Common problems with renting
This information applies to Scotland only
This item describes problems you may have when renting from a private landlord.
You may rent a property from a private landlord when you are a student and the information on this page should be helpful. If you are a student and renting accommodation owned by or rented out directly to you by the educational establishment the problems you may have are likely to be different and the rules about how to solve them are also different. For more information see Student Housing.
You don't have a written tenancy agreement
A legal contract exists between a landlord and a tenant whether or not anything is written down.
A verbal agreement may simply be based on the conversation you and the landlord had when you originally agreed on the terms of the letting. A verbal contract may, however, be difficult to enforce, especially if there were no witnesses to the agreement.
If you are a private tenant you have a right to a written lease that reflects the real terms of the agreement. Some tenants are entitled to compensation if their landlord doesn’t provide a written agreement. For more information see tenancy agreements.
If you're having a problem getting a written tenancy agreement from your landlord you could consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
You weren't given information about your tenancy
If you’re a private residential tenant, your landlord or letting agency should have given you 'easy read notes' or 'supporting notes' explaining your legal rights and responsibilities along with your tenancy agreement. There are two packs, each relating to whether your landlord used the Scottish Government’s Model Tenancy Agreement or used their own version. You can find both sets of notes on www.gov.scot.
Some private residential tenants are entitled to compensation if their landlord doesn’t provide them with the appropriate information about their legal rights. If you haven’t been given the right information, you could speak to an experienced adviser about complaining to the Tribunal, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
If your tenancy started between 1 May 2013 and 1 December 2017 your landlord or letting agency should have given you a tenant information pack before the start of your tenancy. The pack has information in it about your rights and responsibilities and the rights and responsibilities of your landlord. Visit the Scottish Government's website at www.gov.scot to find out more about tenant information packs.
If your landlord fails to provide information that might have affected your decision to take on the tenancy
A landlord can be guilty of breaching consumer protection rules if vital information about the property is not disclosed to the prospective tenant. The types of omissions are, for example, outside noise from being under a flight path, close proximity to a noisy footpath or disturbances from neighbours that are known about. The landlord may also be breaching the consumer protection legislation if any of the facilities in the property are not as they were described.
If a tenant chooses to give up the tenancy because of these problems the landlord should not retain any money for ending the tenancy early. The landlord may be in breach of the Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
If you are in this situation, get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
You were charged illegal fees or premiums
A private landlord or letting agency might ask for a deposit before you have signed a tenancy agreement. It is sometimes called 'key money' or a 'holding deposit'. If the landlord does not refund this deposit at the start of the tenancy or if you decide not to take the tenancy it becomes an illegal fee, also known as a premium. If the landlord suggests turning it into a tenancy deposit then you might find that acceptable.
Other illegal premiums include charges for registering with the letting agency, charges for credit checks and administration fees. Any fees charged by the landlord to create or renew a tenancy agreement are also illegal.
You can ask the landlord or letting agency to repay these fees up to 5 years after the tenancy has ended and if the landlord refuses you can ask the court to take action.
Find out more about how to reclaim illegal fees using the online toolkit on the Shelter Scotland website at www.reclaimyourfees.com.
Your tenancy deposit hasn't been protected
A tenancy deposit is a sum of money a tenant pays to a landlord (or letting agency acting on a landlord’s behalf) as security against, for example, rent arrears, damage to property, or removal of furniture by the tenant. A deposit must not be more than two months' rent.
All private landlords are required by law to pay tenancy deposits into an approved tenancy deposit schemes. They're also required to tell you which scheme holds the money and how that scheme works.
If your landlord hasn't paid your deposit into a scheme, you may be entitled to compensation from the landlord worth between 1 and 3 times the deposit amount.
You could first write to the landlord asking them to either repay it you the deposit in full or to pay it into an approved scheme.
You can make a complaint to the First-tier Tribunal about the landlord not complying with the protection rules. But you should consider how safe your tenancy is - some tenants (like private residential tenants) are better protected from eviction in retaliation, whereas others can be more easily evicted by their landlords.
