Your rights as a Scottish secure tenant

This page explains your rights if you have a Scottish secure tenancy agreement with the council, a housing association or a housing cooperative.

What is a Scottish secure tenancy?

If you rent your home from the council, a housing association or a housing co-operative, then you will probably have a Scottish secure tenancy.

However, you will not have an Scottish secure tenancy if:

Scottish secure tenancies and rent

As a Scottish secure tenant of the council, housing association or housing co-op, your rent will probably be lower than the rent charged by a private landlord. Your landlord has the right to increase your rent, but must give you at least four weeks' notice before doing so. In addition, they must consult you before increasing your rent and should always take your views into account.

Tenancies that began before 2002

If you used to be a secure or assured tenant of a housing association and your tenancy was converted to an Scottish secure tenancy in September 2002, you will have additional rights to challenge a rent increase.

  • If you think your rent is too high, you have the right to have a fair rent determined by a rent officer (this only applies to secure tenants, whose tenancies began before 1989)

  • If you disagree with a rent increase, you have the right to go to the First-tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber), to see whether the proposed increase is fair

Scottish secure tenancies and the right to repair

As your landlord, your council, housing association or housing co-op has a duty to carry out certain repairs and to make sure the property is well maintained and that all appliances are safe.

If you would like to make improvements or to your home (for example adding kitchen or bathroom fittings, insulating your loft or getting double glazing) or you need to adapt your home to suit someone in your family who's disabled, you must ask your landlord's permission first. Depending on the nature of the improvements, you may have a right to receive compensation at the end of your Scottish secure tenancy for the work you've carried out.

Scottish secure tenancies and the right to information

As a Scottish secure tenancy your landlord must give you:

  • a written tenancy agreement

  • information about the complaints procedure

In addition, you can also ask for information about:

  • how your rent is set

  • how housing is allocated by your council, housing association or housing co-op and what the policies for transfers and exchanges are

  • what are their policies are concerning repairs and maintenance

Your landlord must also consult you before making or changing any housing management policies that affect you, for example concerning rent, repairs and maintenance or service charges. All social landlords should have a tenant participation strategy to encourage tenant involvement and to ensure you are kept up to date with your rights and any policy changes that are made. Ask your landlord for further details.

Who can live with me in my Scottish secure tenancy?

Any member of your family can live with you in your home, provided it doesn't lead to overcrowding. Make sure you tell your landlord who is living with you, and let them know when someone moves in or out.

If your situation changes (for example, you have another child, younger children get older, another family member comes to live with you) and your home does become overcrowded, you should apply to the council or housing association for a transfer to another property.

Family members include:

  • your husband/wife or civil partner

  • an opposite-sex or same-sex partner

  • parents

  • grandparents

  • children (including foster children, step-children, and any other child treated by you as your own)

  • grandchildren

  • nephews and nieces

  • brothers and sisters

  • aunts and uncles

  • any of the above related to your spouse or partner

Scottish secure tenancies and subletting

If you want to sublet your home or take in a lodger, you will need to write to your landlord to ask permission, explaining who the new tenant will be, when they will be moving in and how much deposit and rent you will be charging them. Your landlord has to give you permission, unless they have good reason not to (for example, because it will make your home illegally overcrowded, or because they think you are charging the new tenant too much rent).

If you write to your landlord asking permission and they do not get back to you within a month, you can presume they have consented to the arrangement. You should then write to them again explaining that you assume consent has been given and informing them when the tenant will be moving in.

If your landlord refuses consent, you can make a summary application to the sheriff court to appeal their decision. The deadline for making an application is 21 days from day your landlord notified you of their decision. Get advice from a solicitor if you're planning on going to court.

If you want to put your tenant's rent up, you will have to inform your landlord, who can veto the increase if they feel it's excessive.

As the head tenant, you will still be responsible for paying the full rent to your landlord. In addition, as the landlord of your subtenant or lodger, you will have certain responsibilities. For example, you will be responsible for making sure certain repairs are carried out, and for carrying out the correct eviction procedure if you want your tenant to leave.

Can I run a business from my home?

Under an Scottish secure tenancy agreement, you are not allowed to run a business from your home. However, if you apply in writing for permission from your landlord, they may allow you, although they may also increase your rent. In addition, if you run a business from your home this can affect any Housing benefit that you may receive.

Can I exchange my home?

You can exchange your home for another house where the tenant has an Scottish secure tenancy or short Scottish secure tenancy, however, there are certain restrictions. For example, you can't exchange your home for one that is too big for your household or not suitable for your needs. Find out more in the section on mutual exchanges.

