When you rent your home, you have a contract with your landlord, and you are protected by specific laws and statutes. Landlords can’t just decide to make life difficult for their tenants - and if they do, there are plenty of legal remedies available.
If you’re interested in renting a property, it’s worth knowing the various types of tenancy agreement you could sign up to. Short assured and assured are the main types of tenancy agreements in Scotland and landlords with these types of agreements must provide tenants with a written tenancy contract that is fair and easy to understand.
This forms the agreement between the landlord and tenant, and sets out the legal terms and conditions for both sides.
This is the most common type of tenancy in the private renting sector in Scotland and begins with a term of 6 months or longer. Once the first 6 months are up, the tenancy can be renewed for a shorter period. For a tenancy to be short-assured, a form called an AT5 notice must be given to the tenant, before they sign the tenancy agreement or move in.
From the start of the agreement, this type of tenancy is classed as ‘contractual assured tenancy’ for a fixed period of time. It automatically becomes a ‘statutory assured tenancy’ if:
For short assured and assured tenancies, the agreement should include:
It may also contain information about the furniture in the property, rules around pets, or smoking.
Depending on the type of tenancy, the landlord and tenant will have different rights and responsibilities - so it’s important to have those clear from the beginning of the tenancy.
For cases where the tenant is living with the landlord. Although no written agreement is needed, it is recommended that there is a lodger agreement put in place.
Tenancies created before January 2, 1989, are usually this type. Some of these still exist but a new one cannot be created. With these agreements, landlords or tenants can ask Rent Services Scotland to set ‘fair rent’ with a form called RR1.
If the landlord wants to make changes to the tenancy agreement, it will need to be agreed with the tenants.
When you rent a property, it is in effect a legal agreement and as such, a number of laws and rights apply. Knowing these is crucial to ensure not falling foul of the law.
The laws of housing and rental are quite complex, and there are different types of lease, but most private tenancies are now assured tenancies or short assured tenancies.
The main thing about these leases is that they give you security of tenure - you are entitled to stay in the house or flat unless the landlord can claim certain legal grounds to repossess. There are 17 of these legal grounds, divided into two categories.
If the landlord can meet one of the first group, a court MUST allow him to evict you.
If the landlord meets any grounds in the second category, repossession depends on whether the court sees fit. The sheriff will have to decide if it is reasonable to evict you, and if he refuses, your tenancy can continue for as long as you like.
These grounds include:
It takes months for even the best landlord to get the worst tenant out, so security of tenure is a powerful weapon to use.
Another weapon is withholding rent. Unless specifically excluded by your lease, you can withhold rent in the event of a default by the landlord - for instance, if he fails to carry out necessary repairs. You can also take the landlord to court for damages if you have to get the repairs done yourself because he has refused or neglected to - but simply not paying until he keeps his side of the bargain is often the best way of grabbing his attention.
You can also ask the local council to issue either an improvement notice or a repair notice on the landlord. Speak to the Housing Department or Environmental Health Department - there are several things they can try. There is also the Citizens Advice Bureau, and an experienced lawyer will be able to assist - legal aid is available, subject to your means.
Your lease is a very important document and a legal contract. If you are asked to sign a lease, read it first and take it away to study, asking yourself a series of what if questions:
If the lease is not to your liking, it is open to both sides to agree amended or different terms. Remember - you cannot be made to sign.
Make sure the landlord has legal authority to lease the property as owner or agent, and that he is who he claims to be - ask for ID, and make sure you get it. Ask for documents to prove identity if the landlord is an individual and not a professional letting company or agent. A proper landlord will have no problem with this.
You are entitled to know what insurance the landlord has and if it covers you and your property in the event of a break-in, a fire, or other calamity. Speak to a general insurance broker or company to make sure you are insured for anything the landlord lacks.