Renting from a public sector landlord
This information applies to Scotland only
Specialist sources of advice
Housing law is very complex and this information only gives a basic outline of public sector tenants' rights. Most people will need the help of an experienced adviser, such as:-
- housing advice centres
- solicitors with expertise in housing law
- legal advice centres
- Shelter. For more information see scotland.shelter.org.uk
- Citizens Advice Bureaux - where to get advice.
Who is a public sector tenant
You are a public sector tenant if you live in property rented to you by:-
- a local authority; or
- a registered social landlord (that is, a housing association or housing co-operative registered with the Scottish Housing Regulator). This includes houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
Anyone who is a tenant of the above will be a Scottish secure tenant or exceptionally a short Scottish secure tenant.
House in multiple occupation (HMO)
A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is accommodation shared by 3 or more unrelated people, and it usually has to be your main home. A registered social landlord must have a licence from their local authority to rent out a house in multiple occupation (HMO). HMOs are covered by fire safety law.
Visit the Scottish Government website at www.gov.scot for more information about HMOs.
Scottish Homes ceased to function from the end of June 2005. All tenants of Scottish Homes are Scottish secure tenants. If you are an ex-Scottish Homes tenants you should consult an experienced adviser if there are problems about your rights, see under heading Specialist sources of advice for a list of sources of advice.
Rights of Scottish secure tenants
If you are a Scottish secure tenant you have the right to stay in your accommodation unless the landlord can convince the court that there are special reasons for eviction, for example, that there are rent arrears, damages to the property or that one of the terms of the agreement has been broken. There are special rules about the help that the landlord must give you from 1 August 2012 before they can evict you for rent arrears. For more details on eviction see under heading The right to stay in the accommodation.
You can enforce your rights, for example, to get repairs done, without worrying about being evicted. In addition to the right to stay in your home as long as you do not break the terms of the tenancy, you also have other rights by law including:-
- to a tenancy agreement
- the right to have certain repairs carried out by the landlord
For more details on repairs see under heading Repairs.
- with the landlord’s permission, the right to take in lodgers, to sublet or have a joint tenancy
- the right to transfer to another landlord
- the right to be given information on the rules on allocation, transfer and exchange
- with the landlord's permission, the right to assign (pass on) the tenancy to someone else
- the right of access to personal files
- the right of succession (that is, the right of a spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner including same sex partners or resident member of the tenant's family or carers to take over the tenancy on the tenant's death)
- the right not to be treated unfairly by your landlord because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, sex, religion or sexuality.
Some Scottish secure tenants had the right to buy before it was ended on 1 August 2016.
The tenant will have a written tenancy agreement which may give them more rights than those set out above.
Complaints about Scottish secure tenancies
You have the right to complain if you are not satisfied with the service provided by your local authority or housing association. If you are unhappy with the way in which your complaint is handled you can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
For more information about the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, see How to use an ombudsman in Scotland.
If you were a secure or an assured tenant of a housing association immediately prior to 30 September 2002, you may have preserved rights from your previous tenancy and may need more specialist advice, see under heading Specialist sources of advice.
Rights of short Scottish secure tenancies
Public sector landlords can convert a Scottish secure tenancy to a short Scottish secure tenancy if a tenant or a member of the tenant's household has had an anti-social behaviour order granted against them. A short Scottish secure tenancy must be given for a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 12 months. At the end of the term of the short Scottish secure tenancy, the landlord must either convert the tenancy back to a Scottish secure tenancy or end the tenancy. The landlord does not have to go to court for possession.
The rights of a short Scottish secure tenant are the same as those of a Scottish secure tenant, except that a short Scottish secure tenant does not have
- the right to buy
- the right to succeed
- the right to stay or leave (security of tenure).
For more information on anti-social behaviour orders, see Antisocial behaviour.
Standards of service
The Scottish Government publishes the Scottish Social Housing Charter, which sets out the standards that all social landlords (local authorities and registered social landlords) should meet. The Charter sets out what you can expect from your landlord and it is used by the Scottish Housing Regulator to assess how well the landlord is doing in meeting the standards.
