Rent increases (Scotland)
What are your rights as a tenant? Can you challenge a rent rise?
Rent rises are temporarily capped for most tenants in Scotland due to emergency measures put in place to ease the impact of the cost of living crisis. In this guide, we take you through who the rent cap applies to, when your rent can be put up and where to get one-on-one help.
1. First, work out if the rent cap applies to you
When it comes to rent increases, your rights depend on the type of accommodation you're in, when your contract started and the type of tenancy (contract) you have.
In December 2017, Scotland radically reformed private rental contracts, so different rules apply depending on when your tenancy started – check your contract if you're unsure. In a nutshell:
- If your contract started on or after 1 December 2017, you have a 'private residential tenancy'.
- If your contract started on or between 2 January 1989 and 30 November 2017, you have an 'assured' or 'short assured tenancy'.
- If your contract started on or before 1 January 1989, you have a 'regulated tenancy'.
Until at least 30 September 2023, there is an up to 6% cap on increases on most private tenancies. This has been in force since 6 September 2022 and there are plans to extend it until 31 March 2024 if approved by the Scottish Parliament. Find out more about the rent cap.
The rent cap likely applies if you live in private rented accommodation and your tenancy started on or after 2 January 1989
If your private rental tenancy started on or after 2 January 1989, the rent cap probably applies to you, so long as you:
- Don't live with your landlord.
- Don't live in student accommodation. This applies if you rent from your university or college, or you live in purpose-built student accommodation, meaning you rent from a private company in a building with at least 30 bedrooms that's only lived in by students.
- Don't have rental increases written into your contract. If your contract sets out the way you will pay over the course of your tenancy, you will have to adhere to any increases.
- Are not starting a new tenancy. The landlord can set the rent for a new tenancy, meaning they don't have to keep the rent the same for you as it was for the last tenant. However, once you've moved in, the rent cap will apply if your tenancy meets the conditions.
You can find out more about mid-market rents on housing charity Shelter's Scottish website.
For everyone else, the rental cap likely doesn't apply
There are three main groups of people who likely won't be covered by the rent cap:
- Those whose private rental tenancies started on or before 1 January 1989. If you rent from a private landlord and your tenancy started on or before 1 January 1989, you have what is known as a 'regulated tenancy'. The rent cap does not apply to you, BUT this is because you have much stronger rights. To find out more, see your Pre-2 January 1989 tenancy rights.
- Those whose private rental tenancies started on or after 2 January 1989 but who don't meet the requirements detailed above. For example, if you live with your landlord or in student accommodation, you have rental increases written into your contract, or you are starting a new tenancy. See your private rental rights when the cap doesn't apply.
- Those in social housing who rent from a council, housing association or co-operative. Here, you probably have what is known as a 'Scottish secure tenancy' – and you'll definitely have one if you have a fixed tenancy of six months or more. For your rights during a Scottish secure tenancy, see Social housing rights.
2. Rent increases during the rent cap – your rights
As explained above, the rent cap applies to most people with private tenancies that started on or after 2 January 1989. If the cap applies to you, rents can only go up mid-contract if:
- The increase is 3% or less for most – though some landlords can raise rents by up to 6% – see below for the rules on 3%+ rises.
- Your rent has not increased in the past 12 months in your current tenancy. So if you've already had one increase, your rent can't go up again in the same 12-month period. However, this does not apply if you moved and your rent increased from your previous tenancy.
- You have been given the correct amount of notice. This is three months if your tenancy started on or after 1 December 2017. For tenancies that started on or between 2 January 1989 and 30 November 2017, the notice period is between one and six months depending on the length of the fixed term – see Shelter Scotland for more information on rent increase notices.
- You have given your landlord written permission if your tenancy started on or between 2 January 1989 and 30 November 2017. This isn't needed for contracts started on or after 1 December 2017.
To increase the rent by more than 3% while the rent cap is in place, your landlord will need to apply to Rent Service Scotland and let you know in writing that they have made this application.
Your landlord will have to prove to Rent Service Scotland that there has been an increase in certain costs associated with the property, such as the interest on their mortgage or their insurance. The rent can be increased to cover 50% of these increased costs, but the rise can't be more than 6% of the current rent.
Rent Service Scotland will let you know if it agrees to the rent increase. You won't have to pay the increase until at least three months after the date of the application.
If you disagree with the outcome of the application, you can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland. You won't have to pay the increase until the Tribunal comes to a decision.
It's worth noting that your landlord can't proactively increase your rent by more than 3% ahead of the rent cap ending — for example, they can't send you a rent increase notice with a 5% increase on 1 September to be paid from 1 December.
3. Your rights when you're not covered by the rent cap
In section one, we explained how to check if the rent cap applies to you. Examples of when the rent cap does not apply include when:
- Your private rental tenancy started on or before 1 January 1989.
- Your private rental tenancy started on or after 2 January 1989 but you either live with your landlord or in student accommodation, or rent increases are written into your contract, or you're starting a new tenancy.
- You're in social housing.
If you're not covered by the rent cap, your rights will depend on the type of tenancy you have and when it started...
