What is a tenancy?
A tenancy or tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord which sets out both your rights and your landlord’s rights.
What types of tenancies are there in Scotland?
On 1 December 2017 a new type of tenancy, called a private residential tenancy was introduced and this replaced older private tenancy types.
If you rented your home from a private landlord or letting agency before 1 December 2017, there are 3 main types of tenancy you may have:
- short assured
If you want to know more about these types of tenancy you can visit: Types of tenancy – mygov.scot.
Find out everything you need to know about being a renter in Scotland – including what happens when your tenancy ends, what your rights and responsibilities are and who to contact if you need support.
Emergency Measures to Protect Tenants
What does the law say?
The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Act is part of the Scottish Government’s response to the emergency situation caused by the cost crisis. The Act introduces temporary protections for people who rent their home in Scotland.
The emergency measures are expected to stay in place until 31st March 2024 at the latest.
How do the emergency measures protect me?
The Act puts in place a temporary limit on in-tenancy rent increases for most existing private tenancies.
Did you know? From 1 April 2023, there is a 3% limit to how much your landlord can raise your rent if you are currently in a tenancy agreement.
Your landlord will still be required to give you three months’ written notice of any rent increase, and they cannot increase rent more than once in a 12-month period.
In some circumstances a landlord may be able to increase rent by up to 6%. To do this they must have applied to Rent Service Scotland and received approval. If you receive a rent increase above the 3% cap, you can contact Rent Service Scotland to verify this.
The Act also introduces a temporary pause on enforcement of eviction orders. Landlords can still serve a notice to leave, or make an application for eviction to the Tribunal if their tenant doesn’t leave at the end of the notice period. However, if the Tribunal grants an eviction order, the enforcement of this is delayed for up to six months except in a limited number of circumstances. This gives tenants more time to access the support they need and to find alternative accommodation during the cost crisis.
The Act also puts in place temporary changes to make it easier to seek damages (amount of money) for an unlawful eviction and increases the amount you can be awarded to up to 36 months’ worth of rent.
The emergency Cost of Living Act measures are coming to an end on 31 March 2024. Regulations to protect tenants concerned about rent increases following the ending of the emergency rent cap have been laid in the Scottish Parliament. Read more
There’s lots of information to take in around this Act, but there are a few helpful places you can find more information:
- For more information on the rent cap: Temporary cap on rent increases – mygov.scot.
- To apply to Rent Service Scotland about a rent increase: Apply to Rent Service Scotland about your rent increase – mygov.scot.
- For more information on the evictions pause: Evictions – Cost of living: rent and eviction – gov.scot (www.gov.scot).
- For more information on unlawful evictions: Unlawful evictions – mygov.scot
- Student Information Scotland, a new Scottish Government website, places a range of information on further and higher education into one place, helping new and current students make informed choices. You can find more information on renting in the private sector as a student here: Deciding Where to Live – Student Information Scotland.
Private Residential Tenancies – What You Need to Know
Your tenancy agreement
If you have what is called a Private Residential Tenancy, your tenancy is open-ended, which means it doesn’t have a fixed length or a set date it will end. Your landlord cannot include an expected end date or minimum period in your tenancy agreement.
Your landlord can only increase your rent once in a 12-month period, and must give you at least three months’ notice that they are going to do this.
What can I do if I think my rent increase is too high?
If you think an increase is above the rent cap, you can ask a rent officer from Rent Service Scotland to make a decision on whether it is fair.
Ending a tenancy
Your landlord cannot end your tenancy without good reason. They can only end it by giving you ‘notice to leave’ for one or more of 18 reasons (grounds) or one of three additional temporary grounds.
If your landlord asks you to leave, they must give you:
- 28 days notice (if you have lived in the property for less than six months or the landlord is using one of the six ‘behaviour’ grounds); or
- 84 days notice (if you have lived in the property for more than six months and the landlord is not using the ‘behaviour’ grounds).
If you want to leave, you must give your landlord 28 days notice in writing. In your notice you will need to state the day you want the tenancy to end. This is normally the day after the notice period has ended.
If you disagree with the reason given in the notice to leave given to you by your landlord, you do not need to leave your property until your landlord has obtained an eviction order from the First-tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber).
For more information on evictions under the temporary cost of living measures visit the Scottish Goverment’s information on the temporary pause on evictions.
What is an illegal eviction?
Landlords must use the correct procedure to end a tenancy. If they do not do this, they may be breaking the law.
You might have been illegally evicted if:
- your landlord changes the locks
- your landlord stops you from getting into your home
- your landlord makes life so uncomfortable for you that you are forced to leave your home (an example could be they show up frequently at your home late at night or cut off your water, gas or electricity)
- you are physically removed from the property by a person who is not a Sheriff Officer
If you think that your tenancy was ended unlawfully you can apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) to be awarded damages. The emergency cost of living measures have increased the amount that the Tribunal can award in damages for an unlawful eviction. If you were unlawfully evicted after 28 October 2022, the Tribunal can award between three and 36 months rent.
What is a wrongful termination of a tenancy?
Wrongful termination of a tenancy is when you have been misled into ending the tenancy. This is different from an unlawful eviction, and only applies to tenants who have a private residential tenancy.
