Private lets & HMOs - your rights
A flat which houses three or more people who are unrelated is called a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and the local authority requires the landlord of such properties to maintain certain standards of repair and safety (see below).
Before signing a tenancy agreement check that the landlord holds a HMO licence. If you live with an owner they do not count for deciding whether a house is a HMO. For example, you live with the owner and another lodger then this isn't a HMO. If, however, you live with the owner and two other lodgers then this is a HMO.
Any owner operating an unlicensed HMO will be liable to prosecution. However, your tenancy rights remain unaffected and you can only be evicted by court order if you breach your tenancy.
From late 2005 anyone who rents out a flat or house must be registered with the local council under the Antisocial Behaviour etc., (Scotland) Act 2004. Holders of HMO licenses are automatically registered. Landlords must be a 'fit and proper person'. It is an offence to let out a property without being registered and the council can stop the rental income of unregistered landlords.
If you're in any doubt your local council's Licensing Section can help you.
Repair & safety
Before the council can grant an HMO licence they must check that the owner, and anyone who manages the property, doesn't have any criminal convictions. The council must check that your landlord respects your legal rights as a tenant. You should be given a written tenancy agreement stating what your landlord's responsibilities are.
Your landlord must keep the property and any furniture and fittings in good repair and deal fairly with you as regards rent and other payments. For example, they must go through the correct procedure if they want to increase your rent; they cannot resell you gas or electricity at a profit; they cannot withhold your deposit unnecessarily; and they cannot evict you illegally.
Your landlord is also responsible for making sure that the behaviour of any tenants living in the HMO does not annoy or upset other people living in the neighbourhood. In order to keep their HMO licence your landlord must maintain the property properly.
What are my landlord's duties?
· keep the stairwell, hall, shared kitchen and bathroom in good repair.
· keep the cooker, boiler, fridge, sinks, bath and lighting in good repair.
· keep all facilities for heating, hot water and ventilation in good order.
· ensure that all gas appliances and installations are safe and checked once a year by a registered CORGI gas engineer (www.corgi-gas-safety.com)
· ensure that all electrical appliances and installations are safe and tested every three years by a contractor approved by the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (www.niceic.org.uk) or the Electrical Contractors Association of Scotland (www.select.org.uk/index.htm).
· ensure that all fire precautions (for example, smoke alarms and fire extinguishers) are in good working order and that the fire escape route is kept safe and free from obstructions.
· ensure that all furniture supplied isn't flammable.
· maintain the roof, windows and exterior of the property.
· provide enough rubbish bins.
· return your deposit within a reasonable time when you move out, preferably within 14 days.
· put up notices in the accommodation giving the name and address of the person responsible for managing it so that you can contact them when necessary and explaining what you should do in an emergency.
· ensure that the property has good locks on the doors and windows.
· ensure that there is a phone line installed so that tenants can set up a contract with a phone company to supply the service.
What are my duties?
· let your landlord know if anything in the property needs repaired.
· take good care of the property and try not to damage anything.
· not let rubbish pile up in or around the property but dispose of it properly in the bins provided.
· let the landlord inspect the property so they can check whether any maintenance work needs doing. Generally this should happen once every six months. You are entitled to reasonable advance notice.
· make sure that you don't behave in a way that can annoy or upset your neighbours. Your landlord is responsible for dealing with any complaints made by your neighbours and must take action if they are unhappy with your behaviour.
What if standards aren't being met?
If you don't think your landlord is managing the flat properly and maintaining these standards, you can:
· Talk to your landlord if possible - he or she may not realise that there is a problem until you discuss it.
· If you are worried about confronting your landlord or if they refuse to correct the problem, you can get in touch with the council, which has powers to make your landlord bring the management and physical conditions of the HMO up to standard.
· The forthcoming Housing (Scotland) Act 2005 will give you a right to ask the Private Rented Housing Committee to require the landlord to bring the property up to the new 'repairing standard'. The Committee can make a enforcement order or reduce the level of rent. A landlord can also be prosecuted and fined for ignoring an enforcement order
Updated: 11 August 2005.