Skip to content Skip to footer

Renting from a private landlord

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland only

Landlord registration

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 themselves or their properties, s/he is committing an offence unless there is an exemption on the property. There is information about private landlord registration on the landlord registration website at www.landlordregistrationscotland.gov.uk.

Tenancy deposit schemes

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 and must be paid into a tenancy deposit scheme.

If your tenancy began after 1 December 2017

If you have a private tenancy which began on or after 1 December 2017 you will be either:

Private residential tenants

If you’re a private residential tenant you will normally be renting your home from a private individual or a private company, like a letting agency.

You should have a tenancy agreement explaining that you are a private residential tenant and your rights.

You will not normally be a private residential tenant if your accommodation is:

  • let to you under a different type of tenancy from before 1 December 2017
  • social housing let at any time under a Scottish secure tenancy
  • shared with your landlord
  • a holiday let
  • a student let – whether university or college-owned accommodation or in a private hall of residence
  • arranged by the local authority because you are homeless, on probation, or seeking asylum
  • business premises
  • police or military housing
  • let at a low rent - less than £6 per week.

Rights of private residential tenants

As a private residential tenant you have the right to stay in your accommodation unless the landlord can convince the First-tier Tribunal there are good reasons for eviction, for example rent arrears or damage to the property, or that one of the terms of the tenancy agreement has been broken.

Your landlord must give you a pack of 'easy read notes' or 'supporting notes' explaining your rights and responsibilities alongside your tenancy agreement. There is more information about the notes you should be given on the Scottish Government website at www.gov.scot

The rights you have by law include:

  • a reasonable state of repair – the landlord must keep the property in a condition that meets legal standards
  • notice about rent increases – the landlord must send you a written notice three months before increasing the rent, which you can challenge
  • succession – a partner, relative or carer may be able to take over the tenancy if you die
  • not to be discriminated against because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

You can complain to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) if you think your landlord has breached your rights, for example by refusing to carry out a repair. Your landlord can’t evict you just for complaining to the Tribunal as they need to have a good reason to ask for the property back.

Sometimes the Tribunal can award you compensation, for example if your landlord hasn’t given you the right tenancy documents. When you can’t solve a problem with your landlord it may be worth speaking to an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau – where to get advice.

Your written tenancy agreement may give you more rights than the minimum provided by law. However, your agreement cannot give you less rights than you're entitled to by law. Even if it appears to do so, your legal rights will still apply.

There is more information about the rights of private residential tenants on the Scottish Government website at www.gov.scot.

Rent increases for private residential tenancies

Private residential tenants have stronger and clearer rights to challenge rent increases than most people with other types of private tenancy. The landlord also has to follow a clearly defined procedure for a rent increase to be legal.

You can find out more about setting the rent below.

Common law tenant or non-tenant occupier 

If you have a private landlord, you're likely to be a common law tenant or non-tenant occupier if you:

  • have a resident landlord
  • are a student renting from an educational institution or a private provider
  • are provided accommodation by your employer
  • have a company let
  • have over two acres of agricultural land included in your tenancy
  • pay a very low rent (less than £6 per week)
  • pay no rent
  • are a tenant of the crown or a government department.

This list is not exhaustive and if you think you may be a common law tenant or occupier you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau – where to get advice.

There is more information about common law tenants and non-tenant occupiers on the Shelter Scotland website.

If you occupy accommodation because of your job – e.g. a caretaker – you will not necessarily be a common law tenant or non-tenant occupier. You might have rights as a private residential, assured or short assured tenant. You might not have to give up the accommodation if you leave the job.

If your 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 and you will have a written tenancy agreement.

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
  • temporary accommodation arranged by the local authority because you're homeless.

Rights of assured tenants

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

If your tenancy began after 1 May 2013 your landlord must give you a tenant information pack before your tenancy starts. There is more information about the tenant information pack on the Scottish Government website at www.gov.scot .

You can enforce your rights, for instance to get repairs done, without the risk of your landlord evicting you in retaliation. They must prove to the Tribunal a good reason that they need the property back. 

You also have other rights in law including:

  • to a reasonable state of repair – the landlord must keep the property in a state that meets a legal standard
  • to succession – a partner, relative or carer may be able to take over the tenancy if you die
  • not to be discriminated against because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

If your landlord asks you to leave or wants to increase your rent, you should speak to an experience advice, for example at your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

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. 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're not a short assured tenant if your accommodation is:

  • a holiday let
  • a company let
  • student housing rented from a university, college, or private provider but sublet through the accommodation service of the educational institution
  • temporary accommodation arranged by the local authority because you're homeless
  • shared with your landlord
  • provided for 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.