For more information about tenancy deposits and tenancy deposit schemes visit the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
You haven't been given an inventory
If the accommodation is let furnished, the inventory is a list of the furniture and other contents which have been provided by the landlord. It is advisable for both you and the landlord that there is an inventory, since it reduces the probability of a dispute over whether there are missing or damaged items.
The landlord normally draws up an inventory. It should list everything, with a good description of the items, including their age if antique or new, and their condition.
If you are visually impaired, you can ask your landlord to provide an inventory in a different format, for example on an audio tape or in Braille. Your landlord may be discriminating against you if they refuse to do this.
You should check that you agree with the inventory before you sign and date it. It is good practice for the landlord to give you a copy.
If the landlord does not draw up and agree an inventory, you can draw up one as soon as you move into the accommodation, take photographs or videos if you can.
A clause in the tenancy agreement covering the deposit may be challengeable because it is unfair, for example, a clause which does not allow for fair wear and tear.
Inventories and deposit disputes
If you pay a deposit, you should check the inventory of contents (and the condition of the property and contents) before signing it. You may be held responsible for discrepancies or damage and your landlord might want to keep all or some of your deposit when the tenancy ends.
The inventory will be used as evidence if a dispute about the return of the tenancy deposit is referred to a dispute resolution service at the end of the tenancy.
If there's no inventory when you move in, your landlord could find it more difficult to keep part of your tenancy deposit to carry out repairs if they can't prove the condition the property was in when you moved in.
Furniture is in poor condition or unsafe
If accommodation is let furnished, private landlords have a legal duty to provide furniture of a certain standard. They must ensure that the furniture is safe and is capable of being used for the purpose for which it was designed. This does not apply to landlords of agricultural tenancies, crofting tenancies or tenancies of mobile homes. If your landlord has a duty to provide safe, usable furniture and does not do so, despite having been told about any problems, you can complain to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).
Furniture is not fire safe
From 1 January 1997, furniture supplied by the landlord must be fire resistant. The only exception is furniture made before 1950.
All upholstered furniture sold after 1 September 1990 should meet the fire safety regulations, and carry a label to say so. The labels should be permanently attached to a hidden part of the item. If you find such a label on a piece of furniture, you can be satisfied that the furniture meets the safety regulations. If a piece of furniture does not carry a label saying that it meets the regulations, it is likely that the item does not meet the regulations.
If you are a tenant and concerned about furniture fire safety, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Appliances are unsafe
There are special rules for most private tenants for smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and alarms, and electrical safety inspections.
Electrical appliances are unsafe
A landlord has responsibility to ensure that any electrical appliances supplied with the accommodation are safe. This includes heaters, cookers, kettles, and any other electrical goods.
If you are a tenant and you are concerned that an electrical appliance is not safe, you should contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
If a landlord wants to be sure that electrical appliances meet the regulations, s/he can arrange for an electrician to test each appliance and make a detailed report. The cost of a report will vary according to the size of the house.
Gas fittings are unsafe
A landlord must ensure that any gas fittings in the premises are safe. There may need to be a carbon monoxide alarm fitted.
Landlords must ensure that any 'relevant gas fitting', including any flue which serves the fitting, is maintained in a safe condition. 'Relevant gas fitting' includes gas appliances (except your own appliances) and pipework in the premises, and appliances/pipework which serve the premises if the landlord owns them or has control over them.
The landlord must arrange and pay for safety checks and any necessary work to be carried out on appliances at least once every 12 months. The safety checks 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 inspection dates, any defects identified and any remedial action taken. The landlord must give a copy of this record to you.
If the landlord does not carry out regular inspections of gas appliances or if s/he refuses to give you a copy of the inspection record, you could contact the local office of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which has a duty to enforce the safety requirements.
There are gas safety Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for tenants on the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk. The HSE also operates a Gas Safety Advice Line 0800 300 363.
