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Your rights if you’re a non-tenant occupier

You could be a non-tenant occupier if you live somewhere and do not pay any rent.

Being a non-tenant occupier means you have limited rights and you can be evicted fairly easily. You can get help from the council if you need to move out.

Examples of being a non-tenant occupier

You’ll usually be a non-tenant occupier if you live or stay:

  • in a hotel

  • in a hospital

  • on a friend’s couch

  • in temporary homeless accommodation

  • in temporary supported accommodation, such as a rehabilitation centre

  • in dormitory style accommodation with people who are not members of your family

Any rights you do have depend on the agreement you made when you moved in. This can be called an occupancy agreement.

If you have a casual arrangement with no written agreement, it can be hard to prove that you have any rights.

Check if you have tenancy rights

If you can prove you have a tenancy, you’ll have stronger rights.

You can still have a tenancy even if you do not have a written tenancy agreement.

Usually you'll have a tenancy if you and your landlord have agreed:

  • how much rent you pay

  • which property or rooms you rent

  • that you'll live in the property as your main home

Use our tenancy checker to work out your rights.

If you do not pay any rent

You may not have tenancy rights.

Paying rent is usually a requirement to legally prove you have a tenancy.

If you get benefits to pay your rent, this still counts as paying rent.

Rent does not always need to be money. If you’ve agreed to maintain the home or garden in exchange for living there, this could be an agreement to pay rent. This is sometimes called payment in kind.

If you're staying in short-term holiday accommodation

You'll usually be a non-tenant occupier.

If you've lived there for more than 30 days and it's your main home, you could have tenancy rights.

Contact a Shelter Scotland adviser if you need advice on proving you have tenancy rights.

If you’re being asked to leave

If you’re a non-tenant occupier, anyone trying to evict you should give you reasonable notice.

This means they should take into account your situation and give you long enough to find somewhere else to live.

Ask for more time if you need it. For example to find somewhere else to live or to save for a deposit.

Check our advice on finding somewhere to live.

If you refuse to leave

In some cases, anyone asking you to leave may need to get a court order to evict you.

While this could give you more time in the property, the court will probably agree to evict you. You could also be ordered to pay their court expenses.

They will not need to get a court order if you:

  • live with them or their family

  • stay in holiday accommodation, like a hotel or holiday cottage

If you're worried about being evicted

Contact a Shelter Scotland housing adviser. They can help you understand:

  • whether a court order is needed to evict you

  • how you can negotiate to stay for longer

  • how to get homeless help from the council

Applying to the council as homeless

You may be classed as homeless if you’re a non-tenant occupier.

This is because you do not have a secure right to live in your home. You do not have to be living on the streets to be homeless.

Make a homeless application with the council if you cannot continue to stay where you are.

Check our guidance on how the council must help you if you’re homeless.

If you're not a British or Irish citizen, your rights to homeless help could be different. Check our advice on how your immigration status affects your housing options.

Last updated: 24 October 2023

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England