Rent in advance - social rented sector
It is becoming more common for registered social landlords to expect prospective tenants to pay up to one months' rent in advance. This can cause difficulties for some clients, for example, where they are on a low income or have come through the homeless route. This section looks at possible remedies.
Although legally entitled to request rent in advance, registered social landlords do not need to enforce this. In addition, any policy on this must not be discriminatory.
See also First Month Flexibilities - a good practice guide jointly developed by Shelter Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations.
The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987  provides that no discrimination should take place in the allocation of housing with reference to the “income of the applicant and his family”.
Advisers should request a copy of the landlord's policies on rent in advance. All policies related to allocations must be made available on request.  Advisers should seek further advice from a solicitor if the policy appears to be discriminatory.
The Scottish Government Model Secure Tenancy Agreement
The Scottish government Model Secure Tenancy Agreement  allows for a landlord to agree contractually that rent be payable in arrears, or that only one week in advance need be paid. The accompanying legal commentary to the Agreement notes that: 'Approximately 70% of social tenants receive housing benefit. To insist on rent in advance therefore raises the global figure for rent arrears and places tenants unnecessarily in arrears. Here a choice is provided'. It may useful to point out that making use of this flexibility is good practice.
Scottish Social Housing Charter
The Scottish Social Housing Charter set the standards and outcomes that all social landlords should aim to achieve when performing their housing activities. Outcome 1 of the Charter states that: ‘Every tenant and other customer has their individual needs recognised, is treated fairly and with respect and receives fair access to housing services.’  It is arguable therefore that an insistence on payment of rent in advance puts potential tenants on low incomes at considerable disadvantage.
Negotiate with the housing association or local council
Some housing associations or local authorities may allow a tenant to pay up their first months' rent over a number of weeks or months by adding it to their rent balance. If this is agreed then,so long as the tenant continues to pay the additional amount in the agreement, the landlord is unlikely to raise action for rent arrears. However it may be prudent to get any agreement for this in writing.
Sources of financial help
Where payment of rent in advance is unavoidable the following sources of financial help may be useful.
Discretionary housing payment
Where a prospective tenant is already in receipt of housing benefit for their current home, they may make an application for discretionary housing payment to pay rent in advance. See the page on Discretionary housing payment.
Budgeting loan or budgeting advance.
Tenants in receipt of certain benefits may be entitled to apply for a budgeting loan. If they are in receipt of universal credit they may be able to request a budgeting advance. See the page on budgeting loans for more information.
Children in need and care leavers
Social work departments have duties and powers under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 to provide children in need and care leavers with assistance to pay for accommodation and this may include financial assistance. Please see the section about the Children (Scotland) Act for more information about this.
Last updated: 13 March 2018