Search site

Private Rented Housing

This page provides information for Tenants of privately rented accommodation. The local privately rented sector is buoyant, particularly in the larger settlements around West Lothian, but there are also opportunities in most of the smaller towns and villages. Letting agencies are based throughout West Lothian and advertise extensively in the local press with properties across the whole county. We can give advice if you're renting a property in West Lothian and keep you up to date with changing legislation so you understand your rights and responsibilities. If you require any further information or can't find the answer to your query please contact us.

Getting started

So you've decided you want to rent privately. Below are some handy tips at how to get started. Begin by choosing what kind of private rented housing you're interested in.  Ask your current landlord or employer for a written reference in case a landlord asks for one.

Privately rented housing is available in most parts of West Lothian, from the rural villages to the larger urban centres in Livingston, Bathgate and Linlithgow.  The costs of renting privately vary from area to area and depending on the size of property.  For further information on the private rented sector:-

  • See local press
  • See local letting agents
  • Speak to West Lothian Council in relation to your option on 01506 280000 
  • Try searching online or read the adverts in the local papers, West Lothian Courier and the Herald & Post or put an advert in yourself
  • Look in newsletters, public message boards and online letting sites.
  • Check how much the average rent in that area is for the kind of property you're interested in 
  •  You can also check other regulatory bodies like ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) or Safeagent (formerly NALS (National Approved Letting Scheme)). This means that they have trained staff, have a good knowledge of tenancy law and they have a complaints procedure. They should have a good local knowledge and will have a choice of property in the area you want
  • Look out for small adverts that appear, for example, on the supermarket notice boards or in the windows of some shops and post offices.
  • You should check whether a property is registered before you consider any property. Visit Landlord Registration Scotland website (to search the register of landlords. If you can't find the landlord or the property you are looking for, just phone or email Landlord Registration on 01506 281252 or landlordregistration@westlothian.gov.uk.

 Note that it is an offence:-

  • for accommodation or letting agencies to charge to put your name on a list and
  • for landlords in Scotland to levy any form of premium on the rent.

Landlord Registration

Landlord registration is a system that helps councils monitor private landlords and ensure that they are suitable people to let out property. All private landlords now have an obligation to apply to the local council for registration and can be fined £50,000 if they don't.

You can check if a landlord is registered online by visiting Landlord Registration (Scotland). .

The rights and responsibilities of being a Landlord may be found here.

Our Landlord Registration information may be found here.

References

When you've seen a property that's right for you call the landlord or the letting agent to let them know that you want to rent the property. Follow this up with a letter expressing your interest.

It is likely you will be asked for the name and address of a former landlord or housing provider who would be able to tell your prospective landlord how your last tenancy was. Landlords also want to know about your ability to pay. They will usually run a credit check on you and may contact your employer or wish to see proof of your entitlements to benefits. Agents may want to charge fees to cover the cost of checking references. If you are unhappy with their proposed charges seek advice.

Viewings

When you've seen a property that's right for you call the landlord or the letting agent to let them know that you want to rent the property. Follow this up with a letter expressing your interest.

It is likely you will be asked for the name and address of a former landlord or housing provider who would be able to tell your prospective landlord how your last tenancy was. Landlords also want to know about your ability to pay. They will usually run a credit check on you and may contact your employer or wish to see proof of your entitlements to benefits. Agents may want to charge fees to cover the cost of checking references. If you are unhappy with their proposed charges seek advice.

Before the viewing:-

  • Let someone know where you are
  • Let someone know when you will be back
  • Take a mobile phone with you
  • Consider carrying a personal alarm
  • Check online to see if the property is registered
  • Check for HMO license if appropriate.

The Viewing:-

When you first view a property it is important to take your time to look around. Take time to check:-

  • The amount of the deposit. This should be no more than two month's rent
  • What type of tenancy they are offering you

Will you have enough:-

  • Money to pay the rent?
  • Money to pay the utilities?
  • Money for a deposit?

Does the property have?

  • Room for everyone
  • Space for your furniture
  • Cooking facilities
  • Heating, lighting and ventilation
  • Electric Sockets.

 Is the property safe and certified? - Check for:-

  • Gas Safety Certificate
  • Smoke detectors
  • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Your landlord has an up to date Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) to ensure the property is electrically safe
  • EPC - Energy Performance Certificate. This lets you know how energy efficient the property is.
  • Any furniture which the landlord supplies, adheres to the Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations 1988. There should be a symbol on your furniture to state that it is fire resistant.
  • Working door entry system
  • Well-lit access/stair lighting.

