a-z accommodation advice

Click on the letters for more information on accommodation subjects.

A

ACCESS

From time to time your landlord may need to enter your property. Whether you have an assured or a short assured tenancy, your landlord won’t be able to enter your property without warning. They legally have to give a minimum of 24 hours notice unless it’s an emergency, and they can only enter if it’s at a time which you’ve agreed with. However, if you refuse to let your landlord enter they will be able to go to the sheriffs court and get a court order which would allow them to come into your home.

ADMINISTRATION CHARGES

In Scotland, landlords and letting agents aren’t allowed to charge any fees; this includes credit checks, administration fees and charges for drawing up a contract. If your landlord or letting agent is asking for a fee which is outside your deposit or rent it is illegal and you don’t have to pay it.

ADVOCATE ADVICE

St Andrews Student Advocate for Accommodation provides advice for students at St Andrews University. This includes both university accommodation and private rented student houses. The Accommodation Advocate is based on the first floor of the union building at St Mary’s Place, and is available for appointments or drop in advice. This is also offered by phone and email, details of which are on the union website.

AGENTS

There are a number of agents in St Andrews which have signed up to the landlord/tenant charter; this is an agreement between the agent and the tenant which outlines both legal requirements and good practise, to maintain a good tenancy and good relations between the student and the landlord. This is updated annually, and a copy can be found on the student union website.

ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

Private landlords are obliged to take responsibility for any anti-social behaviour which occurs in and around properties they rent out. The landlord can take the following steps to try and end the anti-social behaviour: investigate any complaints made about their tenants; write to the tenants to ensure they are aware that their behaviour is causing a problem and asking them to modify it. They should also let the tenants know the behaviour is under the landlords investigation; give the tenants advice on noise reduction and apply to the council for an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO). They can also go to court to get an interdict to prevent the tenants acting in a certain way and threaten to evict the tenants. If this fails, the landlord can apply to the council for help. If the landlord doesn’t attempt to resolve the behaviour, an anti-social behaviour notice can be served by the council ordering the landlord to take action against the tenant’s behaviour. If the landlord still doesn’t try and resolve it, the council can ask the court to make a rent payable order, which would mean the landlord can’t collect any rent for the property which is causing the problem. The court could also give the council control of the property instead of the landlord through a management control order, so the council can manage the behaviour.

ARREARS

When you sign your contract, you are agreeing to pay a set amount of rent on a specific date for a given amount of time – this should be stated in your tenancy agreement. If you don’t make your rent payments, this then accrues as rent arrears. It will increase every time you fail to make a rent payment, and the outstanding balance remains until the whole debt has been cleared. If you don’t pay your rent you run the risk of eviction. See section on eviction for more details on the procedure for this. If you feel you are unable to pay your rent when it is due, get in touch with your landlord as soon as possible and explain the circumstances, along with the steps you are taking to make up the payments. Do a budget sheet so you can work out how much money you have coming in every month, and what goes out on bills, food and none essential items. This will give you a good idea of what you are spending your money on, and where spending can be reduced. Once you’ve done this, get in touch with your landlord again to try and arrange a realistic repayment plan which will cover your monthly rent, along with an amount which will come off your debt. Make sure it is an amount you can afford - take into account things which you have to spend money on, and leave some money aside for unexpected costs; it is very important you keep to the agreement made with your landlord to avoid eviction proceedings. If you don’t feel able to negotiate with your landlord directly, an advisor at Shelter or Citizens Advice can help you.

ASSURED TENANCY AGREEMENT

You will have an assured tenancy if your contract is for less than 6 months and you didn’t receive an AT5 before the tenancy started. You can have an assured tenancy if you only rent a room in a property, but not if you are sharing the property with the landlord. You have the right to a tenancy agreement which will state for example how long your tenancy is for, the amount of rent you have to pay and any restrictions which may be applied such as keeping pets. This list is not exhaustive. At the end of your tenancy agreement your tenancy will automatically renew itself unless you have given your landlord written notice that you want to leave, or your landlord gives you written notice that they want you to leave because you have broken a condition of the tenancy agreement. Your landlord must have a specific reason for evicting you – they cannot ask you to leave just because the timescale on your tenancy has finished. Your tenancy will renew itself for the same amount of time the original contract was for – if it was for 6 months then it will renew for a further 6 months. If you are a new tenant after 1st May 2013, your landlord/agent must provide you with a tenant information pack, which contains information on yours and the landlord’s rights and responsibilities, property condition and tenancy agreements. If your landlord doesn’t provide you with a tenant information pack they can be fined £500. Your tenancy may state that you can leave before the tenancy is concluded. If it doesn’t you may still be able to come to an arrangement with your landlord. Otherwise you will have to give written notice saying you want to leave when your tenancy runs out. Your contract may state a specific amount of notice which must be given; if it doesn’t, there is a minimum of 28 days if you rent on a month to month basis, or 40 days if you rent on a 6 monthly basis. As a student, you will most likely have a short assured tenancy.

AT5

An AT5 is a document which is given to tenants before a contract is signed which states that the tenancy is going to be a short assured tenancy. If you are not provided with an AT5, your tenancy will be assured instead of short assured.

AT6

An AT6 is a notice of proceedings; this is a document informing you that your landlord is starting legal proceedings to evict you from the property. For it to be valid it must state the reasons why the landlord wants to evict you and information about these reasons and how they apply to you. See notice of proceedings for more information on this.

B

BILLS

When you move into a tenancy, you are responsible for paying utility bills unless it is stated in your contract that these are included in your rent. If you are responsible for them, when you move in make sure you take both gas and electric meter readings, and inform your landlord of them as well. Your tenancy agreement may state that you have to inform your landlord if you wish to change utility providers. If you have a TV you will need a TV license; if you don’t have a TV but watch or record live TV, you will also need a TV license. If it is a shared tenancy, you will only need one TV license for the property, and if the fee is shared between tenants it doesn’t really cost too much. The current amount is £145.50 and this is fixed until March 2017. As a student you will probably not have to pay council tax – see section on council tax for more details; you are also exempt from paying water with this. Even if you don’t use a landline telephone, it may still be necessary to have a phone account for internet use. Look at different providers to get the best deal.

BROADBAND

As a student it is probable that you will need broadband at home whilst you are studying. For this you will need a phone line as well, so shop around and get the best deal. Some companies offer line rental and broadband at a good rate; make sure your agreement gives you as much download capacity as you need, because you may be charged if you exceed this.

C

CARBON MONOXIDE AND DETECTORS

Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odourless gas which can come out of any gas appliance and is toxic to animals and humans when in high concentrations. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to symptoms from other things, such as headache, nausea and fatigue, so can often be confused with flu or food poisoning; in large quantities, carbon monoxide can be fatal. It isn’t currently a legal requirement for your landlord to provide you with a carbon monoxide detector, but it is good practise for them to. If your landlord hadn’t provided you with detectors, there are many different brands available online which aren’t very expensive, if the cost is shared between tenants; ideally there should be a detector in every room which has a gas appliance. It is important to test your carbon monoxide detector every week as they only last a few years.

COMMON LAW

A common law tenancy is one which is between the tenant and landlord which isn’t regulated by a particular law. It’s covered by the contract between you and your landlord, and the law which comes from court judgements over past years. You may have a common law tenancy if you’re a tenant and it is not a statutory tenancy i.e. not assured, short assured, Scottish secured, regulated, short Scottish secure, or any regulated by any other law. Examples of this are tenants who live with their landlord, and tenants in student accommodation. You still have rights as a common law tenant, but not as many as if you were assured or Scottish secure. As a common law tenant you will still have a contract, though this may be verbal or written. It’s always better to get it in writing if possible. Your agreement should state how much rent you are expected to pay, the address of the property, the name and address of your landlord and how long you can live in the property. Other things such as when your rent is due, whether you are allowed any pets and who is responsible for repairs should also be included. Your tenancy agreement adds on to your rights as a common law tenant. Common law tenancies are an example where a landlord does not need to register your deposit with a protection scheme, though they may still chose to do so.