What if I want to leave?

If you want to leave the property and end your Scottish secure tenancy, you must give your landlord four weeks' notice in writing. If you have a joint Scottish secure tenancy (see below), the other tenant(s) must also give notice in writing, unless they are wishing to take over your tenancy. If you are married or in a civil partnership or live with a partner, your landlord may also need their agreement before ending the Scottish secure tenancy.

If you can reach an agreement with your landlord, you can also leave your Scottish secure tenancy at any time with your landlord's written permission.

Scottish secure tenancies and abandonment

If your landlord believes that you have left your tenancy without intending to return, they can start abandonment proceedings.

Can I pass my Scottish secure tenancy on to anyone else?

Your Scottish secure tenancy is your right to live in that property. You can sign over your Scottish secure tenancy to anyone who has lived with you and has used the property as their main home for the past 12 months. This is called assignation. You will need to get written permission from your landlord, but your landlord can only refuse permission if they have a good reason for doing so.

If your landlord refuses consent, you can make a summary application to the sheriff court to appeal their decision. The deadline for making an application is 21 days from day your landlord notified you of their decision. Get advice from a solicitor if you're planning on going to court.

What happens to the tenancy if I die?

If you die, your Scottish secure tenancy can be taken over by another member of the household. This is called succession. Your Scottish secure tenancy can be succeeded to by:

  • your husband, wife or civil partner

  • an opposite-sex or same-sex partner, provided they have lived with you for at least six months (this will increase to 12 months on 1 November 2019)

  • another joint tenant

If you don't have a partner or joint tenant or if they choose not to succeed, another member of your family can succeed to your Scottish secure tenancy if they live with you at the time of your death (from 1 November 2019 they will have had to have lived with you for the previous 12 months).

If there is no other member of your family living with you or they choose not to succeed, the Scottish secure tenancy can pass to a carer who lives with you in your home and who gave up their main home to care for you or a member of your family( from 1 November 2019 they will have had to have lived with you for the previous 12 months).

If your home has been adapted for you because you had special needs, the successor may be transferred to alternative accommodation if they do not require the adaptations.

If no-one is qualified to or wants to succeed, the Scottish secure tenancy will end. If someone living in your home who is qualified to succeed chooses not to take on the Scottish secure tenancy, they must give the landlord four weeks' notice in writing and leave the property within three months.

A Scottish secure tenancy can only be inherited twice in this way. After that, the Scottish secure tenancy will usually end.

Eviction and Scottish secure tenancies

As a Scottish secure tenant you can only be evicted from your home by court order. The landlord must have a reason (or 'ground') to evict you, and in some cases they will have to rehouse you in new accommodation.

See the section on the eviction of council tenants to find out more about the correct legal procedure and what you can do to prevent eviction.

Converting a Scottish secure tenancy to a short Scottish secure tenancy?

If an antisocial behaviour order (ASBO) is served against you or anyone living with you, your Scottish secure tenancy may be converted to a short Scottish secure tenancy, which gives you more limited rights.

You can challenge the decision by making an application to the sheriff, but make sure you get advice first. However, if you are subject to an ASBO, your landlord doesn't have to convert your Scottish secure tenancy to an short Scottish secure tenancy - they may just go to court to evict you.

I want to make a complaint against my landlord

If you feel that your landlord is not sticking to the terms of your Scottish secure tenancy agreement (for example, by not carrying out repairs) you should complain using your landlord's official complaints procedure. If you are still not happy, you can take your complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

Joint Scottish secure tenancies

Anyone who lives with you can become a joint tenant.

Before they can do this they must live with you permanently for at least 12 months. The 12 months only start when you tell your landlord they have moved in.

You need to write to your landlord to add a joint tenant.

Your landlord can only refuse for a good reason. For example, the person has a history of anti-social behaviour.

Joint tenants share the same rights and responsibilities. This means if one tenant cannot pay their share of rent, the other tenants have to pay it.

Ending a joint Scottish secure tenancy

If a joint tenant wishes to leave, they must give you and your landlord four weeks' notice in writing. This will not affect your tenancy, which will continue as usual (except you'll have to pay all of the rent).

Abandonment of a Scottish secure tenancy by a joint tenant

If your landlord believes a joint tenant has left the property and isn't intending to live there any more, they can give that tenant four weeks' notice and then end their Scottish secure tenancy. Your tenancy will continue. The section on abandonment has more information.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 20 May 2020

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This content applies to Scotland only.

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