Law guide: Landlords

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Private residential tenancies

Landlords and tenants usually agree between themselves the rent to be paid.

Rent increases

If you want to increase the rent you must give the tenant at least three months' written notice in the correct form required by law.

The notice period begins on the date the tenant gets the notice, and ends three months after that date. If you send the rent increase notice to your tenant by post or email, you must allow the tenant 48 hours to receive it. This delivery time should be factored into the amount of notice you give your tenant.

You can only increase the rent once in a year so once increased you must wait 12 months before it can be increased again.

If your tenant thinks the rent increase is too high, they may contact a rent officer within 21 days of receiving your notice. They must tell you if they are doing this. The rent officer has the power to decide what the rent for the property should be and can vary the rent up or down.

If you or your tenant disagrees with the rent officer's decision you can ask them to reconsider it, or appeal to The First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber), who will make a final decision.

This may agree with the amount set by the rent officer or be higher or lower. If you want to appeal to the Tribunal, you must do this within 14 days of the rent officer's decision.

Illegal charges

Other than the rent, you can only ask your tenant to pay a deposit. This must not be more than two months' rent. You may not charge the tenant for providing written tenancy terms or any other information that you have a duty to provide. It's a criminal offence to make your tenant pay any other administration fees, premiums or additional charges, even if refundable.

Rent pressure zones

If a local council thinks rents are rising too much in a certain area, they can apply to the Scottish Government to have the area designated as a rent pressure zone.

This means a cap is set on how much rents can increase for existing tenants each year in that area.

Local councils can apply to have an area turned into a rent pressure zone if they can prove that:

  • rents in the area are rising too much;
  • the rent rises are causing problems for the tenants; and
  • the local council is coming under pressure to provide housing or subsidise the cost of housing as a result.

Scottish Ministers must consult landlords' and tenants' representatives before they make any area a rent pressure zone.

Any cap set by Scottish Ministers will be at least inflation plus 1%. Inflation is measured by the consumer price index (CPI). The cap can last for up to five years and will apply to existing tenants only.

If your property is in a rent pressure zone, you can apply to a rent officer for an additional amount of rent to reflect any improvements you have made to the property.

These improvements don't include any repairs or maintenance, decorative work or any work done that was entirely or partly paid for by the tenant.

After you apply to the rent officer, they will send a copy of the application to your tenant. They will have 14 days to respond. Before the rent officer decides on the amount you can add to the rent, they will send you and the tenant a draft of the proposed decision. If you want to respond to this, you have 14 days. The tenant will then get a copy of your response, and have 14 days to reply. The rent officer has to take all responses into account when coming up with a decision. The rent officer's decision is final and can't be appealed.

Assured and short assured tenancies

If the tenancy agreement states when and how the rent will be reviewed, you can refer the tenant to these terms when you want to increase the rent.

You can't usually increase the rent:

  • During the fixed term of a fixed-term tenancy unless the tenancy agreement allow this
  • If there's a set mechanism for calculating the rent in the agreement, and you do not follow this

If the tenancy agreement doesn't state when and how the rent will be reviewed, you must follow the procedure for the type of tenancy. Rents for assured tenancies and short assured tenancies are dealt with under the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988. For types of tenancy, see Types of tenancy (Scotland).

How to give notice of a rent increase

Assured tenancies

Landlords and tenants usually agree between themselves the rent to be paid.

If you can't agree a rent increase with the tenant, you must serve a written notice (using form AT2 for an assured tenancy) stating the proposed new rent and the date it will take effect; you must usually give the tenant 6 months' notice of the new rent. If the tenant doesn't challenge the proposed rent increase, the new rent will take effect from the date specified in the notice.

If the tenant doesn't agree to the rent proposed in the notice, they can apply to The First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber), who will appoint a committee to consider the rent. This must be done before the date when the new rent will begin. The committee will decide what, in their view, the property might reasonably be expected to be let for by a willing landlord under an assured tenancy on similar terms. They can't use the concept of 'scarcity' to reduce the rent.

If you want to propose a further rent increase, any new rent can't take effect sooner than one year from the date that the previous rent increase took effect.

Short assured tenancies

Landlords and tenants usually agree between themselves the rent to be paid.

If the tenant doesn't accept a proposed rent increase, they can apply to the First-tier Tribunal, who will appoint a committee to consider the rent. The committee will decide what, in their view, the landlord might reasonably be expected to obtain under the tenancy.

Referrals to the Tribunal are rare. The committee makes a rent decision only where the rent sought is significantly higher than the landlord might reasonably be expected to obtain. But it's unusual for the committee to make a determination as a result of this qualification, as rents sought by landlords aren't normally 'significantly' higher.

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