COMPLAINTS

If you have a problem with your tenancy, the first step is to get in touch with your landlord about it informally. This could be through a phone call or by email – if you email them you will have a written record of you raising the matter, and a record of their answer, along with when you sent it and how long it took for them to reply. If you feel your landlord’s response isn’t satisfactory, you can write them a formal letter of complaint. Make sure you keep a copy of the letter, along with details of when it was sent. Your landlord may be a member of an accreditation scheme; if so the scheme will have a formal complaints procedure which you can utilise if you feel your landlord isn’t meeting the standards they agreed to when they signed up to the scheme. Private landlords should be registered with the council – if they aren’t they are breaking the law and could face a large fine. See section on landlord registration for more information on this. If you feel your landlord is treating you badly, you can complain to the council about them, as there are certain standards which your landlord has to meet in order to be registered. Always try and solve problems with your tenancy with your landlord first – making a formal complaint should be your last option when all else has failed. It’s also worth considering if you’ve got a short assured tenancy that it is relatively easy for your landlord to bring your tenancy to an end – they can’t evict you because you’ve made a complaint, but they can give you notice as agreed in your contract which would legally end your tenancy; if you plan on staying in the property for the duration of your studies, it is worth considering your landlord may want you to move if you make a formal complaint about them. However, if you’ve made a complaint and your landlord is trying to evict you without following the proper procedures, this would be illegal and you should seek specialist advice immediately. See section on eviction for more information on this. For more information about complaints around deposit, anti-social behaviour, repairs, discrimination and harassment, see appropriate sections.

CONDENSATION

Moisture is held in air – the warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold. Condensation becomes apparent when moist air comes into contact with cool surfaces, such as windows and walls. This causes the moisture to form into water droplets, which is known as condensation. This can become a problem as mould can grow in these areas – see section on mould for more information about different types. Condensation is particularly a problem during the winter months, when the air and surfaces are generally cooler. There are steps you can take to try and limit condensation, such as opening windows when you’re in the shower, having the heating on at a low level to increase the amount of heat in the property and in extreme cases, getting a dehumidifier. Other ways you can reduce condensation is by pulling furniture away from the walls which will allow air to circulate; not drying clothes on radiators; opening doors and windows when cooking and keeping saucepan lids on when using the hob; keep bathroom doors closed when showering/bathing.

CONTRACT

If you are in an assured or short assured tenancy, you have a right to a written contract; if you are a common law tenant, you still need to have a contract, but it may be verbal. It’s always best to get it in writing if possible. Your contract should state what type of tenancy it is, the name of your landlord, the address of the property concerned with the tenancy, how much rent needs to be paid, who is responsible for repairs both inside and outside the property, any conditions or restrictions regarding things such as pets and smoking and that you have the right to go to the private renting housing panel if you feel your landlord isn’t responding to your requests for repairs. It is important you read your tenancy agreement carefully before signing it and look out for any unfair terms which might be written into it – see section on unfair terms for more information on this.

COUNCIL TAX FOR STUDENTS

If you are a full time student you will be exempt from paying council tax. If you live in halls of residence you do not have to pay anything; if you rent a house the whole property will only be exempt if everyone who lives there is a student – even if there are 4 students and one person who isn’t the property will still be liable for council tax, though it may be entitled to a discount. If you have given St Andrews University permission to pass on your details to Fife Council, you can fill out the exemption form online; however, the university is obliged to submit student details to Fife Council electronically including name and term time address, along with start and end dates of their course. If you receive a letter from the council saying you need to pay your council tax, it becomes your responsibility to get a Council Tax Exemption form from the council, have it filled out by a member of the Advice and Support Centre and then return it to the council. If you withdraw from the university for a period of time, you may be liable for council tax payments; you may also be liable for council tax payments during the time when you aren’t studying i.e. during the summer holidays. If in doubt, enquire at Fife Council. Full time students who are only studying for one semester may not qualify for council tax exemption, so this would need to be budgeted for.

CREDIT CHECKS

Your landlord may require a credit check to be done before signing the tenancy agreement so they can see any bad credit history which may indicate you wouldn’t be reliable with paying your rent. Some letting agents try to charge a fee for doing this, but this is a premium and unlawful so challenge them if they try and get you to pay money. You can do your own credit check if required online, but there may be a fee involved in this.

D

DAMP

There are 3 main types of damp – rising damp, penetrating damp and condensation. Rising damp is caused by ground water moving up through the walls; you may notice damaged skirting boards and floorboards, crumbling plaster, peeling paint and wallpaper, and a tide mark along the wall. Penetrating damp is caused by water leaking in through the walls; this is usually caused by structural problems with the building, such as faulty guttering or roofing. You may notice damp patches on walls, ceilings or floors which darken when it rains. You’re more likely to get penetrating damp if you live in an old building with solid walls, as cavity walls provide some protection against this. See section on condensation for more information on this type of damp. Both rising damp and penetrating damp are symptoms of structural issues with the property which mean it doesn’t meet the Tolerable Standard. Your landlord is required to attend to this, as a property not meeting this standard may be deemed not fit to live in. If your landlord doesn’t address the issues, get in touch with Fife Council, who have a statutory duty to deal with properties which fall below the Tolerable Standard. This could either be through demolition, closure of the property, or bringing it up to standard.

DEPOSITS

You will probably be asked to pay a deposit when you agree to your tenancy; you don’t need to hand over any money until the day you sign your contract. You can’t be charged more than 2 month’s rent for the deposit, you need to be given a receipt and your landlord has 30 working days to place your deposit into one of the 3 approved deposit protection schemes. You also need to have received the information regarding your deposit in this time frame, that is, the scheme it’s been placed in and how to access your account. See section on tenancy deposit schemes for more on this. Occasionally, a landlord may ask for an extra ‘cleaning deposit’ which is illegal. Remember – your deposit has to be placed in a deposit protection scheme, and can’t be more than 2 month’s rent. Anything else which may be asked of you, you don’t have to pay, and you can report the landlord/letting agent to Fife Council. If you have a common law tenancy, your landlord isn’t required to place your deposit in a deposit protection scheme. See common law tenancy for more information on this.

DISABILITIES

If you are disabled and find a property you would like to rent, you can get in touch with your landlord if the building needs adapting for your needs. The landlord cannot reasonably refuse your request, but you’ll have to fund the adaptations yourself – these are physical aids. Fife Council may provide you with a grant to help towards these costs, but you’ll need to be assessed by their social services department before this can happen. Your landlord is required to provide you with auxiliary aids to help you with your tenancy such as documents printed in braille and wheelchair ramps. Your landlord may also need to change some of the terms of the contract such as allowing assistance dogs if there is a ‘no pets’ clause. Your landlord can’t evict you because of your disability.

DISCRIMINATION

You may feel you are being discriminated against due to your race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or being disabled among others, most of which are covered by the Equality act 2010. There are different types of discrimination – direct, indirect, harassment and victimisation. All are illegal and if you feel your landlord is discriminating against you, first contact the landlord, whether verbally or in writing, highlighting the treatment you’ve received and the outcome you want from the complaint. If the landlord is a member of a professional organisation you can also complain to them, along with informing the council. There are occasions where the landlord is exempt from the usual laws concerning discrimination. This is normally when you would be living with the landlord or a member of their family.

E

ELECTRICAL SAFETY

Your landlord should make sure that all electrical equipment and installations in your home are safe, but there isn’t currently a requirement for a safety certificate. You may find that some landlords carry out PAT (Portable Appliance Test) tests before you move into a property, in which case there will be a safety sticker on the plug stating when the next test is due. You can ask your landlord to carry out PAT tests, but they don’t have to do it; if you are concerned you can pay to have the test carried out yourself. If you live in an HMO (House of Multiple Occupancy) your landlord is required to carry out electrical safety tests every 3 years. In either situation, if you feel your electrical equipment is unsafe, get in touch with your landlord. If they refuse to do anything about it, contact the private rented housing panel who can order your landlord to carry out the work. Your landlord is responsible for repairing and maintaining the wiring and electrical installations in your home such as any electric heating. As a tenant, you can watch out for anything you feel may be unsafe, such as fraying wires, over heating plug sockets and a burning smell when appliances are switched on. If you notice any of these things, get in touch with your landlord and don’t use the appliance until the situation has been dealt with. The risks from electricity include electric shocks – severe shocks can cause heart failure and death; electric burns – these can be permanently damaging and require major surgery; fires – 12,500 fires are caused every year in the UK due to electric faults.

ENDING A TENANCY

On 1st December 2017, a new system of private renting legislation came into act, called 'Private Residential Tenancy'.  The most important implication is that all new leases signed after this date will have no fixed end date, with only a few exceptions.  You must give your landlord 28 days notice before moving out, called a 'Notice to Quit'. This can be an electronic or paper document, signed by all of the tenants of the property, that informs the landlord that you'll be leaving. 

An important thing to be aware of is that your letting agency/landlord cannot pressure or require you to sign a notice to quit, and you cannot sign it before you move in to you your property (meaning you cannot be made to sign one when you sign your lease before move-in!). These changes were introduced to empower tenants and give them more control over their rented accommodation, and any reports of malpractice should be reported. 

