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Types of public tenancies

This advice applies to Scotland

Specialist sources of advice

Housing law is very complex and this information only gives a basic outline of public sector tenants' rights. You might need more help to find out what type of tenancy you have. You can get expert help from:

Who is a public sector tenant

You're a public sector tenant if you rent from:

  • a local authority (council), or
  • a registered social landlord (that is, a housing association or housing co-operative registered with the Scottish Housing Regulator). This includes public houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

If you're a public sector tenant you will normally have a Scottish secure tenancy or exceptionally a short Scottish secure tenancy. 

In some cases if you rent a property with a Mid Market rent you will be renting from a private company that has been created by a housing association. This should be made clear in your tenancy agreement. This means that you are a private sector tenant and not a public sector tenant. Find out more about private sector tenancies

An organisation called Scottish Homes were public sector landlords until they ceased to function at 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.

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. Find more information about HMOs on the Scottish Government website.

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. 

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 the right to:

  • a tenancy agreement
  • have certain repairs carried out by the landlord
  • with the landlord’s permission, take in lodgers, to sublet or have a joint tenancy
  • transfer to another landlord
  • be given information on the rules on allocation, transfer and exchange
  • with the landlord's permission, assign (pass on) the tenancy to someone else
  • access to personal files
  • 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)
  • not be treated unfairly by your landlord because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity rights, race, sex, religion or sexuality (protected characteristics).

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. Find out more about complaining to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

Preserved rights

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.

Rights of short Scottish secure tenancies

Public sector landlords can offer a short Scottish secure tenancy in a number of situations, when someone's housing need may be short term, including when a homeowner has housing needs that can't be met in their own home.

It can also 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 antisocial behaviour order granted against them. A short Scottish secure tenancy must be given for a minimum of 6 months, then 12 months and in some cases extended to 18 months. At the end of the term of the short Scottish secure tenancy or the extensions to the term, the landlord must either convert the tenancy back to a Scottish secure tenancy or end the tenancy. 

The landlord can also end the tenancy during the tenancy agreement if there are grounds to do so, for example, rent arrears or antisocial behaviour.

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 take over the tenancy when the tenant dies (right of succession)
  • the right to stay or leave (security of tenure).

Find out more about antisocial behaviour orders.

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 Scottish Housing Regulator's website.

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.

Preserved rights

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.

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. These are called 'protected characteristics'. This means that they are not allowed to do certain things simply because of your protected characteristics such as:

  • 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
  • charge you higher rent than other tenants
  • refuse to house or re-house you
  • refuse to carry out repairs to your home
  • 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 protected characteristic, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Find out more about discrimination in housing.


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