You don't have carbon monoxide alarms
From 1 October 2013, a carbon monoxide alarm must be fitted when a new or replacement boiler or other heating appliance is installed in a building with bedrooms. This is not only for gas appliances. Solid fuel, oil or gas appliances have the potential to cause carbon monoxide poisoning if they are poorly installed, inadequately maintained or incorrectly used.
There are special rules for most private landlords.
A property which is registered as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) must have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in a room where there is a gas appliance.
You don't know the identity of your private landlord
If you do not know the identity of your landlord, you can find out either by:-
- writing to the letting agent, asking for the landlord’s full name and address, or
- looking up the landlord's registration online.
In some cases the letting agent may also be the landlord.
As a tenant you have a legal right to know who your landlord is. If your landlord is not registered this is a criminal offence.
To find out who your landlord is if they are not registered you should use the contact details provided in the tenant information pack that should have been provided in tenancies that started after May 2013.
If you write requesting this information, you should send this letter by recorded delivery and keep a copy. If the letting agent or other person whose contact details you were given does not reply within 21 days, this is a criminal offence.
If your tenancy started before May 2013 but you don't know who the landlord is and cannot find out from the register of landlords you should send a recorded delivery letter to the person or organisation who last received the rent. When this is a bank you should address the letter to the manager of the branch which received the money asking for the name and contact details for the landlord. You can ask for this by law (endnote 1).
If you need to find out the landlord’s identity because of an emergency, such as a burst pipe, it may be quicker to inform the local authority because it has special powers to enter and carry out emergency repairs. It can then take steps to find out who the landlord is to recover its costs.
The landlord wants access to the property
A landlord has a right to reasonable access to carry out repairs. The landlord also has a right to enter the property to inspect the state of repair.
What 'reasonable access' means depends on why the landlord needs to get access. For example, in an emergency the landlord is entitled to immediate access to carry out necessary work.
Under normal circumstances private residential tenants must get at least 48 hours’ notice before they have to give access to their landlord for repairs, whereas short assured and assured tenants get 24 hours.
If you’re a private residential tenant you may also have to allow access for an inspection or home valuation to take place.
If you are staying in lodgings, the landlord can only enter your space with your permission. The landlord does have the right to enter to carry out repairs but only with reasonable notice.
A private landlord may be able to ask the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) for help in entering the property for repairs. There is more information about the landlord's right of entry on the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) website at www.housingandpropertychamber.scot.
A landlord does not have a right to enter in any other circumstances unless s/he has a court order, or an order from the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).
The landlord harasses you
If the landlord does anything which s/he knows is likely to make you leave the house or stop you exercising your legal rights, this is an offence. This includes, for example, repeatedly disturbing you late at night or obstructing access to the house, creating noise, disconnecting supplies of water, gas or electricity where the landlord knows that this is likely to intimidate you.
If you are subjected to harassment, the matter should be reported to the police by phoning 101. However, in practice, it can be difficult to obtain protection from threats or violence.
It is against the law for a landlord to harass you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or belief. Harassment can include both actions and language that you find offensive.
I'm a woman living on my own in a private rented flat. The landlord has kept the keys and keeps coming round. He says it's to check on the property but really he just makes suggestive comments to me. I don't know what to do. I don't want to say he can't come into the flat in case he evicts me.
Your landlord doesn't have the right to treat you like this. This is likely to be sex discrimination. And although he has the right to keep a set of keys, he doesn't have the right to come into your flat whenever he feels like it. You need to see an experienced adviser who will help you deal with this landlord.
If you are a tenant and are being harassed by a landlord you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Landlord has responsibility for energy bills but doesn't pay them
There may be an arrangement where you pay the landlord for energy (either in the rent, through a coin-meter or separately) and the landlord pays the energy supplier’s bills.
If the landlord does not pass the money on to the energy supplier, the supply may be cut off. If your supply is threatened for this reason, you can ask the energy supplier to put the supply into your name. You will then receive the bills and will no longer have to pay money to the landlord for energy. This will only be possible if you have a separate meter. If several tenants are supplied through the same meter, the supplier may only agree to this if one of them accepts full responsibility for the bills.