When you know date (or at least the latest possible date) that you'd all like to move out of the property, it's good to hand in your notice to quit sooner rather than later. This is so that the property can be advertised to future groups of students far in advance, as no property can be advertised until the notice to quit has been received by the letting agency.

If your landlord chooses to end your tenancy at the end of your contract, they have to serve you with a notice to quit, along with at least 28 days' notice if you have lived in the property for six months or less, regardless of what eviction ground they are using.  If certain ground for eviction are being referred to, they may have to give you at least 84 days notice.

Full guidance on the legislation here.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

There are small changes which you can make to make your property more energy efficient which will mean your bills reduce and you save money. Simple things like turning your thermostat down by 1oC can reduce your energy bills by up to 10%. Don’t leave appliances on standby – this uses more energy than you think; make sure food is cold before you put it in the fridge or freezer and shower instead of bath. These are just some examples of ways to cut your usage – most are just common sense. You can also do DIY improvements to increase your properties energy efficiency – most of these are cheap and easy. Use low energy bulbs – they’re a bit more expensive to buy but will save you money in the long run as they last a lot longer and use much less energy. Fit doors and windows with draught excluders, but don’t close vents on windows as they are important for air circulation and reducing mould. You could also ask your landlord whether the property could be better insulated, but unless there is insufficient insulation to begin with, your landlord doesn’t have to do this.

ENERGY PERFORMANCE CERTIFICATE

An energy performance certificate is required whenever a property is rented; it gives details of the property’s energy use and typical cost and recommends ways to reduce energy consumption. The certificate will also give the property a rating between A (most efficient) and G (least efficient) which is valid for 10 years. You should receive an energy performance certificate when you rent a property – if your landlord doesn’t have one, they can be fined.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION UNIT

Fife council has an environmental protection unit which is a good contact if you feel there are aspects of your property which could be damaging to your health, or the building doesn’t meet the Tolerable Standard. In the first instance, get in touch with your landlord first so they can address the problem; if they don’t act, contact the council to arrange the environmental protection team to visit and assess your property.

EXTRACTOR FANS

Extractor fans are often found in bathrooms and kitchens – places where there is likely to be a lot of steam. They are there so you can reduce the amount of condensation produced when cooking or showering which reduces the chances of mould developing. It is worth having these on when you are creating steam, even though they do use a bit of electricity; if you notice yours isn’t working, get in touch with your landlord as soon as possible so it can be fixed, and in the meantime keep windows open as much as possible.

EVICTION

There are many reasons why you may be evicted, see grounds for eviction for more information on this. For the eviction to be legal, your landlord has to follow proper proceedings through the courts. The first stage is that you will be served a Notice to Quit. Following this you will be served with a Notice of Proceedings, and then a summons telling you when your case will go to court. Your case will then be heard in court, and if the eviction order is granted, the sheriff will send officers to evict you from the property. This process takes a long time, and depending on the grounds for eviction, it may be possible to delay or stop the eviction going ahead.

F

FEES

In Scotland, landlords and estate agents aren’t allowed to charge any fees; all they can ask for is the deposit, which must be placed in a deposit protection scheme within 30 working days of handing the money over. Anything else which they may ask for is illegal and you don’t need to pay. If they insist, lodge a complaint with the company and get in touch with Fife Council.

FINDING A PLACE TO LIVE

There are many ways you can find a place to live in St Andrews; you can go through letting agents (St Andrew’s Student Association has a list of agents which have signed up to the tenants charter) , check in local papers for properties advertised or have a look on gumtree, rightmove or bubble browse. Wherever you find your property, the same rules apply across the board regarding contracts, deposits, fees, tenant information pack and repairs – see corresponding sections for more information on these.

FIFE COUNCIL

All Fife landlords are required to register with Fife Council every 3 years, so the council can ensure they are a ‘fit and proper person’. See section on Landlord registration for more information about this. You should get in touch with Fife Council if you believe your landlord or letting agent is behaving illegally, such as asking for holding fees, or you don’t think they’re registered. Fife Council website also has information on refuse and recycling – see corresponding sections for more information on these.

FIRE SAFETY

All houses run the risk of fire – in 2010 to 2011 there were around 45,000 fires in dwelling, and the majority of fire related deaths occur in properties (see https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6762/568234.pdf for other statistics around this). There are things which the tenant and landlord can do to reduce the risks such as electrical safety (see section on electrical safety for more information on this), along with installing smoke alarms and having a fire escape plan. Common sense with things involving flames such as candles and cigarettes go a long way to reduce the risk of fires – never leave a flame unattended and don’t smoke in bed; don’t cover electric heaters and keep them a safe distance from flammable materials. This list is not exhaustive. It is important to have a route to get out of your property which you can use in the event of fire if the normal means of escape is cut off. This could be through a back door or through a window (depending on how far it is off the ground). If you live somewhere where an escape route isn’t obvious (such as a flat without a fire escape) get in touch with your local fire service for advice. By law, your landlord is responsible for providing smoke detectors on every floor of your property, and they should be mains powered instead of battery powered if they were installed after September 2007. If you live in a HMO (House of Multiple Occupancy) there are other rules which your landlord has to comply with regarding fire safety; there should be extinguishers, fire blankets and a fire escape route suitable for the number of people who live in the property. There should be at least one extinguisher on each floor and a fire blanket in every shared kitchen. These should be checked periodic ally, but it is the tenant’s responsibility to ensure they know how to use them properly. The fire escape route should be able to resist fire and fumes for at least 30 minutes. This could be through fire doors which must be kept shut, or by having an outside staircase. If you live in a HMO and feel your landlord isn’t complying with these safety standards, get in touch with your fire service who can take action through the council against your landlord.

FURNITURE AND FURNISHINGS

Your tenancy agreement should state whether the property is furnished or unfurnished. If it is furnished, your landlord is obliged to replace anything which has broken because it has reached the end of its working life. If you have broken anything it will be up to you to replace it. When you move in to your property you should be provided with an inventory so you and your landlord can assess the condition of furnishings and furniture provided, so you can’t be held accountable for the condition they were in when you first moved in. Both you and your landlord should have a copy of this, and take photos of anything you feel is in poor condition when you move in – sending copies to your landlord, in case a dispute arises when you come to move out.

G

GARDEN MAINTENANCE

It should state in your tenancy agreement if you are responsible for the upkeep of the garden. If you are, you will probably be required to leave it in a good condition– if the garden was overgrown when you moved in make sure you take lots of photos and document it on your inventory.

GAS SAFETY

If gas appliances in your home aren’t safe you run the risk of fire, explosion and carbon monoxide poisoning – see section on carbon monoxide and detectors for more information on this. It is your landlord’s responsibility to ensure that a gas safety check is carried out on the property at least once a year, and a copy of the safety certificate must be provided to the tenant. If, during the safety check, a fault is noticed, it is the landlord’s duty to get it repaired as soon as possible. As a tenant, it is up to you to allow the gas safety check to be done in the property and do any repairs if required. Your landlord should give you at least 24 hours notice before they come to your property. There are other things as a tenant you should watch out for; if you think you smell gas it is possible there is a gas leak in the property which is potentially very dangerous. Make sure you open all doors and windows so the property is well ventilated, switch off any electrical appliance at the wall and put out any naked flames such as candles or incense. Call the National Gas Emergency Services line on 0800 111 999 from a mobile or payphone. They will talk you through turning off the gas supply if possible, and arrange for someone to come to your property within 2 hours. Leave the building and don’t go back in until the engineer says it is safe to do so. They may have been able to fix the problem there and then, or may have just isolated the leak so the property is safe again. If this is the case, you will need to arrange for someone to come and fix the problem, and let your landlord know, along with your gas company. If you think you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning, go and see your doctor. Even if you don’t smell gas, there can be warning signs that there is a problem, such as sooty marks, gas flames which burn yellow or orange instead of blue, excessive condensation on windows and pilot lights which blow out frequently. If in doubt, get it checked.

GAS SAFETY CERTIFICATES

All landlords have to have valid gas safety certificates for the properties which they rent out; they also need to provide the tenant with a copy. It will list all appliances which are gas supplied in the property, including any which belong to the tenant, but it is the tenant’s responsibility to get theirs checked. The certificate is valid for 12 months, so needs to be renewed annually. It can only be issued by Gas Safe registered operators.

GROUNDS FOR EVICTION

There are 18 different grounds (reasons) for eviction. If your landlord wants you to leave the property at least one of these grounds must be given.

If you refuse to leave your landlord can apply to the First-tier Tribunal for an eviction order under these grounds.