If your private residential tenancy has ended and you think you were misled into ending the tenancy, you can apply to the First-tier Tribunal for a ‘wrongful termination order’. For example, you may have been misled if you moved out because you were given a notice to leave telling you that your landlord intended to sell the property, but this was not true. If your landlord gets a wrongful termination order they’ll be told to pay you up to 6 months’ rent.
To find out more about illegal evictions and wrongful terminations visit the Scottish Government’s information page on unlawful eveictions.
What is a joint tenancy?
If you and the other tenants signed the same tenancy agreement when you moved in, you will have a joint tenancy. This means that you will share rights and responsibilities including all tenants having responsibility for ensuring the full rent is paid. This means if one person cannot pay, the landlord can ask the other tenants to pay the debt. This will apply for as long as the tenancy continues.
If you have a private residential tenancy, you may have ‘signed’ the tenancy agreement by typing your name on a document, but if all the tenants are named on the tenancy agreement it’s still a joint tenancy.
Mandatory licensing applies to houses or flats occupied by three or more unrelated people who share bathroom or kitchen facilities. This helps ensure that the property is safe and well managed.
If your landlord rents to three or more unrelated people, they must have a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence. This is the responsibility of the landlord.
To find out whether a property has a HMO licence, ask your landlord or contact your local council. They have a list of all the licensed landlords in their area.
Should I agree house rules with joint tenants?
Whether you know your housemates well or have never met them before, it’s helpful to agree a set of house rules with them to help prevent problems in the future.
Among the rules you might want to agree on are:
- which part of the house or flat will be your part
- whether there are any rooms you’re not allowed to go into
- whether there’s a cleaning schedule
- if there’s a no smoking rule
- whether other housemates, partners or other guests will be able to stay over regularly
- having rules on parties
How do I end a joint tenancy?
To end a joint tenancy, all the joint tenants must agree to end it and give the landlord written notice that they want to leave.
What is a tenancy deposit?
When you move into a rented property, most landlords or letting agents will ask you for a deposit.
A deposit is a sum of money which acts as a guarantee against:
- damage you might do to the property
- cleaning bills if you’ve left the property in poor condition
- bills that are left unpaid, like fuel or telephone bills
- unpaid rent
The amount that can be charged as a deposit cannot be more than two months’ rent and it must be paid into one of the 3 approved tenancy deposit schemes within 30 working days of the start of your tenancy. If your landlord has not paid your deposit into the scheme within those 30 days or does not protect it at all, you can take them to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) for non-compliance, where they could be told to pay you up to three times the value of the deposit. You can do this during the tenancy or up to three months after the tenancy has ended.
If there are no issues when you move out, the landlord has to pay your deposit back to you in full. However, if any of the above happens, the deposit can be used to cover costs so the landlord doesn’t have to pay them.
Your landlord cannot use your deposit to replace items that are damaged, or worn, due to normal wear and tear.
How do I get my tenancy deposit back?
When a tenancy ends your landlord or letting agent has to get in touch with the tenancy deposit scheme provider and ask for the deposit to be returned. The landlord or letting agent should do this as soon as they can after the tenancy ends.
They should tell the provider how much of the deposit should go back to you and, if there are any deductions, how much of it should go to the landlord.
The provider will then ask you if you agree with their application. You have to contact the scheme within 30 working days to confirm whether you agree or disagree.
If you don’t reply, your share of the deposit will stay in the scheme and the landlord will get the share they requested.
The deposit should be repaid to you automatically when the landlord states they are not due any money from it.
What should I do if I disagree with deductions from my deposit?
At the end of a tenancy, a landlord and tenant should always try to agree on any deductions from a tenant’s deposit.
If agreements can’t be reached, the schemes offer a free dispute resolution service where an independent adjudicator looks at evidence from both you and your landlord within specified timescales.
How do I ask for repairs as a tenant?
If you’re renting a private property, you have a duty to report the need for repairs to your landlord or letting agent.
It’s your landlord’s responsibility to make sure the property meets two sets of standards – the Repairing Standard and the Tolerable Standard. For example, the property must be substantially free from damp, and there should be a satisfactory supply of both hot water and cold drinking water.
As soon as you become aware of anything that needs repairing, you should let your landlord or letting agent know.
You can do this by phone or in person but you should also send them an email or letter, so you have written proof that you told them.
If your home doesn’t reach a certain standard of repair and your landlord won’t do the work, you can report this to the Housing and Property Chamber.
They will look into your complaint and see if you have a case. If they decide you do, they can order your landlord to carry out the repairs.
If a landlord doesn’t comply with an order to carry out repairs, the Tribunal may make a Rent Relief Order. This is an order which reduces any rent payable under the tenancy by whatever amount the Tribunal decide, up to a maximum of 90%. It does not affect the terms of the tenancy in any other way.
Local Authorities can also submit a Third Party Application if they believe that a rented house does not meet the repairing standard.
Landlords and Letting Agents
All landlords and letting agents in Scotland are required by law to be registered and be ‘fit and proper’ persons to let property. Before you rent a place, you should check they are registered. You can do this by visiting Scottish Landlord Register and Scottish Letting Agent Register.
There is a legal Letting Agent Code of Practice that sets out the standards letting agents must meet. If they don’t, you can raise a dispute through an independent free Tribunal. Further information on the Letting Agent Code of Practice can be found on the Scottish Government’s website.