If there are several tenants sharing the accommodation and the energy supply is disconnected, the local authority may be willing to use its powers to get the energy reconnected. The local authority is not obliged to use these powers, but if it is reluctant to do so, a local councillor may be willing to help.
If you cannot get a supply put in your own name, the help of an experienced adviser must be sought before any further action is taken. In some cases, the landlord may retaliate by threatening to evict you and you should find out what legal protection you have first. In all cases you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
You want to switch energy suppliers
When the energy supply is in your name and you're the person who pays the bills you should check if you can get your energy more cheaply by changing tariff or switching suppliers. The standard tariff that energy suppliers offer is often not their cheapest. It is the intention that switching supplier can be done quite easily.
The landlord charges too much for energy
There are legal restrictions on the amount a landlord can charge for energy. This applies whether or not the energy is supplied through a pre-payment meter.
If a pre-payment meter is set to charge above the legal limits, you are entitled to a rebate when it is emptied.
If you pay the landlord each time a bill is received and you think the amount is too high, s/he should ask to see the bill before paying it.
If energy is paid for along with the rent, you should check whether there is a written tenancy agreement which specifies how this is assessed. If you have a regulated tenancy and the rent is registered with the Rent Officer, the amount for energy may be specified and this cannot be changed without the agreement of the Rent Officer.
For details of the maximum a landlord can charge for gas and electricity, consult the energy supplier.
Your landlord isn't registered
All landlords of private tenancies 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.
To find out if your landlord is registered, you can either search for the property by address at www.landlordregistrationscotland.gov.uk or contact your local authority’s registration department and ask them to do a search.
You want to take in a lodger or subtenant
A lodger is a person who lives with you, is provided with meals and services (such as cleaning, provision of linen etc), and who does not have her/his own separate accommodation. A subtenant does have her/his own separate accommodation and will not normally be provided with meals or services.
Some private tenants with unfurnished tenancies have the right to take in lodgers without the landlord’s permission, but a tenant should seek the help of an experienced adviser before doing this.
All local authority tenants and tenants of a registered social landlord have to get the landlord’s permission to sublet part of their accommodation to subtenants, but the landlord cannot refuse unreasonably. Subletting all of the accommodation can be a ground for possession.
In other cases, the right to sublet depends on the tenancy agreement. All private tenants should seek the landlord’s permission before subletting unless the tenancy agreement specifically allows this. There is no appeal against a private landlord’s refusal to allow subletting.
If you sublet part of your home to someone else you will be their landlord and will be the head tenant in any dealing with your landlord. You will still be responsible for paying the rent to the landlord and you will have responsibility for any tenancy issues which arise, for example if you want the subtenant to leave.
If you are a subtenant your rights will depend on what type of tenancy your landlord has. You can check your rights on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
If you are a tenant and want to sublet or take in lodgers, or a subtenant, or if a landlord is trying to evict you for subletting or taking in lodgers, you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
You have a problem with a flatmate or housesharer
If you have a problem with a sharer, your legal rights and responsibilities could vary according to the problem. For example, you may need to check if you’re named jointly in your tenancy agreement, or if only one person’s name is on an unpaid bill. You can find detailed information on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
If you share with the person who owns it or rents it by themselves and who uses it as their main home, you have a resident landlord. You can check what rights you have at the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
You should also check if the property you are living in is regulated by specific rules that affect your problem because, for example because it is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).
For complicated problems with a housemate, you might want to speak to an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
The property is overcrowded
If two people of the opposite sex have to sleep in the same room, the accommodation will be overcrowded unless the two people are:-
- a married couple, in a civil partnership or a couple who are living together
- under ten years old.
The number of people of the same sex, not living as a couple, who can sleep in one room, is restricted by the size of the room.
A home is also overcrowded if there are more than the 'permitted number' of people living there (the 'permitted number' will depend on the size of the accommodation. The figure should be shown in the tenant's rent book).