Grounds 1-8 are 'mandatory' meaning that if the Tribunal agrees that the ground exists, you must leave the property.  Grounds 9-16 are 'discretionary'.  This means that even if the Tribunal agrees that the ground exists, it still has to decide whether it is reasonable to issue an eviction order.  Grounds 17 & 18 can be either mandatory or discretionary, depending on the circumstances of the case.  

If you are at the end of your tenancy, your landlord doesn’t have to have a reason to evict you as long as they give you the required notice to quit and a section 33. Ground 1: the landlord wants the property to be their home or the property was previously their home. This can be used if the landlord wants to move back into the property, or have their spouse or civil partner move into the property. It can also be used if the landlord lived in the property before you moved in. This ground requires 2 months notice. Ground 2: mortgage default. This will be used if the landlord hasn’t kept up with their mortgage payments and the lender is selling the property to reclaim the debts. This ground requires 2 months notice. Ground 3: off season holiday let. If you are living somewhere which is normally used as a holiday home, this ground can be used if the property was let as a holiday home within the year before you moved in and you have lived in the property for a maximum of 8 months before you received a notice of proceedings. This ground requires 2 weeks notice. Ground 4: vacation let of student accommodation. If the property was rented out to students in the year before you moved in and you have lived there for less than a year before you were served with a notice of proceedings, your landlord can use this ground if you are living in a property which is normally rented out to students during term time. This ground requires 2 weeks notice. Ground 5: minister/lay missionary property. Your landlord can use this ground if a minister or lay missionary is going to move into the property while they are working in the area. This ground requires 2 months notice. Ground 6: re-development. If the landlord wants to do major work on the property and it can’t be done whilst you’re living there, or you say you don’t want to live there while the work is carried out, they can use these grounds to evict you. This ground requires 2 months notice and you should be entitled to reasonable moving expenses. Ground 7: tenancy inherited under a will or intestacy. If you inherited the tenancy through the previous tenant’s will, your landlord can ask you to leave unless the deceased tenant was your spouse or civil partner, and they hadn’t inherited the tenancy themselves. This ground requires 2 months notice, and the landlord must have served you with a notice of proceedings within a year of the person dying, or within a year of the landlord finding out the person has died. Ground 8: 3 months rent arrears. If you have 3 months rent arrears on the date of your court case, you can be evicted for this. If you have less than 3 months on the date at court, the sheriff doesn’t have to evict you if they think it’s unreasonable. This ground requires 2 months notice. Ground 9: suitable alternative accommodation available to tenant. If your landlord has found suitable accommodation for yourself and family, they can use these grounds to evict you. You must have the same or similar rights in the new property as you had in the previous property. This ground requires 2 months notice. Ground 10: tenant served notice to quit but did not leave. If you served notice that you wanted to leave but then didn’t do so, the landlord can use this as a ground for eviction. This requires 2 weeks notice, and it must be served within 6 months of the date you said you were going to leave. Ground 11: persistent delay in paying rent. If you keep paying your rent late this ground can be used, though the sheriff is less likely to evict you if you don’t have any arrears. This ground requires 2 weeks notice. Ground 12: some rent unpaid. This ground can be used if you had unpaid rent on the day you received your notice of proceedings and the day you go to court. This ground requires 2 weeks notice. Ground 13: breach of tenancy conditions. This can be used if you have broken a term of your tenancy agreement. This ground requires 2 weeks notice and cannot be used in relation to rent arrears. Ground 14: deterioration of the house or common parts. This can be used if you or someone living with you has damaged part of the property or the surrounding are. It can also be used if you failed to report a repair which caused damage to the property and got worse because it wasn’t repaired. This ground requires 2 weeks notice. Ground 15: nuisance or annoyance. This can be used if you or someone living with you has been causing a nuisance or annoying your neighbours or has been convicted of using the property for illegal purposes such as dealing drugs. This ground requires 2 weeks notice. Ground 16: deterioration of condition of furniture. If you or someone living with you has damaged the furniture in the property or not looked after it properly, this ground can be used. This ground requires 2 weeks notice. Ground 17: ex-employees of the landlord. If you used to be employed by the landlord and lived in the property as part of your job, your landlord can evict you on this ground once your employment has ended. This ground requires 2 months notice.

GUARANTORS

Sometimes students who have a tenancy are required to have a guarantor. This is often to ensure that the landlord will still receive rent even if the tenant doesn’t have the means to pay. A guarantor can also be an alternative to a deposit, but not always. If this is the case, as the guarantor’s agreement isn’t technically a sum of money, it will not be protected in a tenancy deposit scheme. If you do have a guarantor, make sure they understand the legal obligations they are undertaking, and read and sign every page of the contract as well. You should outline the nature of the guarantee agreement in a written letter or contract, so both parties are aware of their obligations.

H

HEATING

Your property should be adequately heated during the winter months; if you notice a problem with your heating get in touch with your landlord as soon as possible so it can be fixed. Even if you think you’d like to limit the amount your heating is used to save money, it’s necessary to put it on for a certain amount of time every day during winter if the temperatures may go below freezing, even if you’re not in the house. This will help prevent pipes from bursting, and also reduce the amount of condensation in the property, which can lead to mould growth. See winter weather precautions and condensation for more on this.

HELPLINE

The Shelter Scotland helpline is available from 9am until 5pm, Monday to Friday on 0808 800 4444 Citizens Advice Direct helpline on 0808 800 9060

HOMELESSNESS

Unless your landlord is trying to evict you illegally, you will receive notice that your tenancy is coming to an end, which could lead to homelessness if you don’t find somewhere else to live in the meantime; use this time to address the issues with your landlord, or if this isn’t possible, to look for alternative accommodation. Studentpad and letting agents are a good source of property lets, but you may struggle to find somewhere else to live if you’re being evicted due to rent arrears or anti-social behaviour. If you are threatened with homelessness get in touch with Fife Council as soon as possible; their homeless team will work with you and your landlord to attempt to resolve the situation. If you are already homeless, or an agreement with your landlord can’t be reached, the council has a duty of care towards you and will have to find you temporary accommodation if you are unable to find any yourself. Once you have been made homeless and have been in touch with the council, you will be required to fill out a homeless application and attend an interview within 24 hours. When you get placed in temporary accommodation, you will still need to pay rent, but depending on your financial and employment situation you may be entitled to housing benefit. From there the council will work with you towards finding permanent housing, though this may take some time. Being declared homeless is always a last resort, but if you do find yourself in this position, get in contact with the council; sleeping rough can be very dangerous and you will struggle to resolve the situation on your own.

HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION GUIDANCE

If there are 3 or more people living in a property and they aren’t related to each other or a couple, it will be classed as a house of multiple occupancy; there are certain criteria that a landlord and their property must meet in order to be an HMO, and they will need a license to prove they meet this standard. You can find out if the house has an HMO license either by asking your landlord who will be able to show you their license, or by contacting Fife Council. If your landlord doesn’t have an HMO license and is renting the house out to 3 or more people, they could face a very large fine. Room sizes are also specified in HMO’s. Where common living rooms are available, a single bedroom has to be at least 6.5 square meters; for a double bedroom it should be at least 10.5square meters. If there are no communal areas, a single room has to be at least 10 square meters and a double should be at least 15 square meters. A communal living room for between 3 and 6 people should be at least 11 square meters and one for between 7 and 10 people should be 16.5 square meters. There should also be adequate kitchens and bathrooms for the amount of people living in the property; along with hot and cold water supplies. There should be smoke alarms, fire proof doors and a clearly marked escape route in case of fire; all gas and electrical appliances must be safe and tested within given timeframes, and heating, lighting and ventilation must be adequate. The property should be properly secure with good locks on the windows and doors and there should be a phone line set up so tenants can organise a telephone service when they move in. If your house is furnished, the landlord is responsible for it meeting fire safety standards. Your landlord should also put notices up in the property informing tenants of what to do in an emergency and the contact details for who to get in touch with if there’s a problem with the property. If you feel your landlord isn’t keeping the property to the standard needed for the HMO license it’s advisable to talk to them first as they may not know there’s an issue. If your landlord doesn’t act in a reasonable amount of time, you can get in touch with Fife council who will be able to force your landlord to bring the house up to standard to keep their HMO license.

HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION LICENSE (HMO)

An HMO license is what your landlord needs to legally be able to rent their house to 3 or more people who aren’t related or in a relationship. If your landlord is renting the property as an HMO and doesn’t have a license they can be fined by the council; if you want to check whether your landlord has an HMO license, you can ask them and they should be able to produce it. If they don’t, contact Fife Council to check they’ve got a license. If they don’t, they can face a very large fine.