 Watch out for:-

  • Smell of damp
  • Stains/soot on gas appliances
  • Bare electrical wiring
  • Draughts
  • Pest droppings mould and damp patches

 Does everything work?

  • Windows
  • Heating
  • Hot water
  • Toilet and shower
  • Cooker
  • Fridge
  • Vacuum cleaner

 Ask!

  • Who is the landlord?
  • Is the landlord registered?
  • Does the property have an HMO licence?
  • How long is the lease for?
  • How much is the rent?
  • Are there any other charges?
  • Do you need to pay a deposit?
  • To see a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  • About the school catchment areas
  • Locations of:
    • The stopcock (mains water)
    • Trip switches/fuse boxes
    •  Mains gas valve

Find out who is responsible for:-

  • Utility bills
  • Council Tax
  • Repairs
  • Cleaning communal areas i.e. stair
Sign Ups

Your landlord or agent should have discussed and given you a copy of the following documents:

  • Private Residential Tenancy Agreement.
  • Private Residential Tenancy - Easy to read notes
  • Inventory - This is a detailed description of the property and its contents when you move in. This is a very important tool at the end of the tenancy when applying for your deposit back through the relevant Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

More information on Private Residential Tenancies can be found here.

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. Your landlord has to register the deposit in one of three Tenancy Deposit Schemes, and inform you which one within 30 working days of your tenancy starting. If they haven't registered your deposit, remind your landlord. The First Tier Tribunal (Housing & Property) Chamber  can order your landlord to do that and pay you up to three times the deposit.

Safety Certificates

You must be given a copy of the various safety certificates for the property you are considering renting. You can find out more by calling the West Lothian Landlord Registration Team on 01506 281252 or looking at the Scottish Governments Private Renting site .

 

Rights and Responsibilities

You must register with an electricity and/or gas companies as soon as you move in. It is your responsibility to make sure these are paid.

You should contact our Revenues and Benefits Section to Register for Council Tax. You can do this online or by requesting a form using the details supplied.

Your landlord must insure the building and any belongings they have in the property. Tenants are responsible for insuring their own property. 

The Repairing Standard is the standard of facilities and maintenance which all private rented accommodation must meet. You should find out more information regarding this in your Tenant's Information Pack.  If the property doesn't reach the Repairing Standard and the landlord refuses to carry out the necessary work, then tenants can take their landlord to the irst-tier Tribunal for Scotland Housing and Property Chamber(Opens in a new window. Depending on the nature of the disrepair, Environmental Health may be able to intervene directly.

Housing Benefit

People on low incomes with high rental costs are usually entitled to receive Housing Benefit to help them pay the rent.

It is important, however, to remember that there is no automatic entitlement - Housing Benefit will only be paid to someone who has gone through the application process properly and satisfies the statutory requirements.  Moreover, the level of Housing Benefit awarded may not pay the rent in full because the amount of rent that can be covered by Housing Benefit is limited to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate.

Full information on Housing Benefit may be found here.

Deposit Guarantee Service

The deposit guarantee service has been set up to help those who need assistance to access accommodation in the private rented sector by providing a written guarantee for landlords in lieu of a deposit. The guarantee provides the landlord with security and allows the tenant time to pay the deposit in manageable instalments.

What they do for tenants:

  • Negotiation with private landlords
  • Support with setting up and sustaining a private tenancy
  • Guarantee deposits.

What they do for landlords:

  • Support to set up and manage a private tenancy
  • Liaise with tenants
  • Guarantee deposits.

Access to the deposit guarantee is by referral and if you are interested in the service please contact your local Council Information Service in person or telephone 01506 282754 option 2 to make an appointment to discuss your housing options. More information can be found at Home Choice webpage Alternatively you can Email: Scottish Governments Private Renting site  for more information.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme

Deposit Guarantee Schemes, run by independent third parties, are in operation in Scotland under the Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011. These are free to use and allow protection and reclaim of deposits on a 24/7 basis. The law was introduced to ensure that tenants have their deposits returned when they move out - provided the terms of the tenancy have been met. Should there be any dispute an impartial resolution service is available.

