A Guide to Renting Privately in Scotland

The tenancy agreement

A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord that sets out your rights to live in a rented property.

If you rent from a private landlord, you will have either:

  • A private residential tenancy (if the tenancy started on or after 1 December 2017)

  • An assured tenancy

  • A short assured tenancy

  • If you share the property with your landlord, for example rent a room in their house, you will be a common law tenant

What should a tenancy agreement include?

Tenancy agreements have to include:

  • Landlord details

  • Tenant details

  • Rental address

  • Rent

  • Term (assured, short assured and common law tenancies only)

Agreements should also include:

  • the type of tenancy

  • what the rent covers

  • when and how the rent should be paid

  • the amount of deposit to be paid and in what circumstances it will not be returned

  • what the obligations are to repair and decorate the property

  • how can the lease be ended

  • if you are allowed to keep pets in the property

  • if you are allowed to take in lodgers or sublet the property

  • if you are allowed to pass the tenancy on to someone else

Your legal rights cannot be taken away, no matter what your tenancy agreement says. This means that sometimes you have more rights than what's in your tenancy agreement.

Do I need a written tenancy agreement?

If your landlord doesn't give you a written tenancy agreement, you still have legal rights as a tenant.

Private residential tenancy, assured and short assured tenants are entitled to a written agreement. If your landlord refuses to give you one you can apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland Housing and Property Chamber.

The private residential tenancy

A private tenancy that started on or after 1 December 2017 will be a private residential tenancy:

  • No fixed terms - private residential tenancies are open ended, meaning your landlord can't ask you to leave just because you've been in the property for 6 months as they can with a short assured tenancy.

  • Rent increases - your rent can only be increased once every 12 months and if you think the proposed increase is unfair you can refer it to a rent officer.

  • Longer notice period - if you've lived in a property for longer than 6 months your landlord will have to give you at least 84 days notice to leave (unless you've broken a term in the tenancy).

  • Simpler notices - the notice to quit process was replaced by a simpler notice to leave process.

  • Model tenancy agreement - the Scottish Government published a model private residential tenancy that can be used by landlords to set up a tenancy.

If your tenancy started before 1 December 2017 your tenancy will continue as normal until you or your landlord bring it to an end following the correct procedure. If your landlord then offers you a new tenancy this will be a private residential tenancy.

Assured and Short assured tenancies

Short assured tenancies and assured tenancies were a common tenancy type before 1 December 2017 and some continue to exist. For a tenancy to be a short assured tenancy it had to be set up in the correct way and last for at least 6 months.

What is an AT5?

An AT5 is the special notice that your landlord had to give you if they wanted your tenancy to be short assured rather than an assured tenancy. You had to be given an AT5 before you moved into the property. If you weren't given this and your tenancy started before 1 December 2017 you are most likely an assured tenant. Assured tenants cannot be evicted as easily as short assured tenants.

Joint tenancies

If you and your flatmates or housemates have a joint tenancy agreement, you will all have exactly the same rights and responsibilities.

This means if one of the joint tenants doesn't pay the remaining tenants can be held liable for all of the rent (not just their part of it).

Resident landlord

People who share accommodation with their landlord have different rights to those who rent a separate property.

A resident landlord must:

  • use the property as their only or main home (if your landlord only stays in the property occasionally and has another home elsewhere, they won't count as a resident landlord); and

  • have direct access from their accommodation to yours.

Your landlord does not have to own the property - you can also sublet a room from another tenant who lives in the property. You will have what is known as a common law tenancy if:

  • you share accommodation with your landlord, but

  • you have exclusive possession of part of the property (for example, you have your own bedroom).

Download an example of a lodger agreement.

If your landlord moves out, you will become a private residential tenancy, with much stronger tenancy rights.

Change of landlord

If your landlord sells the property or the landlord dies and passes the property to a new owner, the new owner will have to honour the terms of your lease.

This means they won't be able to evict you without a good reason, and they won't be able to raise the rent without going through the proper procedures.

Landlord repossession

If your landlord is having money problems and cannot pay the mortgage on the property you're renting, their mortgage lender may repossess the property. This may also happen if your landlord has other secured loans on the property and cannot pay them back.

This means the lender will become your landlord. You will still have tenancy rights, and the lender will not be able to throw you out overnight. However, it's likely that they will begin eviction proceedings as soon as possible.

Last updated: 4 October 2020

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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