HOW TO RENT GUIDE

Every year the Accommodation team produces a How to Rent guide with the help of the Student Advocate and the Association President, which provides up to date information on most aspects of accommodation for students looking for private renting. The most recent guide is available on the union website.

I-K

ILLEGAL EVICTION

If your landlord has evicted you without following the correct procedure, this will be an illegal eviction. The only legal way a landlord can evict you is through a possession notice from the court. Illegal eviction is a serious offence. An example of an illegal eviction is when your landlord changes the locks and doesn’t give you a key. Illegal eviction applies to all tenants regardless of the agreement you have. If you feel your landlord is trying to illegally evict you, the first step is to contact them, whether verbally or in writing, but if it is in writing you will have a record of it. Your landlord may be unaware that their actions are illegal but if they continue to act in this way after you’ve raised their awareness of the situation, seek legal advice. The council can also help you in situations such as this, and it is worth getting in touch with the police as well. Make sure you record all your dealings and conversations with your landlord as this will help the police in their investigation and will be useful if the case goes to court. If your landlord is charged, it will increase your chances of getting compensation. It’s best to check with the police before you force entry into the property, even if you have been illegally evicted, as your landlord may try and claim costs of repairs for any damage you cause in doing this. If you can’t get into the property and have no where else to go, go to Fife Council and present as homeless. See section on homelessness for more information on this.

IMMIGRATION STATUS CHANGES

Consultation has just finished regarding changes to legislation due to be implemented in 2014 around landlords checking immigration status. By law, landlords will be required to ask tenants to produce evidence of their permission to be in the UK. The landlord will then check this evidence and keep a copy of it. If a tenant cannot provide the right documentation, the landlord should not rent the property out to them. If a tenant isn’t able to prove their immigration status, the landlord doesn’t have to report them to the Home Office, but this can be done on a voluntary basis. This will apply to new tenants – if you are already living in a property before the changes come in, you will not have to prove your immigration status unless you move into a new tenancy. If there is a time limit on a tenant’s right to be in the UK, the landlord will be required to continue checking their status annually, or when their stay is due to expire, which ever is later. After the tenancy is at an end, the landlord is to destroy the immigration details of the tenant after a certain amount of time. Further information can be found on https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/226711/summary.pdf

INSPECTIONS

It may state in your tenancy agreement that your landlord can come and do inspections periodically during your tenancy. Your landlord will still have to give notice of at least 24 hours, but you will have to let them in if they have done this and the time is convenient for you. Landlords often do this to ensure the property is being kept to a good standard during the tenancy, and to make sure you are keeping to the contract. If you are found to be in breach of your terms during an inspection, you could be evicted. See grounds for eviction for more information.

INVENTORY

When you move into your property, you should be supplied with an inventory, especially if it is stated in the tenancy agreement as such. Your landlord/estate agent will also have one of these and will use it to confirm the condition of the property when you moved in, along with furniture and fittings. It’s important to do this on the day you move in, and keep a copy, along with supplying one to your landlord, and make sure they agree to everything you’ve written down; you only have to leave the property in the condition it was in when you move in so if it’s not properly clean or there’s damage, make sure it’s recorded and your landlord confirms this. It’s also useful to take photographs when you move in to back up your claims, and send copies to your landlord or estate agent. This will all stand in your favour if there’s a dispute around returning your deposit at the end of your tenancy. If you aren’t supplied with an inventory, it’s advisable to do one yourself – Shelter Scotland have a downloadable inventory which you can use.

JOINT AND SEVERAL TENANCIES

If you and your housemates have a joint tenancy, you will all have the same rights and responsibilities. You are all jointly and individually responsible for paying rent, so if one person leaves or refuses to pay rent, the rest of the tenants are liable. If none of the tenants pay rent, the landlord can pursue anyone for the money, but will most likely go for the person who is easiest to get into contact with and ask them to pay the full amount. You are jointly and individually liable for paying any arrears in the property, even if you kept up to date with your own rent payments. The landlord may also be entitled to keep all or part of your deposit to cover damages or rent owed to the property, even if you aren’t responsible for it yourself. If you want to end the tenancy, you will need to get permission from all the other tenants as this will end the tenancy agreement for everyone. Your landlord may agree to a new tenancy agreement listing the remaining tenants and rent owed from them.

KEYS

You should receive the keys at the start of your tenancy on the date stated on your contract. All tenants should have a set of keys and your landlord or estate agent will also have a set. You will have to get permission from your landlord before you get another set of keys cut, and this will be at your own expense. Your landlord isn’t allowed to enter the property without your permission, but you can’t refuse them without good reason. This may be because they haven’t given you the required amount of notice (at least 24 hours).

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LANDLORDS

The landlord is the person who owns the property you rent. You may deal with them directly or through a letting agent. The landlord is responsible for keeping the property to the tolerable standard, and all structural repairs. They also have to keep the property to the repairing standard, and must be registered as a landlord with the council. After 1st June 2013, the landlord registration number must be included in all adverts, and they must provide you with a tenant information pack if your contract was signed after 1st May 2013. They are responsible for the gas safety checks and ensuring there are adequate fire safety precautions. Your landlord must give you at least 24 hours notice before they enter the property (unless in an emergency) but you cannot reasonably refuse them entry if they have done so.

LANDLORD ACCREDITATION SCOTLAND

It’s recommended that you rent from someone who is accredited by Landlord Accreditation Scotland; this scheme aims to improve standards in accommodation as there are certain things the landlord must do in order to be accredited. Letting agents should display a copy of their accreditation certificate in their office and may have a sticker in their window. It’s worth checking that they have a certificate, as some letting agents could put the sticker up without being accredited. When in doubt, you can check with Landlord Accreditation Scotland to see whether the agent is registered with them. You can also get the core standards from them or the letting agent. If you’re unhappy with the service you’ve received by the letting agent, you can complain to the accreditation scheme and if it’s discovered your landlord has breached the core standards, they will take steps to resolve this. Ultimately, they can suspend or remove accreditation and report the agent to the police.

LANDLORD CHARTER

St Andrew’s Student Association has a list of letting agents and landlords who have signed up to a charter which promises certain guarantees – some of which they legal requirements and some of which are good practise. The list is updated annually.

LANDLORD REGISTRATION

Almost every landlord in Scotland is required to be registered with their local council, and they need to renew this every 3 years – if they aren’t, they are renting their property illegally. The landlord has to meet certain standards to show they are a fit and proper person to be a landlord, and the council must take into account any offence involving drugs, fraud, dishonesty, discrimination, violence or sexual offences. They must also see if the landlord has practised unlawful discrimination in relation to any business or contravened any provision of the law relating to housing. You can check to see if your landlord is registered on the National Landlords Registration website. One example of where a landlord doesn't need to be registered is if your landlord also lives in the property with you.

LEAD TENANT

With some deposit schemes, such as Mydeposits Scotland, there is a requirement for there to be a lead tenant in joint tenancies. This is because it’s less administration for the deposit to be dealt with in one lump sum than on an individual basis. The lead tenant is responsible for everything to do with the deposit, and also for distributing the money at the end of the tenancy. All the tenants have to agree on who the lead tenant is to be. If the lead tenant decides they no longer want this responsibility, they can contact the deposit scheme who will then get in touch with the landlord; the landlord then nominates another lead tenant to take over. This must all be put in writing, including the reasons why the previous lead tenant no longer wants to do it, and confirmation that the new lead tenant is happy with the change.

LEGAL CLINICS

St Andrews University offers a legal clinic through Rollos Law LLP and Murray Donald LLP; these are run fortnightly on Tuesdays during term time between 1pm and 2pm. They provide legal advice on anything and the first consultation is free. Information on when are where the sessions are held is on the university website.

LETTING FEES

It is illegal for an estate agent or landlord to charge any fees; all they can legally ask for is the due rent and a reasonable, refundable deposit to be placed in a tenancy deposit scheme.

LIFETIME OF GOODS

Generally speaking, you can expect appliances to last a certain amount of time as long as they’re looked after properly, but everything will break eventually. A rough guide for lifetime of goods is CARPETS: 10-12 years

FURNITURE: 10-12 years

LAWNMOWER: 5-8 years

WASHING MACHINE: 5-10 years

FRIDGE: 10-12 years

FREEZER: 10-12 years

TV/CRT: 7 years

TV/LCD: 5 years

TV/PLASMA: 4 years

TOASTERS, KETTLES MICROWAVES: REPLACE ANNUALLY

HOOVERS: NOT LISTED

Remember, any appliance has to be in reasonable repair and proper working order to comply with THE REPAIRING STANDARD as required under The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 as at 3rd September 2007. Information source Edinburgh Letwise/July 2009.