Three schemes are operating, these are run by the Scottish Government:

Landlords who receive a deposit are legally obliged:

  • To pay deposits to an approved tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of receiving it
  • To provide the tenant with key information about the tenancy and deposit

Further information can be found on the Scottish Governments website  .

Housing Advice and Support

West Lothian Council's Housing options team can offer housing related advice and assistance  and can direct you to other departments within the local authority and external agencies as appropriate.

The Renting Scotland website  (funded by Scottish Government and Shelter Scotland) contains unbiased tools, guides, checklists and advice for both tenants and landlords.

Accessing Benefits and Debt support

You can find out if you might be entitled to claim Local Housing Allowance or any other benefits that might help you pay your rent or other housing costs. The Advice Shop can offer assistance to check this. You might be able to get help with your deposit. You can receive further information on both of these by contacting us using the details provided on this page.

Types of Tenure in Scotland

If you are about to rent a property there are three types of tenure available:-

  • Scottish Assured Tenancy
  • Short Scottish Assured Tenancy
  • Private Residential Tenancy

The type of tenancy that may best suit your needs depends on your individual circumstances.  With a tenancy you pay rent, have exclusive possession of the property and the property is let for a term. 'Rent' is paid for the right to occupy the property, and not for any services provided by the landlord. 'Exclusive possession' means you have the right to control who can come into the property. 'Term' is the period of time for which the property is let.

Assured tenancies 

This type of tenancy provides significant security of tenure. In order to evict you from an assured tenancy, the landlord need not terminate the contractual tenancy.  However, the landlord must serve a notice specifying a ground for eviction.  Thereafter, the landlord must take court action and satisfy the court that certain grounds exist; some grounds are mandatory and some discretionary.  If the landlord satisfies the court that a mandatory ground exists the court will have to grant an eviction order whereas if the ground is discretionary the court will be required to consider whether or not eviction is reasonable.

Short assured tenancies

This is the most common type of tenancy in Scotland.  It provides little security of tenure and it is relatively straightforward for the landlord to evict a tenant provided they comply with certain legal steps.  The landlord has the right to end the tenancy at the end of the lease provided the landlord has given notice to terminate the tenancy (notice to quit) and notice that the landlord requires possession.  However, the landlord will have to take court action in order to evict the tenant.

To be a short assured tenancy, a landlord needs to have served on the tenants - prior to the signing and commencement of the lease by the tenants - a statutory form known as an AT5, which specifies that the tenancy being created is a short assured tenancy. If this is not done prior to the signing and commencement of the lease by the tenants then the tenancy created will be an assured tenancy.

Private Residential Tenancies

The new legislation came into force on 1st December 2017, from that date landlords are no longer able to issue Assured or Short Assured Tenancies. These have been replaced with a new tenancy regime which is known as a Private Residential Tenancy (PRT).

What this means is that for any new tenancy you create from 1 December 2017 you are required to issue a new Private Residential Tenancy. The new regime WILL NOT supersede any Short Assured or Assured lease your current tenant has. This means if the tenancy is renewing on a contractual basis, this can continue to renew under the Housing Scotland Act 1988 until it is brought to an end by either landlord or tenant by serving notice. If agreed by both landlord and tenant the new Private Residential Tenancy can be issued when the current tenancy comes to a natural end.

With the new tenancy, there is no initial tenancy term between the landlord and the tenant as was  current practice. The new tenancy will last until one party serves the required notice on the other. The tenancy will be open-ended and will last until the tenant wishes to leave the let property or the landlord uses one (or more) of 18 grounds of eviction. The tenancy agreement you sign with your tenant will also change. This will be based on a model agreement which has been developed. Landlords will be allowed to amend this model agreement and add extra clauses, however, some information contained in with the new lease will be mandatory and will not be able to change.

One of the biggest changes with the new Private Residential Tenancy is the removal of the "no fault" ground for ending the tenancy.  Landlords are no longer be able to issue a Notice to Quit without an evidential reason. The period of notice served between landlord and tenants will also change under the new legislation and the current Notice to Quit will be replaced with a new "Notice to Leave".

Tenant to landlord - 28 days regardless of length of tenure

Landlord to tenant (where the tenant has not breached any aspect of tenancy) - 28 days, if tenant has occupied for 6 months of less 84 days, if tenant has occupied for more than 6 months

Landlord to tenant (where tenant has breach an aspect of tenancy) - 28 days

Further information and model Tenancy Agreement can be found at Scottish Government website .