If your tenancy started after 1 May 2013 your landlord must give you a tenant information pack before your tenancy starts. There is more information about the tenant information pack on the Scottish Government website at www.gov.scot .

You also have other rights by law including:

  • to a reasonable state of repair – the landlord must keep the property in a state that meets a legal standard
  • to succession – a partner, relative or carer may be able to take over the tenancy if you die
  • not to be discriminated against – because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

You can enforce your rights to get repairs done, but if you do, the landlord may take steps to end your tenancy. If this happens, you should speak to an experience advice, for example at your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau. See where to get advice.

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.

If your tenancy began before 2 January 1989

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

  • a regulated tenancy, or
  • an agreement with a landlord that is based on statute law or common law before 2nd January 1989.

If your tenancy began before 2 January 1989 and you are not a regulated tenant you should seek specialist advice about what your rights are.

You are not a regulated tenant if your accommodation is:

  • a bed and breakfast letting
  • a company let.

You can get advice from a number of agencies, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - see where to get advice.

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.

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 must 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:

Setting the rent

If you can’t afford to pay your rent, you may be able to apply for housing benefit or Universal Credit. First, however, you should check below to see whether the rent has been set correctly.

Private residential tenants and rent

If you’re a private residential tenant, you must pay the rent stated in the tenancy agreement or whatever has been properly agreed with the landlord at a later stage.

Every time the landlord wishes to increase the rent they have to follow a strict procedure set down in law. If the landlord does not follow this, you cannot legally be expected to pay the higher rent.

If you've paid a rent increase when you didn't have to, you could ask the landlord to return the difference between what the rent should have been and what you paid. If the landlord doesn't agree, you can complain to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).

The rent can only be increased once every 12 months by an official notice. You have the right to challenge each proposed increase. 

There's no legal reason to prevent a landlord from agreeing to reduce the rent at any time.

Rent increase notice

The notice must be on a specific form titled 'Landlord’s rent-increase notice to tenant(s)' and has to be completed accurately by the landlord, telling you:

  • the new rate that the landlord wants to charge
  • the beginning date that the higher rent would become effective
  • your rights, including to refer the proposed increase to a rent officer

The form includes a section for you to complete and return to the landlord. If you don’t respond, the landlord will take this to mean you agree with the increase and you’ll have to pay the higher rate from the date on the notice.

You might want to challenge a rent increase if you believe it’s a lot higher than what's charged for similar homes in your area. You should look for evidence of the rent being advertised for new lettings, for example on letting agents' websites.

Simply returning the relevant section of the notice to the landlord will not automatically trigger an application to a rent officer. You'll also need to apply directly within 21 days.

Your landlord’s rent-increase notice should give you a clear three months before it can take place. If you’ve had less notice than that but don’t want to challenge the amount of the increase, you can return the slip on the form to tell the landlord the date that you think the new rent should become effective.

If you have any problems with your rent-increase notice, it may be worthing speaking to an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Challenging a rent increase

If you want to refer a rent increase to a rent officer, you must apply to Rent Service Scotland within 21 days of receiving the notice.

The rent officer can decide any of the following:

  • set the rent higher than the landlord’s proposal
  • agree with the landlord’s increase
  • set a rate that is higher than the current rent but lower than the proposed increase
  • keep the rent the same
  • set a lower rent than the current rate – but is unlikely to happen in most cases

When a rent officer looks at your case, their decision will be based on what comparable properties are being advertised for. They can’t decide based on what would be affordable for you.

Applying to Rent Service Scotland

You should complete an official application form titled 'Tenant's rent increase referral to a rent officer' and send it by email or post to the below address.

Rent Service Scotland
Second Floor
Endeavour House
1 Greenmarket
Dundee
DD1 4QB

Tel: 0300 244 7000
Fax: 0131 244 8222
Email: rss.dundee@gov.scot

You should include certain documents, for example your tenancy agreement and the rent-increase notice.

If you're applying by post, it may be worth sending by recorded delivery to be sure that it arrives on time.

Challenging a rent officer's decision

The rent officer will first send a 'provisional' decision stating the rent they are planning to set. Both you and the landlord have 14 days to challenge this.

It's also worth sending evidence of homes similar to yours being advertised for lower rent than the provisional decision. You might be able to find this by looking at letting agents' online listings. 

If you disagree with the rent officer’s final decision, you can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber). You’ll need evidence of lower rents in your area to support your appeal as you’re unlikely to succeed on argument alone.

If you’re thinking about disputing a rent increase it could be worth speaking to an experienced adviser in your local area, for example at your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Local authorities are sometimes able to declare a 'rent pressure zone', which changes the process to increase and tenants’ rights to challenge. Currently there are no declared rent pressure zones anywhere in Scotland.

Assured tenants and rent

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 must consult an experienced adviser - where to get advice.