LOCKED OUT

If you find yourself locked out of your property because you’ve lost your key, the first step is to contact your housemates to let you in. If they’re all away and not likely to be back in the near future, get in touch with your landlord or letting agent as they should have a key as well. You will have to get your landlord’s permission to get another key cut, and you will be liable for the cost. If you find your landlord has changed the locks on the house without going through the proper legal proceedings, this is an illegal eviction see section on illegal eviction for more on this.

 

M-O

MOVING IN

When moving into a property, there are some practicalities to consider. The first is actually moving your things in – if you’re coming from a long way away and have a lot of stuff you may need to hire a van which can be quite expensive. Look at alternatives such as reducing the amount of things you want with you (you will have to move them out again at the end of your tenancy anyway) or maybe bring things back with you in smaller amounts if you go home for a visit during term. When you move in, you will need to get in touch with the gas and electricity supplier on the day to provide them with up to date meter readings and ensure that the previous tenant’s account is closed. If power has been disconnected you may be liable for the reconnection fee. You will also need to sort out things such as phone, internet and TV license as soon as possible. When you move into the property, complete the inventory you’ve been supplied with by your landlord, give them a copy and keep one for yourself. If you’ve not been given one, you can do one yourself – record the condition of the furniture and fittings, along with any damage such as marks on the walls and carpets. Take plenty of photographs and keep them in a safe place – they may come in handy at the end of your tenancy if there’s a dispute with getting your deposit back. Your landlord has 30 working days from when your tenancy starts to register your deposit with an approved scheme, and send you information regarding this, so make a note in your diary for when you should have heard, and get in touch with your landlord after this if you’ve not received anything. Contact any companies you get post from so they can update your address.

MOVING OUT

Moving out is much the same as moving in – you’ll need to arrange transportation of your belongings, get in touch with utility companies with final meter readings and get the property to the standard it was in when you first moved in. Make sure you get in touch with all the companies you get post from with your up to date address, and leave a forwarding address with your new landlord. Your landlord has to get in touch with the tenancy deposit scheme at the end of your tenancy with details of any deductions they want to make. The scheme will then get in touch with you to see if you agree to these. If you do, you’ll get the remainder of the money within 5 working days; if you don’t agree to the amount it will be referred to the deposit scheme’s mediation service. See tenancy deposit scheme and deposit for more information on this. Make sure you’ve packed all your belongings, as your landlord may charge for removal or storage of anything left behind.

NEIGHBOURS

Wherever you live you are likely to have neighbours, and it’s best to get on with them as well as possible. When you move in, it might help to introduce yourself to your neighbours, and it will help create a better atmosphere in your neighbourhood. Be considerate with things such as loud music, especially if you’re in a flat or a terrace, because your neighbours are entitled to have peace in their property. It’s an old saying, but treat others how you’d like to be treated; if you feel your neighbours are being noisier than necessary, have a chat to them to see if it can be resolved. If not, you could get in touch with the council’s noise team with a diary of when the noise occurred and how it affected you, and your neighbours can do the same to you if you are causing problems. If you plan to have a party, let your neighbours know in advance, and keep the noise down after 11pm; think about your neighbour’s situation in life – they could have children, be at work in the morning or be elderly. These are all good reasons for wanting a good night’s sleep. Another source of problems between neighbours is rubbish – not putting your bins out on time (by 6am on the day of collection) can lead to rubbish building up, which not only is unsightly but can also increase the chances of pests accumulating. If you do miss the bin collection and rubbish is getting out of hand, it may be worth taking it to your local recycling centre, as these also get rid of household rubbish. If there are problems with your neighbours, the best first step you can take towards resolving it is by talking to them, get their side of the story and give them yours. Not everyone will be willing to co-operate, but it’s worth giving it a try. Being on good terms with your neighbours helps break down the barriers between students and residents.

NOTICE OF PROCEEDINGS

A Notice of Proceedings is also known as an AT6; this must be sent to you, but it can be either at the same time as the Notice to Quit - see notice to quit for more on this - or at a later date. If it’s sent with the Notice to Quit, the notice periods will run at the same time. A Notice of Proceedings is a legal document telling you your landlord is going to take legal proceedings against you to get the property back; it will be issued as an AT6. For it to be valid it must state the reasons why the landlord is taking these proceedings against you and information about these reasons and how they apply to you, see grounds for eviction for more on this. The length of notice depends on the ground being used, and the landlord must wait until the notice has finished before applying to the courts for a date for your case to be heard. Your landlord then has 6 months after the notice has run out to apply to the court, if they miss this deadline the process starts again with another notice of proceedings.

NOTICE TO QUIT

A notice to quit is what you will be served with if your landlord wants to end your tenancy or evict you. If you are served a notice to quit, you do not have to leave the property until your landlord has applied to the sheriff court to get an eviction order. The notice to quit must be in writing, and in a given amount of time before the tenancy is due to end; this will either be specified on your tenancy agreement or be related to the length of the tenancy. For it to be a valid notice to quit, it also has to state the length of notice which you have been given, state that the landlord will have to apply to the court in order to get you to leave and inform you that you can get independent advice regarding the notice, and give you details of where you can get this advice from. If you get a notice to quit, the first step is to talk to your landlord. They can issue a notice to quit at any time as long as it’s before the minimum notice requirements, and they may not actually intend to evict you. They could just be doing it to end the original tenancy agreement and draw up a new one.

OVERCROWDING

Overcrowding has a specific legal definition; if 2 people of the opposite sex have to sleep in the same room, this is overcrowding unless they are married, in a civil partnership or living together, or one or both of them is under 10 years old. The number of people of the same sex who can share a room without it being classed as overcrowded is restricted by room size. From a space perspective, the number of people who should live in a house depends on the number of rooms in the property, the sizes of the rooms and the ages of the people who live there. This doesn’t include the kitchen or bathroom but does include living rooms and bedrooms. As a general rule, if there is 1 room two people can live there; 2 rooms three people can live there; 3 rooms five people can live there; 4 rooms seven and a half people can live there (children aged between 1 and 10 count as half); 5 rooms or more two people can live there. The size of a room also determines how many people can sleep there – rooms with a floor area of under 50 square feet don’t count. Between 50 and 69 square feet 0.5 people can sleep there. Between 70 and 89 square feet 1 person can sleep there. Between 90 and 109 square feet 1.5 people can sleep there. Floor area of 110 square feet 2 people can sleep there. If you are overcrowded as a private tenant you won’t be able to make the property any bigger so you may have to find other accommodation. You can do this by finding a larger private rented house or applying to the council as homeless, though there may be a waiting list before they can help you. If you are very overcrowded the council might consider it unreasonable for you to live in the house and may help you because you are legally homeless, see homelessness for more information on this.

 

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PARENTS

Your parents may be involved with helping you find a house and being a guarantor, but unless they are legally a tenant of the property, you are responsible for maintaining the tenancy. There guarantor’s responsibilities only come into effect if you are unable to meet your rent payments. If the tenancy is in your name but your parents provide the deposit, it will be down to the lead tenant to ensure that the correct amount of money goes back to them. See guarantor and lead tenant for more on this.

PARTIES

Your landlord may have a contract with you which states can’t have parties at your property. If you sign this, it is legally binding and could be a threat to your tenancy if you hold parties despite this. It’s worth getting in touch with your landlord for clarity on what counts as a party – society meetings and dinner parties may be ok, but it would need to be agreed first. If you are allowed to have parties in your property and plan on doing so, let your neighbours know in advance; they may decide to go out for the evening, or they might have an early morning planned for the next day so would appreciate the party taking place at another time. It’s common courtesy to let your neighbours know if something happening at your property is going to affect them. Remember to keep the noise level down after 11pm, or earlier if possible. It’s also worth considering the fittings and furnishings at the house before you have the party – remove anything that is breakable or valuable which the landlord has supplied, because if it gets broken it will be your responsibility to replace it. Consider rooms which have carpets in – it’s much easier to clean wooden floors or tiles than it is to get rid of stains from a carpet; if possible, shut off carpeted rooms so you don’t run that risk. Remember, you are responsible for your guest’s behaviour – if a noise complaint is made, it will be against you as the tenant, regardless of who actually caused the problem. After the party, you may have quite a big clean-up to do. If all the tenants were involved, it’s fair for the work to be shared equally, but if some tenants were out or didn’t want to have the party, it’s not really reasonable to expect them to help getting the house back to normal. This could cause issues between housemates if you try to get them to do this. It makes sense for the cleaning to be done as soon as possible after the party so stains are easier to remove and any breakages can be replaced. If your landlord thinks you aren’t looking after the property properly, they could use this as a ground for eviction; if you are seen as causing a noise nuisance by your neighbours because of regular, loud parties, this could put your tenancy and risk. See grounds for eviction and anti-social behaviour for more on this.

