-house
- 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.
If you think your landlord is discriminating 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. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.