The Charter, landlord performance reports and a national online comparison tool to enable you to make quick comparisons between landlords, can be found on the website of the Scottish Housing Regulator at www.scottishhousingregulator.gov.uk.
The Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS)
The Scottish Housing Quality Standard sets out quality standards for social housing. Public sector landlords are working towards meeting the requirements of the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS). There is a guide for tenants on the Scottish Government website at www.gov.scot .
Fixing and increasing the rent
Rents for Scottish secure tenants are fixed according to the landlord's housing policy and guidelines from the Scottish Housing Regulator. Landlords must consult with tenants over rent increases and give them four weeks notice of any rent increase. While landlords must 'take account' of tenants' views, they are not bound by them and tenants have no further recourse over rents. A tenant cannot control the amount of rent payable, but may be able to claim housing benefit to help pay it.
For information on housing benefit, see Help with your rent – Housing benefit.
If you were a secure or an assured tenant immediately prior to 30 September 2002, you may have 'preserved rights' from your previous tenancy and may need specialist advice, see under heading Specialist sources of advice.
If you are concerned about an environmental issue, you may have a right to ask for environmental information held by your landlord, including a housing association. There is more information on the Scottish Information Commissioner’s website at www.itspublicknowledge.info.
For rights to ask for environmental information, see Your right to know - a guide to freedom of information law in Scotland.
As a Scottish secure tenant you are entitled to have your accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair.
For problems with repairs see Getting repairs done while renting.
Tenants with disabilities
If you are public sector tenant with disabilities you may be able to have adaptations made to your home. You will first have to get the need for any adaptations assessed by the local authority department with responsibility for social work. Adaptations could include the installation of a stair lift or hoist or changes to a bathroom or toilet.
If you want to get an adaptation carried out you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
You may also be able to get a grant to make the home more suitable.
Safety of appliances
Landlords have to make sure that electrical and gas appliances and heating supplied with the accommodation are safe. For more information on the safety of appliances and duties of landlords, including landlords of houses in multiple occupancy, see Common problems with renting.
Energy saving measures
There is a minimum energy efficiency standard for social housing that landlords are expected to work towards. You may be entitled to other help to improve the energy efficiency of your accommodation.
More about grants and schemes to help you save money on energy bills, including the energy efficiency standard for social housing, see Grants and schemes to help you save money on energy bills.
The right to stay in the accommodation
Scottish secure tenants
As a Scottish secure tenant you have the right to stay in the accommodation as long as you keep to the terms of the tenancy agreement with the landlord. However, if the tenancy agreement is broken, for example, because of rent arrears or nuisance to neighbours, the landlord can serve a notice (of "proceedings for possession") on you and apply to the sheriff court for an eviction order. From 1 August 2012, if the eviction is for rent arrears the landlord must give you certain help before they can apply to court to get an eviction. The aim is to let you and the landlord do everything to sort out the rent arrears and avoid your eviction.
There is more information about eviction on the Shelter Scotland website at scotland.shelter.org.uk.
A public sector landlord can only evict a Scottish secure tenant if they give the tenant proper notice and if one of the 'grounds for possession' applies and (from 1 August 2012) they have offered you help in trying to sort out rent arrears.
What constitutes 'grounds for possession' is complicated and if your landlord is seeking eviction you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
The landlord must apply to the sheriff court to seek possession of the property and a Scottish secure tenant can only be evicted if the court grants a possession order to the landlord.
- Public sector tenant taken to court for rent arrears
- Private sector tenant taken to court for rent arrears.
Public sector tenancies and discrimination
A local authority, housing association or other social landlord must not discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. This means that they are not allowed to:-
- rent a property to you on terms that are less good than other tenants
- treat you differently from other tenants in the way you are allowed to use facilities such as a laundry or a garden
- evict or harass you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, sex, sexuality or religion
- charge you higher rent than other tenants
- refuse to house or re-house you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation
- give priority to people because of their disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, when deciding who to house or re-house
- refuse to carry out repairs to your home, simply because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation
- refuse to make reasonable changes to a property or a term in the tenancy agreement which would allow a disabled person to live there.
If you think your landlord is discriminating against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
For more information about how to complain if you think you are being discriminated against see Complaining about discrimination in housing.