During a regulated tenancy, which is a private tenancy that started on or before 1 January 1989, your landlord needs your permission in writing before they can increase the rent. If you don't agree to a rent increase, your landlord can challenge it with Rent Service Scotland. They can do this once every three years.
You also have the right to have a 'fair rent registered'. This is where you apply to have a rent officer evaluate the property and decide what would be a reasonable amount to pay. You can find out more about fair rent registration on the Scottish Government website.
- If you have a private tenancy that started on or between 2 January 1989 and 30 November 2017... You probably have either an assured or short assured tenancy.
During an assured or short assured tenancy, your rent can only be increased where your contract says it can do so. A rent review clause is a section of your contract that says how often your rent can be increased, by how much and the amount of notice your landlord must give you. Both you and your landlord must abide by this agreement.
If rent increases are not written into your contract, you have the right to apply to the First-tier tribunal if you think the proposed increase is too high. You need to do this before the date when you're due to pay the new amount.
- If you have a private tenancy that started on or after 1 December 2017... You probably have what is known as a private residential tenancy.
During a private residential tenancy, if the rent cap does not apply, your rent can be increased any time within the first year of your contract. After this, your rent can only be increased once every 12 months. Your landlord must give you three months' notice before expecting you to pay any rent increase.
If you disagree with a rent increase, you can challenge it by applying to Rent Service Scotland within 21 days of receiving the rent increase notice.
As a social housing tenant your landlord must consult you and consider your opinion before raising your rent. They must give you four weeks’ notice.
If you are unsuccessful, the next step would be to raise a complaint via the appropriate sheriff court – you can find more information, as well as the claim form, on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website. But be warned that there are fees involved. See our Small claims court guide for more info.
Note that those in 'mid-market rent' properties from housing associations and councils are on private residential tenancies, meaning the above information doesn't apply as they're protected by the rental cap. You can find out more about mid-market rents on housing charity Shelter's Scottish website.
4. Had a rent increase when they should have been frozen? Check if you're owed money back
Before the rent cap was in place, there was a rent freeze, meaning rents could not be increased in most circumstances for most types of tenancy. The exact dates the freeze applied varied by tenancy type:
- 6 September 2022 to 31 March 2023 if you rented privately from a landlord, letting agent or council or housing association.
- 6 September 2022 to 25 February 2023 if you were in social housing and renting from a council, housing association or cooperative.
- 28 October 2022 to 30 March 2023 if you lived in college or university halls or purpose-built student accommodation.
If during this time your rent did rise, you may be able to try and get a refund of the increased amount paid. Here's what you need to know:
- Rented privately? During the period listed above, your landlord could apply to Rent Service Scotland to increase your rent due to rises in certain costs associated with the property. If their application was approved, you should have received a letter from a rent officer with the details. If you were not contacted by a rent officer, the increase was likely invalid.
You should contact your landlord in the first instance to explain that the increase was unlawful and ask for the additional money to be paid back. If you are unsuccessful, you can complain to the First-tier Tribunal — you can find more information, as well as the application form, on the Housing and Property Chamber website.
- Rented socially or you were in student halls? You can complain via the appropriate sheriff court – you can find more information, as well as the claim form, on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website. But be warned that there are fees involved. See our Small claims court guide for more info. If you're a young person, you might want to consider calling the Young Scot LawLine at JC Hughes on 0808 801 0801.
5. What to do if your rent is lawfully being put up
Even if your rent is being put up lawfully, you are NOT powerless. Here are the steps you can take if you're facing a rent increase:
- Know your rights. Hopefully this guide has given you an idea of whether your rent increase is allowed in the first place.
If you're worried about eviction, there is an eviction ban in place until at least 30 September 2023. This does not mean that evictions have stopped — your landlord can still send you a valid eviction notice or get an eviction order from a court or tribunal, but for certain eviction grounds they cannot make you leave for six months. Even during the ban, you should try to negotiate with your landlord where possible to avoid being served an eviction notice.
For exceptions to the eviction ban, see Shelter for more info.
- Negotiate. Try to talk to your landlord and see if you can reach an agreement for a lower (or no) increase. After all, evicting you and getting a new tenant in would be a hassle and could cost your landlord fees if they use an agent. If you've been a good tenant (paying the rent on time and taking good care of the property), emphasise that point in the discussion.
If you can't get the increase waived or lowered, you could instead try asking for some of the extra money to be put towards improvements to the property – a more efficient boiler or new carpets, say. Or you could take the opportunity to ask if you can keep a pet.
- Get one-on-one help. This is especially important if you're struggling or feeling pressured into paying more. See below.
6. Where to get one-on-one help
If you're unsure about your rights, or need more support, here's where you can go for free advice (in order of priority):
Housing charity Shelter can advise you on your rights and options if you're dealing with a rent increase.
- Web chat: Chat to an advisor online
- Phone: 0808 800 4444
- Opening times: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Again, you may have to try more than once before you get through as it can be very busy.
If you're looking for legal advice or need someone to represent you in court, you can apply for legal aid to get help pay towards your costs.
Some sheriff courts provide free legal advice on housing issues – find your local court to check if they offer this.
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