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Unlock the Law's property guide for tenants in Scotland helps to explain what's involved inrenting a property and also the responsibilities of you & your landlord.
Having responsibility for a property is something that everyone will have to consider at some point in their lives. However not everyone is convinced on of the merit to purchasing their own home, either because of the level of finance that tends to be required, or the amount of time and effort that the upkeep of the property will require. As a result a significant number of people decide to rent a property from a landlord, where it is unlikely that the same level of finance and responsibility will be required.
If you are thinking of renting a property in Scotland, you will need to answer a number of questions: who do you want to rent from?; how much do you want to pay in rent?; and what are the rules for payment of rent and if you default? In this guide, the team at Unlock the Law tell you everything that you need to know about renting a property in Scotland.
Renting a property is the exact opposite to purchasing a home for yourself. In deciding to rent a property i.e. become a tenant, you will pay a fee (rent) in order to live in a property for a specified length of time. This information will normally be set down in what is known as a 'Tenancy Agreement'.
In considering rent a property from a landlord, you will have the option of renting from either:
Public sector landlords will be owners of property who are either a local authority, or a registered social landlord (a housing association registered with the Scottish Housing Regulator).
If either of these kinds of organisation agree to you becoming a tenant of theirs, you will generally be known as a Scottish secure tenant. In some cases you may be deemed to be a short Scottish secure tenant, but this is increasingly rare.
A private landlord is someone who owns a property in their own right, and lets it out to tenants. It is important to note that all private landlords are required to register with the local authority as such. This requirement is designed to ensure that they are a 'fit and proper' person to be allowed to rent properties to other people.
Tenants of a private landlord will, where they became tenants after 2 January 1989, fall into one of three categories:
If you do not have a resident landlord, and they do not provide food or services, then you will be an 'assured tenant'. You will pay rent for the property that you live in as your main (or only) home, and you will have a written tenancy agreement.
Where your tenancy is for a fixed period of time that is not less than six months, and before you entered the property your landlord have you a written 'Notice of a short assured tenancy', you will be a 'short assured tenant'.
If you do not fall into either of the above categories, you will in all likelihood be a 'common law tenant' or 'non-tenant occupier'. Individuals that fall into this category tend to, amongst other things, (i) pay very little or no rent; (ii) are a student that has been given a tenancy by their university/ college; or have a company let.
The rights that you will have as a tenant will depend on the kind of tenancy that you have with a particular landlord:
As a Scottish secure tenant, you will have the right to stay in the accommodation that is the subject of the tenancy agreement, provided that you do not break its terms. Furthermore you will also be entitled to:
Generally speaking, regardless of the category that you fall into, all tenants of private landlords share the same rights. These largely mirror those enjoyed by public sector tenants in that you: (i) are entitled to have the property kept in a reasonable state of repair; (ii) cannot be treated unfairly because of your sex, religion, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender reassignment; and (iii) can have your spouse, civil partner or partner, take over your tenancy when you pass away.
It is important to have regard for the state of repair of the property that private landlords must observe. This is known as the 'Repairing Standard'. Landlords must keep the material parts of the property in good working order, including: the structure and exterior of the property; all taps, pipes and wiring; and furnishings provided as part of the tenancy agreement. It should also be noted that it is the landlords responsibility to ensure that all electrical and gas appliances supplied under the tenancy agreement are safe.
Landlords are entitled to what is known as 'reasonable access' to the property in order to carry out any necessary repairs. The meaning of 'reasonable access' will depend on the reason why the landlord is seeking access to the property i.e. if there is an emergency in the property involving a gas leak or other emergency, the landlord is entitled by law to immediate access to the property to carry out the necessary repairs.
It is also important to be aware of the fact that landlords are entitled to enter the property in order to inspect the state that it is in. However this right does normally depend on the condition that they give you (at least) 24 hours written notice, before they attend at the property.
The rules governing the rent that you will need to pay, and any potential increases will also depend on whether you are renting from a public or private sector landlord.
The rent for tenants of public sector landlords is controlled according to the housing policy that the landlord has, along with guidance issued by the Scottish Housing Regulator. Public sector landlords are obliged to consult with you regarding increases in your rent, and must give you four week's notice of their plans to increase your rent. You are entitled to express a view on the proposed increase in rent, which your landlord is required to consider. However they are not bound to observe your views.
In respect of private sector landlords, the level of rent that you will have to pay and any potential increase, will normally have been set down in your tenancy agreement. Where a tenancy agreement does not mention any increase in rent, or a landlord tries to increase it to a rate not specified in the agreement, the law does not require you to pay the increased rate.
If you fall behind in the payment of your rent, this could have significant consequences for your ability to continue living in the property. Regardless as to whether you are a public sector or private sector tenant, when you discover that you are going to have trouble paying rent, you should bring this to the attention of your landlord at the earliest opportunity. It may be possible for you to continue living there, where you are able to commit to a repayment plan with your landlord that will clear any arrears you have, and allow you to meet future rent payment.
If you cannot observe any repayment plan, or are otherwise unable to make your rental payments, your landlord may look to evict you from the property. The process for doing this is different for each kind of landlord:
There is a process for eviting tenants that public sector landlords must follow:
The eviction process is different, depending on the kind of tenant you are:
The process involved for evicting short assured tenants depends on whether or not a landlord looks to evict you either before or after the end of your tenancy.
If your landlord seeks to remove you from their property then they must follow a set procedure. As above, they must issue you with (i) a Notice to quit; (ii) a Notice of proceedings; and (iii) you must also be issued with a Summons. It is important to be aware however that a court will only entertain an application to evict you, before the termination of your tenancy agreement, if there is evidence that you have violated its terms.
However if your landlord intends to take possession of their property back at the end of your tenancy, the process is different. First they must issue you wish a Notice to quit, along with 2 months written notice of their wanting the property back (this is called a 'Section 33 Notice'). If you do not exit the property upon expiry of your tenancy, your landlord can approach the court to have you and your property evicted.
Nothing in this guide is intended to constitute legal advice and you are strongly advised to seek independent legal advice on matters that affect you.