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Starting a tenancy

Remember, from 1 December 2017 the private residential tenancy came in to replace assured and short assured tenancies. If your tenancy started before 1 December then you are an assured or short assured tenant. Your tenancy will continue as normal until you or your landlord bring it to an end following the correct procedure. If your landlord then offers you a new tenancy this will be a private residential tenancy.

Check your landlord is registered

Most landlords have to be registered as a landlord with the council. Any landlord who is not registered or is not in the process of becoming registered is renting the property out illegally.

You can check if your landlord is registered with Landlord Registration Scotland.

The Letting Agent Code of Practice

From 31 January 2018 any person working for or as a letting agent has to adhere to the Letting Agent Code of Practice. The code practice should help tenants understand what they should expect if they rent their property through a letting agent.

Find out more about the Letting Agent Code of Practice.

Signing the tenancy agreement

All new tenancies that start on or after 1 December 2017 will called the private residential  tenancy. The Scottish Government has published a model tenancy agreement that can be used by your landlord.

You must sign the tenancy agreement before or on the day you move into the property. Your landlord should give you a copy to read before you sign it. When you sign a tenancy, it is always a good idea to check a few things:

  • how much notice you have to give at the end of the lease if you want to leave.
  • how often the rent needs to be paid (normally weekly or monthly)
  • how should the rent be paid for example via bank transfer. Make sure you have the right account details for your landlord
  • does it states the reasons why the landlord can deduct money from the deposit
  • are the landlord’s contact details are included in the agreement
  • double check it is for the address that you’re moving into

Remember under the private residential tenancy, there are no minimum or maximum period when it comes to the length of a tenancy.

Getting to know the property

When you move into the property it is always good to ask about the location of the stop cock (mains water), trip switches/fuse boxes (fuses), and mains gas valve.

You landlord has the responsibility to make sure that the property has the correct type of smoke alarms fitted and they are periodically tested.

Your landlord must get a Landlord Gas Safety Record issued for the property once a year, this work should be carried out by Gas Safe registered engineer.

It is recommended that landlords get the electrical fittings (the wiring, plugs, switches etc) checked once every five years by a qualified engineer, this is called a periodic inspection report (PIR). When it comes to electrical appliances supplied by the landlord,  all appliances need to be checked and tested (portable appliances testing, PAT) at the start of each new tenancy,

Any furniture which the landlord supplies, should adhere to the fire resistance requirements in the Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations 1988. There should be a symbol on your furniture to state that it is fire resistant, so find out more and see examples of the fire resistant label (PDF).

Making an inventory

On the day you move into the property your landlord should give you an inventory, so check it’s both correct and includes everything you need it to. You should ask for one or make your own if they don’t have one for you. An inventory is a list of everything that is in the property you're renting (for example, furniture, carpets and curtains, kitchenware, etc) and the condition it's in. Sometimes photos can be helpful to show any damage, so you might want to bring a camera. Shelter Scotland have a sample inventory (PDF) that you can download and use.

It is a good idea to walk around the property and make a note of the condition of the walls, furniture and any equipment provided. This is ideally best done with the landlord/agent, so it can be agreed that you won’t be held responsible for any damage to the fixture and fittings. Any issues spotted should be noted and added to the inventory.

Once you are happy that the inventory is correct, both you and your landlord or letting agent sign two copies, one for your records and one for theirs.

Paying rent and deposit

You will normally pay the first month’s rent and the deposit on the day you move into the property. Make sure you get a receipt for any payments you make to your landlord and agree a way that future payments should be made. Some landlords will require a standing order to be set up.

You can’t be charged more than the equivalent of two months rent as a deposit.

You will pay your deposit is directly to your landlord who registers it in one of three Tenancy Deposit Schemes, and inform you which one within 30 working days of your tenancy starting. Agree a way to pay your deposit and first month's rent that you are confident with.

Paying utility, council tax bills and arranging insurance

Register with the electricity and/or gas companies that supply the property as soon as you move in. Otherwise, if the person who lived in the property before you did not pay their final bill, you may be expected to pay what they owe.

All you need to do is ring the supplier(s) on your first day, tell them that you have moved in and give them the meter number and the meter reading. The bill will be put in your name and you will be charged from that time onwards. Keep a note of the meter number in case you need to query your first bill.

The advert for the property should include the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating which will help you know how energy efficient the property is. The landlord should give you a copy of the certificate – the only exception would be if you’re renting a single room in a larger property.

Also you should contact your local council and inform them of the date you moved into the property. The council will then send you an updated council tax bill for the property. In Scotland, water charges are included in your council tax bill, so this saves you having to inform your water supplier.

Your landlord will have to insure the building and any belongings they have in the property and you will be responsible for insuring your own property.

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