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Law: Tenants' special; the Young Scot guide to moving out on your own.

PEOPLE leave home at many different ages and for all sorts of reasons

You may be going to study or to work somewhere else or you may want to live with friends or other students. You may be leaving care or simply want a bit more independence

In Scotland you can legally leave home at 16, but for most of us it happens a bit later

Whenever it happens, most of us end up renting to begin with so it's important to think about things before you leave, to look at the options, find out as much as you can and who can help, and prepare yourself

Here, the Young Scot legal team at Ross Harper Solicitors give you the renting rundown so you know where you stand

RENTED ACCOMMODATION

THE law relating to rented accommodation is important for the one in three of us who rent from housing associations, councils or private landlords.

There are thousands of people currently living in rented accommodation, but it is surprising how few of us are aware of our rights and responsibilities.

Ideally, it is best to ensure that any rental agreement you enter into is in writing as this is easier to prove.

Indeed, there is a saying in law that a verbal contract is not worth the paper it is written on. This is because a verbal contract can be very difficult to establish.

There are many types of agreement that can be entered into when renting property.

The type of agreement you have can affect the right you have to stay in any property.

Currently, tenancies can fall into one of five groups. These are assured tenancies, short assured tenancies, Scottish secure tenancies, short Scottish secure tenancies and unprotected tenancies.

ASSURED TENANCIES

YOU can have an assured tenancy if you do not have a resident landlord and the accommodation is your main home.

Your landlord cannot evict you unless he can show good grounds for doing so.

These grounds include failure to pay your rent or damage you have caused to the property.

Not only does an assured tenant have the right to remain in the property, but you also have the right to have the property maintained in a reasonable state of repair.

Furthermore, the partner of the tenant (opposite sex only) has the right to take over the tenancy on the death of the tenant.

SHORT

ASSURED TENANCY

YOU can have a short assured tenancy if the duration of that tenancy is for at least six months and your landlord has made it clear to you that the tenancy on offer is a short assured one. This type of tenancy is not as secure as an assured tenancy.

When the duration of the tenancy ends the landlord can apply to the court to get his property back and only has to give the tenant two months notice.

This means that the short assured tenant only has the right to stay in the property for the agreed period. In most other ways, however, the rights of the tenant are very similar to those under an assured tenancy.

Bear in mind, however, that if the landlord does not try to get his property back at the end of the tenancy period then the tenancy will automatically be renewed for the initial period or for one year, whichever is shorter.

SCOTTISH SECURE TENANCIES

SCOTTISH Secure Tenancies and Short SSTs were introduced in September 2002. These were intended to replace the assured and short assured tenancies.

However, private landlords can still choose to offer ``old'' assured and short assured tenancies. The new SSTs may apply where your landlord is a housing association of which you are a member, or another public authority.

If you have an SST your landlord has to abide by equal opportunities legislation and can't discriminate on grounds of sex, race or religion (among other things). SSTs also protect the tenant's right to a fair rent. Termination of the tenancy can occur if the landlord obtains a repossession order from the court, by written agreement between the landlord and tenant or after the tenant gives four weeks notice.

You should also note that all the rights referred to here are minimum rights and any written agreement can offer better rights for the tenant if the landlord agrees.

UNPROTECTED TENANCY

THERE are many circumstances in which you can be regarded as an unprotected tenant. This might be the case if you have a resident landlord or pay very low rent, or no rent at all.

Unprotected tenants do not have any security. However, the landlord still requires to go to court for a court order to have you evicted from the property.

One final thought, remember that harassment by your landlord and certain types of eviction are actually criminal offences.

If this happens to you, you should report the matter to the police and seek legal advice.

A LOT of this may seem like common sense, but it's easy to forget in the excitement of looking around a potential home.

Ask questions over the phone before viewing you could save yourself some time if the place is not going to be suitable.

Take a friend with you they might notice something you miss.

Take your time looking it over . Is it secure? Is there central heating? Is there a shower/bath/hot water? Is the place furnished or do you have to provide your own furniture?

Does your rent include bills? If not, how much are they per quarter? What about facilities like shops and public transport? How would you get out if there was a fire? Do the electrics look safe? Is there a gas safety certificate? How much is the council tax?

Don't be afraid to ask questions. If this is to be your home these are things you need to know.

Ask when they need to know your decision. Although you may feel under pressure to find a place, it's better to find somewhere that really is suitable. You don't want to have to move out just after you arrive.

Getting help

PRIVATE tenants and landlords: Troubleshooting Guide provides answers to the most asked questions about private tenants and landlords such as tenancy agreements, deposits, repairs and many more.

Also see The Right to Compensation for Improvements and Relationship Breakdown and Housing Rights.

These are all FREE from Home Point, Communities Scotland, Thistle House, 91 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh EH12 5 HE. T el: 0131-313 0044.

Email: homepoint@communitiesscot-land.gov.uk or log on to www.communitiesscotland.gov.uk

This organisation also provide a lot of information on housing including renting and buying advice. Other free publications include: Private Tenants Guide How to buy a home in Scotland and At Home: A Guide for young people preparing for a new tenancy .

Some can be downloaded from the website. Remember Young Scot membership gives you access to free 24 hour , 365 days a year legal advice for any problems you have on the home front. The number is on your card.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 2, 2003
Words:1172
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