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BLOG | Know your rights when dealing with lousy landlords

Author: Patrick Hogan, CAS Policy Officer

If you’re like me and have bounced around rented accommodation in your student days and beyond, you’ve probably encountered your fair share of worn down flats and colourful landlords.  Most of the time, any problems I experienced didn’t extend far beyond the simply amusing (like that university flat I had with the wildly oscillating kitchen floor – hilarious!) and my landlords dealt with me and any issues I had promptly and professionally. Unfortunately though, the situation for some who privately rent can be more serious. 

Though most private landlords do right by their tenants and provide high quality accommodation and efficient service, many do not.  Prompted by the evidence we were seeing, we dug into our statistics a bit and found that last year alone, the Scottish citizens advice bureaux service recorded a total of 6,230 issues related to poor housing conditions and bad landlord practices, or 24 every working day.  This represents an increase of over 6% from the previous year and a shocking 23% rise from the figure recorded two years prior.  Far too frequently we see cases related to dampness and condensation, poor electrical wiring and un-safe appliances not being addressed, while in many instances, when a tenant brings these or other issues up with their landlord, they are met with bullying or harassment. 

That’s not to say we risk sliding back to the slums of past decades – far from it.  In fact, recognising the increasing importance of the sector – especially to young Scots and those with families – the Scottish Government has taken a number of welcome steps in recent years to strengthen regulations and to clearly mark out the rights and obligations of both tenants and landlords.  This has included, among other things, the publication of a national Private Rented Sector (PRS) strategy, boosting the powers of local authorities to tackle poor standards in privately rented housing, introducing a code of practice for letting agents and establishing a new, more secure tenancy regime.

But the experiences of those Scots who come to the citizens advice bureaux across Scotland for advice on these issues indicates the scale of the sorts of problems the authorities must confront.  While I remember my dealings with landlords and rented flats with a smile, it is a serious task to ensure no one is forced to live in substandard conditions or feel like they have to put up with shocking behaviour from their landlord.  More work clearly needs to be done to crack down on those landlords giving the PRS a bad name and to safeguard the rights of tenants. 

Ultimately, though, we want to impress upon private rented tenants that they do not have to put up with unacceptable behaviour from their landlord.  If you’re being treated unfairly, help is available.  You can visit our Adviceguide section on private rented housing for a list of your rights and suggested remedies.  However, we would urge anyone thinking of challenging their landlord to visit your local CAB for free, independent, confidential and impartial advice first.

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