PEST CONTROL

Depending on the type of pest, your landlord may argue that it’s not their responsibility to deal with them. If there are fleas brought in by a pet or mice caused by excess rubbish, it might be easier for you to deal with the problem yourself instead of getting into a dispute with your landlord. If it’s a pest caused by structural defects in the property, such as rats entering through holes in the walls, this is your landlord’s responsibility and you should report the problem as soon as you become aware of it. If your landlord refuses to take action, you can get in touch with the council’s environmental health team who can serve an abatement notice on the landlord forcing them to carry out the work needed.

PEST IN PRIVATE ACCOMMODATION

Your tenancy agreement will state whether or not pets are allowed. It could explicitly ban them, or say you have to get written permission from your landlord beforehand; it could also allow them without any problems. Sometimes your landlord will have to allow you to have a pet, such as if you require an assistance dog, but most of the time it is down to their discretion. If your tenancy agreement states that pets aren’t allowed, but you really want one, get in touch with the landlord to see if they’ll reconsider. If you are thinking about getting a pet it’s important to consider not only the time and cost needed in looking after it properly (especially when you’re studying and maintaining a social life), but also the potential problems it could cause to the property. Cats may scratch furniture and pull up carpet, dogs will need somewhere outdoors to exercise and due to moulting extra cleaning will be needed towards the upkeep of the house. These are just some of the things which may arise if you keep pets; there are many others so think carefully before getting a pet in rented accommodation.

PRIOR NOTIFICATION OF GROUNDS

There are certain grounds for eviction which you should be notified about at the start of your tenancy. These are grounds 1-5, see grounds for eviction for more on this.

PROBLEMS WITH HOUSEMATES

During your tenancy, you may encounter problems with your housemates. This could be for example because they aren’t paying their share of the bills, you feel they aren’t doing enough cleaning around the house, or you may just not get on with them very well in close quarters. The best thing to do firstly is talk to the housemate/s which are causing you problems, explain what it is that’s bothering you and get their side of the story too – they may not have realised what they were doing was affecting you. If you find that talking to your housemate/s doesn’t help, there may be little you can do; your landlord may be able to intervene, especially if they feel the property isn’t being kept to a reasonable standard of repair, but this does depend on the type of tenancy and the problems you are facing. If you are in a joint tenancy and you persuade the ‘problem’ tenant to move out, you will be responsible for their rent unless you can find someone to take their place. This would have to be done with the landlord’s agreement - see joint tenancies for more on this. It is unlikely in a private joint tenancy that the landlord or anyone else would get involved with disputes between housemates – only in extreme cases would this happen. If you feel problems aren’t being resolved, you could consider moving out, or leaving at the end of the tenancy.

PROBLEMS WITH LANDLORD

Hopefully during your tenancy you won’t need to get into contact with your landlord very much and will have no problems with them. However, there are instances where the landlord could be an issue, whether they’re arriving at your property without giving the proper notice (at least 24 hours unless it’s an emergency) or refusing to deal with repairs. Depending on the situation with your landlord, there are legal rights you may have – the Private Rented Housing Panel can intervene if they aren’t completing due repairs, and legally they cannot enter your property without your permission if they haven’t given you notice. Landlords can also be difficult regarding the return of deposits, though this shouldn’t be as much of an issue with the introduction of the tenancy deposit schemes. If you feel your landlord is being unreasonable, it may be worth getting in touch with them first because they may not be aware of their legal responsibilities or your rights. If this doesn’t work, you can report them to Fife Council, where they should be registered and if they try to do anything illegal such as forcibly evict you, you can get in touch with the police. If you have a short assured tenancy, it’s relatively easy for your landlord to evict you at the end of your contract, but that also means it’s easy for you to end the tenancy as well. If you aren’t happy with your landlord, think about seeking other accommodation when your tenancy is due to come to an end.

PROBLEMS WITH AGENT

You may have problems with the letting agent you’re renting off; if they are a member of the landlord accreditation scheme, you can lodge a complaint with them, and the agents themselves will probably have a complaints procedure. If your agent is trying to charge money for ‘extra’ deposits or fees, this is illegal and you do not have to pay.

PROPERTY CHECKLIST

A copy of a property checklist is available on the accommodation section of the union website; it is a useful tool to use when you are looking at properties, but may not include everything you need to know so if you think of anything else which isn’t on there, be sure to ask the landlord before you sign the contract.

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RECEIPTS

You should receive a receipt when you hand over your deposit when signing a tenancy; hang on to it as this is your proof of the amount of money that has been paid, and it may be needed regarding the tenancy deposit scheme.

RECYCLING

Fife council have many areas where you can recycle – follow this link http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/media/estates/documents/recycling%20points%20around%20St%20Andrews.pdf for areas in St Andrews where you can recycle.

REFUSE COLLECTIONS

When you move into your property, check when the local bin collection is as soon as possible. You can find this information by entering your post code on the Fife Council website. Make sure you put your bins out on time (before 6am on the date of collection) to avoid a build-up of rubbish, and bring your bin back in again as soon as possible afterwards. Take extra care in high winds as empty bins can blow over; if you feel you can wait until your next collection if the wind is strong it may be advisable to do that.

REGULATION OF LETTING AGENTS

At the moment in Scotland, anyone can set themselves up as a letting agent; they don’t need to have any qualifications or experience to do so. Letting agents can voluntarily sign up to accreditation schemes which have certain rules and regulations they need to follow to maintain their position with the scheme, so it is advisable to work with an agent who is a member - see landlord accreditation Scotland for more on this. Recently, changes have been made which have helped formalise the private rented sector, such as the introduction of the tenancy deposit scheme and tenant information pack, but there is still room for improvement. Shelter Scotland have produced a document arguing for the regulation of letting agents to protect both tenants and landlords, and this can be found on their website.

RENT CHARGES

Your rent charges should be stated in your tenancy agreement, along with when you have to pay; it should also state whether your rent can be increased during the time of your tenancy. Make sure you read this carefully to ensure everything is as stated in your agreement when you begin payments.

RENEWAL FEES

It is illegal for your landlord or letting agent to charge you renewal fees.

REPAIRS

Your landlord is responsible for repairs in the property which aren’t caused by the tenant’s (or their guest’s) damage or negligence. If you have caused damage to the property or furnishings, you will be liable to replace it and could face eviction if you don’t take steps to address it - see grounds for eviction for more information on this. If, however, the repair has been caused by fair wear and tear, or an appliance has broken or become faulty, get in touch with your landlord as soon as possible so they can resolve the issue. If you don’t get in touch with your landlord when you know there is a problem and it gets worse as a result of not getting fixed, you could be held responsible for the extra damage. The Scottish Government has introduced the Repairing Standard which aims to ensure everyone has good quality, affordable housing, and it applies to almost all private sector tenancies – both existing ones as well as new ones. The repairing standard means landlords have to make sure the property is wind and water tight, the structure of the property is in reasonable repair and proper working order, there are installations in the property for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, space heating and heating water are in reasonable repair and proper working order. Any fixtures, fittings and appliances provided in the tenancy need to be in reasonable repair and proper working order, any furnishings provided in the tenancy are capable of being used safely for the purpose which they are designed and there is provision of smoke alarms. It’s up to the landlord to make sure their property meets this standard at the beginning of your tenancy and at all times during it; before you move in the landlord should have inspected the house to see if any work need to be done, and must notify you of this work. When the tenancy starts, this is only applicable if the tenant has informed the landlord of work which needs doing, and this should be repaired in a reasonable amount of time. You should receive information about the repairing standard in your tenant information pack. If your landlord doesn’t address the issues in a reasonable amount of time, you can get in touch with the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP). Application forms are available on the PRHP website, and if your case is accepted, it will be referred to a Committee for consideration. If they decide that your landlord hasn’t complied with the Repairing Standard, the Committee can make an enforcement order to make the landlord to do the work. It is an offence for the landlord to ignore the enforcement order. If the landlord still fails to carry out the work, the Committee can impose a rent relief order which will reduce the rent payable on the property until the Committee is satisfied that the work has been completed. Fife Council may carry out the work that hasn’t been done and recover the costs from the landlord. There are a few exemptions to the repairing standard, these can be found here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2006/1/part/1/chapter/4

RESIDENT LANDLORDS

If you share your property with your landlord, you will have different rights than if you rented the whole property. To be classed as a resident landlord, the landlord must use the property as their only or main home and have direct access from their property to yours. If you sublet from a lead tenant and share the property with them, they will be classed as your resident landlord see sub-letting for more information on this. If you have exclusive access to part of the property such as having your own bedroom, but you share the rest of the accommodation with your landlord, you will probably have a common law tenancy - see common law tenancy. If your landlord moves out, you will no longer have a common law tenancy, but either assured or short assured, with stronger tenancy rights - see corresponding sections.