The local authority can, in certain circumstances, prosecute both the landlord and the occupier of an overcrowded dwelling. There is more information about overcrowding on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
What action you can take about overcrowding
If you are in privately rented accommodation and you are on the local authority housing waiting list, you should inform the housing department that you are living in overcrowded accommodation. If you are not on the housing waiting list you should apply to go on it. If you are living in local authority or registered social landlord accommodation, you should inform the housing department of your situation and ask for a transfer.
In cases of very serious overcrowding you might be legally considered homeless (regardless of who your landlord is) and could make a homeless application to your local authority.
If you are a tenant and think your home is overcrowded you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Repairs are needed
The landlord’s obligations to carry out repairs
What repairs the landlord is responsible for will depend on the type of tenancy.
- More about repairs and renting from a public sector landlord
- More about renting from a private landlord
- More about getting repairs done while renting
If you damage the property as the tenant
The landlord is usually responsible for external and major structural repairs to the building. You, as the tenant, are usually responsible for internal decoration and for making sure that fixtures, fittings, furniture and other contents are not damaged because of your negligence.
You will not usually be responsible for making good any damage caused by 'fair wear and tear'. Exactly what you are responsible for will normally be described in the tenancy agreement.
If you live in privately rented accommodation and your landlord claims that you have damaged the property s/he will normally keep all or part of the deposit to cover the cost of the damage.
If you are having problems with the recovery of a deposit or if the landlord keeps all or part of it and you dispute this you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
You are asked to move out for repairs to the property
The landlord has the right to reasonable access to the house to carry out repairs.
If the landlord wants to carry out improvements, s/he must get either your permission to enter the house and do the works, or a court order or an order from the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) authorising her/him to take possession of the house. This also applies if the repairs are so extensive that they cannot be done unless you move out. The landlord must usually provide alternative accommodation for you, but if you do not want to move, the landlord has the power, in some circumstances, to apply to the court to repossess the property.
There is information about your rights when repairs are being carried out on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
If the landlord wants you to leave so that improvements or repairs can be done, you should not agree to this until you have obtained independent advice on your rights, for example by consulting a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Repair of appliances
Private landlords must ensure that appliances and installations for the supply of water, sanitation, heating, gas and electricity are in reasonable repair and proper working order. This does not apply to landlords of agricultural tenancies, crofting tenancies, and tenancies of mobile homes. If you have a private landlord who has a duty to keep the installations in good repair, and they do not do so, you can complain to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).
You can't pay the rent and/or council tax
If you have difficulty in paying your rent and/or council tax because you have a low income, you may be eligible for housing benefit, Universal Credit, and/or help with your council tax.
- More about getting housing benefit to help with your rent
- More about Universal Credit
- More about Council Tax Reduction
- More about paying off your rent arrears
- More about what to do if you are taken to court or a tribunal for rent arrears
Who is responsible for paying for a TV Licence
If you watch/record live television on any channel, or watch/download anything on BBC iPlayer, you're legally required to have a TV Licence. This applies no matter what device you use - you will still need one to watch live TV on a phone app, for example.
You will have to pay for the TV Licence yourself unless your tenancy agreement specifically states that the landlord covers this, although this is not commonplace.
However, even if your landlord pays for the licence, you should check that it has been paid for by contacting TV Licensing at www.tvlicensing.co.uk. If there's no licence, you could be liable for prosecution for watching live TV or using BBC iPlayer.
There's more information about TV licences on the UK government website at www.gov.uk/tv-licence.
You want to use the home for business purposes
If you use the whole of the property which you rented to be your home for business purposes and no longer live there, you will lose any security of tenure you had and could be evicted by the landlord.
You can use part of the house for business purposes as long as it is not specifically forbidden in the tenancy agreement and it does not cause a nuisance to neighbours. Even if a tenancy agreement forbids use of part of the house for business purposes it can be difficult for a landlord to enforce this condition.
If you are a private tenant, you should not, however, use the house for business purposes without the landlord’s permission because, even if you have a legal right to do so, the landlord may be able to find some other reason for evicting you, if s/he does not approve.
