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Picking a tenant in Scotland

This information only applies in Scotland.

Choosing a reliable tenant who'll respect your property is crucial when it comes to minimising the risks that come with renting. Read this quick guide to understand some of the things that can help Scottish landlords make an informed decision and protect their investment.

Whether you market the property yourself or use a letting agent, be clear about the type of tenant you want and any restrictions you have, such as whether pets or smoking are allowed.

Once you’ve found a potential tenant, you can carry out background checks before giving them a tenancy agreement and allowing them to move in. Documents commonly asked for include:

  • proof of ID, such as a passport, driving licence or utility bill from their current home
  • proof the tenant can afford the rent, such as a payslip, bank statement or benefits letter
  • references, such as from one of the tenant’s previous landlords

If you want a credit check done on a potential tenant, you can engage a company to carry one out, but you must have written permission from the tenant first, and you must cover the cost yourself – it’s against the law to require a tenant to pay for it.

If you’re concerned about the tenant’s ability to pay the rent, you can ask them to provide a guarantor. This is someone who agrees to cover the rent or any property damage if the tenant doesn’t pay. Make sure the guarantor agrees in writing to take on the role. You can also carry out the same background checks on the guarantor as done on the tenant.

Remember, it’s illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants on the basis of gender, sexuality, race, disability or religion.

In Scotland, there are very strict controls on what a tenant can and can’t be charged for by a landlord or letting agent.

The only payments landlords and letting agents can legally require a tenant to make are the rent and a refundable deposit. These charges are also subject to restrictions. For example, rents can only be increased once a year and following a three-month notice period, while deposits can’t be more than two months’ rent and must be lodged with a government approved tenancy deposit scheme.

It’s a criminal offence to charge a tenant an illegal premium. These illegal charges include administration fees, holding fees and for credit checks. If a tenant is charged for an illegal premium, the landlord or letting agent must repay the tenant and could also face a fine of up to £5,000.

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