If you think a proposed increase is too high, you can end the tenancy agreement and then apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) 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 - where to get advice.

Visit the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) website at www.housingandpropertychamber.scot to find out more about the Tribunal.

Short assured tenants and rent

As a short assured tenant you must pay whatever rent you agreed with the landlord when the tenancy began. You can apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) to compare the rent to rents for similar tenancies in the area and, if it is higher, to reduce the rent. However, the Tribunal 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 First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) to decide on a reasonable 'market rent'. However, the Tribunal may decide a reasonable 'market rent' higher than the amount proposed by the landlord. Visit the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) website at www.housingandpropertychamber.scot to find out more about the Tribunal.

If you want to take your rent to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) you must consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Regulated tenants and rent

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 must 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.

Common law tenants, non-tenant occupiers and rent

If you're a common law tenant or non-tenant occupier and you're charged rent, you must pay the rent agreed with the landlord when you moved into the accommodation. You cannot apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) 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. You cannot apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) to have the rent reduced.

Repairs

The landlord’s general responsibilities for repairs

A landlord has these general responsibilities about repairs for most types of private tenancy. 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, including, for example, taps 
  • electric wiring, including, for example, sockets, and any electrical appliances supplied by the landlord
  • the basins, sinks, baths and toilets
  • room heaters and water heaters
  • any furnishings provided as part of the tenancy.

The landlord must also provide and maintain smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and alarms, and electrical safety inspections which meet building regulations and Scottish Government guidance.

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, race, sex or sexual orientation, 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, race, sex or sexual orientation, religion or belief, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Safety of appliances

Landlords have to make sure that electrical and gas appliances and heating supplied with the accommodation are safe, and meet building regulations and Scottish Government guidance on smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and alarms, and electrical safety inspections. 

Making changes to your home (adaptations)

Private tenants have the right to make certain limited adaptations to their homes, subject to their landlord’s consent. 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.

There is more information about Adaptations in private housing on the Shelter Scotland website.

Changes to make the home more suitable for a disabled tenant

When someone has a disability there may be additional duties on the landlord to agree to adaptations that make reasonable adjustments. This could include the installation of a stair lift or hoist or changes to a bathroom or toilet.

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

If you want to install energy efficiency measures or central heating

Private tenants also have the right to install central heating or other energy efficiency measures for example, insulation for which a grant might be available. Landlords cannot unreasonably say no. However they can attach certain reasonable conditions, such as requiring the tenant to return the property to its original state when their tenancy ends.

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 Scotland website. 

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, they must give you written notice that you should leave.

The amount of notice you should get will depend on your tenancy type. Your tenancy agreement should tell you the notice period you’re entitled to. If you don’t think you’ve had enough notice, you might need advice about challenging it.

If you don’t leave at the end of the notice period, the landlord has to apply to the Tribunal for an eviction order. You can’t legally be made to leave before the Tribunal has issued one.

You may choose to leave voluntarily at any point. But you should bear in mind that you might have to keep paying rent until the end of the notice period unless the landlord agrees to your departure date.

The right of private residential, regulated and assured tenants to stay in the accommodation

You have the right to stay in the accommodation until you or your landlord legally ends the tenancy agreement.

If you want to end your tenancy, you should check your tenancy agreement about how much written notice you should give the landlord, and for example whether this can be sent electronically or on paper. Normally private residential tenants have to give 28 days’ notice.

The landlord can only end your tenancy by giving you a valid Notice to Leave and then applying to the First Tier Tribunal. The Tribunal will only agree that you can be evicted if the landlord can convince it that there’s a legal reason you should leave. Examples include that you have rent arrears, you’ve damaged the property or you’ve broken one of the terms of the tenancy agreement.

You have the right to defend yourself at the Tribunal. You should look for legal advice, and representation at the hearing when possible.

The right of short assured tenants to stay in the accommodation

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.

The right of common law tenants and occupiers to stay in the accommodation

A common law tenant or occupier has limited security to stay in the property. If you refuse to move out when the landlord has given you notice to leave and the notice period has expired, the landlord has to go to court for a possession order. This will normally be granted.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

What is a HMO

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.

Licences for HMOs

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.

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.

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 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

Landlords who rent out accommodation in HMOs are not allowed to discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex or sexual orientation, religion or belief. 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.

Fire safety in HMOs

HMO landlords must provide adequate fire precautions. There is more information on the Shelter Scotland website.

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.

Example

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.

Further information

You can find more information about your rights as a private tenant on the Shelter Scotland website.

You can find more information about fire safety, including special precautions for HMOs, on the Shelter Scotland website.

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

Did this advice help?
Why wasn't this advice helpful?
Did this advice help?

Thank you, your feedback has been submitted.