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SHELTER SCOTLAND

Shelter Scotland is a charity which provides housing advice to anyone who needs it. This includes tenants and landlords, and their website has a lot of information regarding tenancies and problems which may be encountered. There is also a helpline if you would like to speak to someone for advice, see helplines for their phone number.

SHORT ASSURED TENANCY

You will be in a short assured tenancy if you received an AT5 before you signed your contract stating you are entering into a short assured tenancy, and your contract is for longer than 6 months. The advantage of a short assured tenancy for the landlord is that it is relatively easy for them to bring the contract to an end – they have to provide written notice in a given amount of time, either stated in your tenancy agreement or determined by the length of the contract, to let you know they are bringing the tenancy to an end – see section on ending a tenancy for more information about this. You can also end the tenancy by giving the appropriate amount of notice. In a short assured tenancy, you are entitled to a written contract. If neither you, or your landlord has given notice to end the tenancy, the contract will automatically renew itself after the end date, by the same amount of time the original contract was for, unless a certain amount of time is specified in your tenancy agreement. Your landlord has to give at least 24 hours notice (unless it’s an emergency) before they can enter your property, but you can’t refuse them without good reason.

SMOKE ALARMS

All properties which are rented out should have smoke alarms fitted on every floor. If they were installed after September 2007 they should be connected to the mains instead of being battery operated. Check your smoke alarms regularly.

SQUATTING IN SCOTLAND

Squatting is illegal in Scotland, and the owner of the property does not need to go to court to evict squatters – they can remove the squatter themselves without any notice, but are not allowed to do anything illegal whilst doing it. If you are caught squatting, you could face criminal charges. If someone is squatting in your property, get in touch with your landlord as soon as possible so they can take action.

STORAGE

If your tenancy isn’t for a full year and you have to move out during the summer months, you will probably also have to move your belongings out as well. This can be tricky if you have too many items to take to your parents and you have nowhere else to put them. There are some storage businesses in St Andrews which specialise in summer storage for students, so have a look at what’s on offer and get the best price you can.

STUDENTPAD

Student pad is a UK wide website which has details of advertised properties in your area. Advantages are that all landlords need to be registered and have all relevant documentation up to date in order to advertise, and it sets out information in a way which makes properties easily comparable. You can access Studentpad on the St Andrews university website by going to Current Students, then Accommodation, then Private Property Letting. This will bring up the link for Studentpad. Following this, you can specify particular aspects of the property you would like such as number of bedrooms, and the search will find those which meet your description. Student pad also has a message board where you can post adverts relating to accommodation. The password for the message board can be found on iSaint.

SUB TENANTS

You will be a subtenant if you are renting from someone who is renting the property from their landlord. As long as the tenant has their landlord’s permission, they can rent all or part of the property out to someone else, who will be the subtenant. The relationship is as follows: landlord head tenant (sub tenant’s landlord) sub tenant. How you rent your property determines your rights; if you share with your landlord you will probably be a common law tenant - see section on common law tenancies for more information on this. If you rent from a private tenant who doesn’t live in the property, you will probably be either assured or short assured - see section on assured and short assured for more information on this. If the tenant you are renting from doesn’t have permission from their landlord to sublet, this will not affect your rights as a subtenant. The head tenant will be the one responsible for the repairs and rent, and will have to go through the courts to evict you. However, if the landlord finds out the property is being sublet, and wants the head tenant to end your tenancy, they will have to do so. Alternatively, if the landlord finds out but still accepts rent from the head tenant, the unlawful sub tenancy will be legalised. Once the head tenancy has ended, if you are a lawful assured or short assured tenant, you will take over the tenancy, and the owner of the property will become your landlord. However, if the head tenant has been evicted due to your behaviour, you can be evicted as well. If you were being sub-let the property without the landlord’s permission, they may consider you do not have any rights. If the head tenancy has come to an end, get in touch with the head tenant’s landlord as soon as possible to establish your position in the property, and whether or not you’re likely to stay. Failing this, seek advice.

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TENANCY DEPOSIT SCHEMES

Tenancy deposit schemes exist to help resolve any dispute which may arise around getting your deposit back at the end of a tenancy. If the landlord feels cleaning or repair costs need to come out of the deposit when you leave, they have to apply to the deposit protection scheme who will get in touch with you to make sure you feel it is fair. If you and your landlord don’t agree on this, there is a resolution service which is free to use, to try and help solve the dispute. Your landlord can’t just take money out of your deposit without your consent – it has to go through the deposit protection scheme which is why it’s important to make sure your landlord places your money in one and gives you information about it. If your landlord fails to do this, you can take them to the small claims court for up to 3 times the amount of the deposit in compensation. You can do this up to 3 months after your tenancy has ended. Once you and your landlord have agreed on deductions from your deposit, you should receive the rest of the money in 5 working days. The 3 approved Scottish deposit schemes are MyDeposits Scotland, Safe Deposits Scotland and Letting Protection Service Scotland. The information you receive relating to the deposit protection scheme your landlord has placed your deposit in should be provided to you after your money has been placed into a scheme. This includes the amount of the deposit, the date it was received by the landlord and the date they paid the money into the scheme. It should also include the address of the property the deposit is for, a statement from your landlord confirming they are registered with the council, the name and contact details of the deposit scheme your money is registered with and the terms in which all or part of your deposit can be kept.

TENANT INFORMATION PACK

If you signed your contract after 1st May 2013 you should have received a tenant information pack. This contains information on property condition, tenancy agreements and rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. It is a legal requirement for you to have received one and your landlord could be fined up to £500 if you didn’t.

TENANTS RIGHTS

Your rights as a tenant depend on the type of tenancy you have; if you are assured or short assured, you will have more rights than if you are common law, see corresponding sections for more information on these.

TOLERABLE STANDARD

The tolerable standard is the minimum standard your property must be in in order to be habitable by you, the tenant. It may not be fit to live in if there isn’t a proper entrance, there are problems with rising or penetrating damp, or it doesn’t have an indoor toilet. Other reasons why a property may not meet the tolerable standard include the building not being structurally sound, or there are no cooking facilities. The full list of tolerable standards can be found on the Shelter Scotland website. If you feel the property doesn’t meet the tolerable standard, and your landlord doesn’t attempt to address the situation, you can get in touch with Fife Council who are obliged to either close the property, knock it down or do the repairs themselves.

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UNFAIR TERMS

Unfair terms are anything which could be judged as unfair which are written into your contract. Even if you sign the agreement, the unfair terms are not legally binding, but they are subjective so you need to take care before you decide not to comply. Seek advice if you think your contract contains unfair terms. An example is your landlord being able to come into your property without giving any notice.

WIND AND WATERTIGHT

Your landlord is responsible for keeping your property in a habitable condition; this means they are required to keep the property wind and watertight, as this relates to the outside structure of the house. If you notice any problems, for example water leaking through the ceiling or gaps between glass and window fittings, get in touch with your landlord as soon as possible so they can address it. If they don’t take any action, you can get in touch with the Private Rented Housing Panel who can pursue your case; information of this should be provided when you sign your contract.

WINTER WEATHER PRECAUTIONS

During the winter your property can become more vulnerable due to the weather; you run the risk of excess condensation which can lead to mould, power cuts in bad weather, pipes bursting and roof tiles blowing off in strong winds. There are precautions you can take against some of these, but with others you will just need to be vigilant and report any problems to your landlord as soon as you notice them. Make sure you know how to turn off your gas, electricity and water if there’s an emergency. When the temperature is due to drop below freezing, set the heating to come on for an amount of time every day, even if you’re away from the property, as this will help prevent your pipes from bursting. Keep torches handy in case there’s a power cut; if you notice anything structurally wrong with the building which could cause damage such as roof tiles missing or leaky guttering, get in touch with your landlord so they can sort the problem out.

WITNESSES

Witnesses are the people who confirm they have seen the tenancy agreement signed by the landlord/letting agent and the tenants. They have to be present when the tenancy is signed in order to properly verify it.