Friday 31 May 2013

Recent changes update: tenant's rights in the Scottish private rented sector

There have been some significant changes to the Scottish private rented housing regime in the last few months, and it’s important that tenants in this sector are aware of them. Here, GLC's public legal education officer, Ailie Doyle focuses on three particular areas: the new tenant information pack, illegal premiums, and tenancy deposit schemes. For further information for Glasgow residents please contact Govan Law Centre on 0141 440 2503 or Govanhill Law Centre on 0141 433 2665.

Section 33 of the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Act 2011 means that landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) now have a legal duty to provide specified documents and information to their tenants at the start of their tenancy.
This obligation came into force on 1st May 2013.  The Scottish Government state that the TIP should support and enable tenants (and prospective) tenants understand their rights and responsibilities. 

The landlord must give the following to the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy:

The landlord’s details including registration number
The tenancy agreement
The gas safety certificate
 AT5 form if you are signing up to a Short Assured Tenancy.
The Tenant Information Pack (it can be downloaded from the Scottish Government website)

If your landlord doesn’t provide the information and pack, they can be fined up to £500. You should also report this to your local council’s housing department.

It is an offence - and has been since the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 - for landlords or letting agencies to charge for anything other than rent or a refundable deposit (which must not exceed 2 months rent). 

No other fees are allowed to be charged and this has been clarified by Section 32 of the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Act 2011. So you can’t be charged for :                  
  • Credit checks
  • Reference checks
  • Inventory fees
  • Copies of the lease
  • Key money

or anything else apart from the rent or the deposit.  Letting agents should not ask you for these illegal premiums. If you have been charged in the past you can write to your letting agency and ask for your money back. You may want to wait until you leave your tenancy to safeguard your current position. Contact us if you need to discuss this.

The Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011 are now fully operational from 15th May 2013. This means that landlords must pay deposits into one of the three deposit schemes approved by the Scottish Government and the money is then held by that scheme for the duration of the tenancy. The landlord must tell the tenant how much has been lodged and when, the name of the scheme and the terms of how you get your money back.
The purpose of tenancy deposit schemes is to ensure that:           
  • deposits are safeguarded throughout the tenancy
  • deposits are not unfairly withheld
  • tenants and landlords receive the amount they are entitled to from the deposit, and
  • disputes between tenants and landlords are resolved quickly and impartially

If you pay a deposit and your landlord doesn't register it and give you the required information, then you can apply to the Sheriff Court.  If the sheriff is satisfied that the landlord failed to comply, the court can order the landlord to pay you up to three times the amount of the deposit. You can do this up to three months after the tenancy has ended.

As long as the tenancy is in Scotland the regulations apply even if the landlord lives outside Scotland.


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