Most privately renting tenants have little awareness of their rights and don’t even know what kind of tenancy they have.
These are just some of the findings from Rent Better, a three-year research program carried out by Indigo House on private renting in Scotland.
Now the Scottish Government is urging tenants to understand their legal rights relating to rent increases, fees, maintenance and repairs.
Almost 1000 private tenants were interviewed and in its first wave of findings, it was revealed that almost one quarter of Scots who rent would not confidently challenge their landlord about concerns.
Across Scotland, there are 340,000 households in the private rented sector, which equates to 14% of Scottish households who are renting their homes.
The private rented sector is often characterized by insecurity, poor living conditions, high rents and a lack of choice, meaning that many tenants experience instability and inequality.
In addition, a reduction in social housing means many more people are renting privately cases and for some it is the only housing option available.
There are two types of tenancy: Private Residential, which is open-ended or Short Assured, which is for a fixed period but renews automatically when it runs out.
“I don’t know what tenancy I am on and I don’t know the different types of tenancy at all … and I don’t really know my rights to be honest, so I don’t know what I would do if something happened, really”.*
*From the Rent Better Tenants Survey
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of having safe and good quality housing and the more knowledgeable tenants are of their rights the safer they will feel.
“I feel as safe as we can be – we have been good tenants for four years, so I don’t think he would just kick us out. Of course, we are not really secure because, how can you be when renting?” *
*From the Rent Better Tenants Survey
For those who live in the private rented sector, the law protects you and it’s important for everyone to make sure they keep up to date with their renting rights, so that they feel more confident in challenging poor or illegal practices if a situation arises.
• Private tenants have rights that are set in stone.
• Before deciding to rent a property, it’s important to check that the landlord and/or letting agent are registered to let out property to ensure that they are fit to do so and comply with the law. It’s very important to rent from a registered individual or agent and to report any that aren’t.
• When it comes to rent increases, the landlord must usually give tenants 3 months’ notice of a rent increase and can only increase rent once every 12 months. Any unfair rent increases have a right to be challenged through a Rent Officer.*
• Landlord’s and letting agents can’t charge tenants admin fees (illegal premium) in relation to the grant, renewal or continuance of a protected tenancy.
• Landlords must repair and maintain their let property from the tenancy start date and throughout the tenancy.
• Landlords must give notice if they want to access the property to inspect its condition or carry out repairs.
• If a landlord wishes to end a tenancy, they must give the tenant the correct notice and go through the legal process of doing so.
• For new tenancies, you cannot be asked to leave the property for no reason.*
• Illegal eviction is a criminal offense and coronavirus does not change this. An illegal eviction is when someone, who doesn’t have the legal right to make you leave, forces you to leave your home. This can include your landlord if they do not have an eviction order from the First-tier Tribunal.
• More information on private tenancy rights and to seek more support, visit: gov.scot/rentersrights
* These rights apply to people with a private residential tenancy that began on or after 1st December 2017.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.