You may also require permission from the local authority to carry on a business, for example, there may be the need to obtain planning permission, or a special licence, depending on the activity. The business use could also lead to part of the house being assessed for business rates.
If you are a tenant and threatened with eviction because you have used the house for business purposes, you may be able to defend the eviction, depending on what kind of tenancy you have. You should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - see where to get advice.
You want to keep a pet
You can keep pets as long as it is not specifically forbidden in your tenancy agreement and it does not cause a nuisance to neighbours.
Even if a tenancy agreement forbids the keeping of pets, it can be difficult for a landlord to enforce this condition.
If you are a private tenant you should normally seek the landlord’s permission because, even if you have a legal right to keep pets, the landlord may be able to find some other reason for evicting you if s/he does not approve. Keeping unauthorised pets could also lead the landlord to more closely scrutinising any damage at the end of the tenancy (for example, to carpets or furniture) to then withhold some of your tenancy deposit.
If you are threatened with eviction because you are keeping pets, you may be able to defend this even if it is in breach of the tenancy agreement. This depends on what kind of tenancy you have.
If you are keeping pets against your tenancy agreement you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
If there's a term in your tenancy agreement which bans pets, you can ask your landlord to change it to allow you to have an assistance dog.
Your landlord must agree to do this if you are disabled and you need an assistance dog to be able to live in the property. This is known as making a 'reasonable adjustment'. If your landlord refuses to make a reasonable adjustment, they may be discriminating against you and could be acting illegally.
In some circumstances, a landlord may be able to refuse to make a reasonable adjustment if they have a good enough reason, for example, on health and safety grounds.
If you are disabled and your landlord refuses to allow you to keep an assistance dog, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
The landlord is discriminating against you
A landlord must not discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex, disability, sexual orientation or religion. These are called 'protected chacteristics'.
This means that they are probably breaking the law if, because of a protected characteristic you have, they:-
- refuse to let a property to you
- charge you higher rent than other tenants
- give you worse terms in your agreement than other tenants
- treat you differently from other tenants in the way you’re allowed to use facilities, such as a laundry or a garden
- evict or harass you because of a characteristic you have
- refuse to carry out repairs
- refuse to make reasonable changes to a property or a term in the tenancy agreement which would allow a disabled person to live there.
There are some circumstances where the general rules about discrimination may not apply, for example, if your landlord lives in the same property as you.
If you think your landlord is discriminating against you, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Either you or the landlord wants to end the tenancy
There are many rules governing the notice needed for ending tenancy agreements and applying for eviction orders from the court. The rules cover the length of notice needed, the form in which it must be given and the dates on which it must take effect.
In most cases, a landlord has to serve a special notice on you before s/he can apply for an eviction order. The rules vary depending on what kind of tenancy it is; in some cases, more than one notice is needed.
Assured and short assured tenancies
The landlord gives notice
If a private landlord wants to end a tenancy on the date a short assured tenancy agreement expires, they must usually serve a Notice Seeking Possession conforming to special rules. It can be difficult to defend against this type of notice as the Tribunal is often obliged to grant an eviction if the procedure has been followed correctly by the landlord.
If you’re an assured tenant, or you’re still in the fixed term of a short assured tenancy agreement, your landlord must usually serve a Notice to Quit. Under this type of notice, the landlord will have to prove to the Tribunal why there is a good reason to evict you from the property, for example you’ve got 3 months’ rent arrears or you’re not actually living at the address.
If you have rent arrears, there may be steps you can start taking to pay them off.
If you are a tenant and you receive a notice from your landlord you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
The tenant gives notice
An assured or short assured tenant generally has to give the same amount of notice as a landlord to end the tenancy agreement.
If a tenant wants to end an agreement before it’s due to expire, they can only do so with the permission of the landlord or if there is a term in the agreement that allows for this. Otherwise they may end up liable for the rent for the remainder of the time covered by the agreement.
