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Problems with flatmates, sharers and subtenants

This advice applies to Scotland

This page covers flatmates and sharers who aren't married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership. For information on your housing rights in a relationship see Living together and opposite sex marriage: legal differences, living together and same-sex marriage: legal differences or Living together and civil partnership: legal differences

We also have advice about your housing rights if you're ending a relationship when you're living together but not in a marriage or civil partnership.

Find out your tenancy status

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. Check what rights you have on the Shelter Scotland website.

If you have a problem with a sharer, your legal rights and responsibilities could vary according to the problem and each person's tenancy status. You can find more information on the Shelter Scotland website.

Problems with utility and energy bills

If there's a disagreement over utilities, find out if you’re responsible for paying an energy bill

If the home is overcrowded

If two people of the opposite sex have to sleep in the same room, the accommodation is legally overcrowded unless the two people are:

  • a married couple
  • a couple in a civil partnership
  • a couple who are living together
  • children 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.

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're living in overcrowded accommodation. If you're not on the housing waiting list you should apply to go on it. If you're 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. See If you're homeless or threatened with homelessness

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.

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, laundry etc), and who does not have their own separate accommodation.

A subtenant does have her/his own separate accommodation and won't normally be provided with meals or services.

Whether you can take in lodgers or subtenants depends on the type of tenancy you have. 

Some private tenants with unfurnished tenancies have the right to take in lodgers without the landlord’s permission, but you 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 eviction.

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.

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.

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