The legal rules about the type of tenancy or the written tenancy agreement may say how the tenant can give notice. If they do not, the tenant should give notice in a letter that they’ve signed and sent to their landlord by recorded delivery. Giving notice by e-mail or text message is not advisable and, in many cases, is not a valid way of ending a tenancy. There is information about ending a tenancy on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
If you want to end a tenancy agreement, or if you have given notice to the landlord and then changed your mind and want to stay on, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau, as there are different rules on this for different kinds of tenancy - where to get advice.
Private residential tenancies
The landlord gives notice
If you’re a private residential tenant, your landlord can only ever serve you a Notice to Leave if they want to evict you.
The landlord must normally give you 84 days’ notice. However, you may only get 28 days’ notice if the landlord believes one of the following applies:
- you’ve rented the property for less than 6 months
- you have rent arrears, you’ve moved out, you’ve breached a term of your agreement, or you’ve engaged in criminal or antisocial behaviour at home.
To be valid, the Notice to Leave must be on an official form telling you both:
- the date that the notice period ends
- the reason the landlord wants you to leave.
It must also be served to you in the way specified in your tenancy agreement (by hand, recorded delivery, or e-mail).
If you choose to leave, you can do so at any time during the notice period. This will end the tenancy.
If you don’t agree to leave, the landlord may apply after the notice period ends to the Tribunal to ask permission to evict you.
If you have rent arrears, there may be steps you can start taking to pay them off.
If you are a tenant and you receive notice from your landlord, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
The tenant gives notice
If you have a private residential tenancy, you must give your landlord at least 28 days’ notice. You should check your tenancy agreement to see if you have to give longer.
Your tenancy agreement should also say how to give the notice, for example by e-mail or a letter by post.
If you change your mind, you have the right to withdraw your notice at any time during the notice period by writing to the landlord. You should do this ASAP by e-mail or on paper (in the same way as you send the notice) and keep a copy for your records.
Your tenancy comes to an automatic end when you leave after giving your landlord the correct notice.
What happens if you leave without giving proper notice
If a tenant leaves without giving proper notice, the landlord may be entitled to charge rent up to the date when notice should have expired. If you’re still in the fixed term of a short assured tenancy, you could be charged until its end if you give no notice at all.
If you rent from a social landlord which thinks that you have abandoned the property it might take steps to recover the property using abandonment proceedings. Sometimes this might mean you face additional legal costs. You can find out more about abandonment proceedings on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
If there’s a dispute about rent arrears after ending a tenancy, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
You're facing eviction
How the landlord can get possession of the accommodation will depend on the type of tenancy. Before 1 December 2017, all eviction cases were heard in the sheriff court. From 1 December 2017, if you have a private tenancy the landlord must apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).
In most cases the landlord has to follow an eviction procedure. Once a landlord has served a Notice to Leave on you, this does not necessarily mean you can be evicted.
In nearly all cases an eviction order is needed, and in almost all cases you will be notified when the landlord is applying to the sheriff court or the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) for one. Whether the court or tribunal will allow the eviction depends on the kind of tenancy and the reasons the landlord uses to apply for eviction.
However, in some cases, a court or tribunal order may not be necessary. For example, an eviction order is not needed if the accommodation is:-
- shared with your resident landlord and the tenancy started after 2 January 1989
- a hostel run by a public sector landlord.
If you have been asked to leave the accommodation by your landlord or have been told that they're applying to the court or tribunal to evict you, you should not move out before consulting an experienced adviser, for example a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
If the landlord has already got an eviction order, you do not have to leave until after the date on the order. Once that date has passed, the landlord must again apply to the court or tribunal for permission to use sheriff officers to evict you. You will then be told that date on a final eviction notice.
The landlord may try to force you to leave the accommodation without an eviction order, for example by changing the locks or making it very difficult to continue living there through intimidation. This is illegal eviction and you must get specialist advice as soon as possible, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
There is more information about eviction, illegal eviction and harassment on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
Landlord owes you money at the end of the tenancy
If the landlord owes the tenant money at the end of the tenancy, for example, for repairs the tenant paid for or oil for a central heating tank that the tenant filled, the tenant should negotiate for the return of the money.
If the landlord fails to provide the money the tenant may have to take legal action for the return of the money.
In certain cases, if your tenancy is still coming to an end you might consider recovering an owed amount (like overpaid rent) from upcoming rent payments. You should be sure to have proof you’re owed this money and show it to the landlord. There are risks associated with this so you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Getting your deposit back at the end of a tenancy
If you live in privately rented accommodation you might have paid a deposit to the landlord at the start of a tenancy as security for any arrears or damage to property.
You should get it back if you’ve left the property in a good condition and with no rent arrears or unpaid bills. Your landlord cannot try to charge you for reasonable 'wear and tear' of any fixtures, fittings or furniture.
If your deposit is held by an approved tenancy deposit scheme
Your landlord is legally obliged to protect your tenancy deposit with one of three schemes that the Scottish Government has authorised:
You should contact the scheme that holds your deposit and ask for it to be repaid. If the landlord agrees to repay it in full, you will be notified and it will be returned. It should be repaid in full automatically if the landlord doesn’t respond within a certain timeframe.
Your landlord may contact the scheme first, and may grant a release of the full deposit or they may propose to make deductions. You can agree to this, otherwise you can challenge this through the deposit scheme’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service.
When you and the landlord disagree about how much should be paid back, you can refer your dispute for resolution. But act quickly – you’ll need to do this within a short time from when the landlord suggests making a deduction.
You can contact your tenancy deposit scheme should you need any more information about the dispute process.
The scheme’s decision will be final so you should prepare your evidence carefully, giving the dispute resolution service the best chance to understand the facts.
For more information about tenancy deposit schemes and using the dispute resolution service, visit the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
If your deposit isn’t protected
Your deposit won’t be protected if your landlord hasn’t paid it to one of the above three approved tenancy deposit schemes.
If you’re not sure whether or not your deposit is protected, you should first check your tenancy documents and then contact each of the schemes to confirm.
If the deposit isn’t held in an approved tenancy deposit scheme, you can take civil legal action to get it back. The landlord could be ordered to pay compensation worth up to three times the amount of the deposit on top.
You can apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) for help if you want an order for payment where landlord has not paid the deposit into an approved scheme. There is information on the tribunal’s website at www.housingandpropertychamber.scot.
There is more information about tenancy deposit schemes on the Shelter Scotland website at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.
If you’re considering taking legal action you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
You left belongings in the house after you left
If you leave things behind when you give up a tenancy, the landlord may charge for the cost of clearing them out of the house.
If you owe the landlord money at the end of the tenancy, the landlord is not entitled to hold on to any possessions you leave behind until the debt is cleared.
Property you left behind still belongs to you and normally should be returned to you when you ask for it. However there are special rules that apply to property found in a house which a public sector landlord has repossessed because they think it has been abandoned.
If a landlord does not wish to return belongings you left in accommodation or you want to know more about the special rules that apply to the public sector landlord's tenants you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
You want to pass the tenancy on to someone else
The tenant leaves and wants to pass the tenancy on
Passing on a tenancy to someone else is called assignment. The rules about who can and who cannot assign tenancies are very complex.
If you want to assign your tenancy to someone else you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
The tenant dies
When a tenant dies there are rules which may allow the tenancy to be passed on to your partner, or sometimes a relative or a carer who has been living with you. This is called succession.
The rules are different for different kinds of tenancy. Because they are given by law, what a landlord says or puts into an agreement cannot remove a right to succession.
To find out how the rules apply in a particular case you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
My same-sex partner has just died. We lived together in a one-bedroom council flat for the last 25 years but it was always in his name and we never entered into a civil partnership. I'm afraid I'll be evicted.
You have probably got the right to stay in the flat. This is called the right of succession. The law says that partners in same-sex or opposite-sex couples count as a member of the family of the person who died. This means you will probably have the right of succession as long as:-
- you were living at your partner's property when he died, and
- the property was your only or main home, and
- you were living with your partner for at least twelve months before he died.
You should get advice about your situation from an experienced housing adviser.
1 The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 s327