Legislation and housing advice
Here you'll find some of the terms and phrases relating to housing laws you need to be aware of if you are renting a property in the UK for the first time:
- Tenancy agreements
- Landlord registration
- Property licensing
- Fire safety
- Gas checks
- Energy performance certificates
- Council tax
- More information & advice
If you wish to rent a flat – either through Heriot-Watt University, a private company or letting agency – you will be asked to sign a tenancy agreement.
Letting agencies will usually ask you to sign a short-assured tenancy agreement, which means that you are responsible for the rent and bills for a minimum period of 6 months, and then rolling on a month-to-month basis after that. If you are sharing with flatmates, you are all jointly responsible for the rent and the up-keep of the property.
Private landlords and agents must register with their local authority to ensure that they are a fit and proper person for renting properties. Please check to ensure that your landlord or agent is registered before signing a tenancy agreement or paying a deposit for a flat. You can use the search facility on the Landlord Registration Scotland website.
If your property is being rented to three or more unrelated students, your landlord is required by law to have a house in multiple occupancy (HMO) licence. Houses in multiple occupancy must meet additional safety requirements and must include safety fittings, such as fire extinguishers, mains-wired smoke alarms and fire doors. Find out more about houses in multiple occupancy.
You should make sure that smoke alarms are fitted and that furniture complies with the 1989 fire and furniture regulations.
Landlords are required by law to have all gas appliances checked yearly to ensure that these are in safe working order. Please request a copy of this certificate before you sign a tenancy agreement.
To comply with EU legislation, all rental properties marketed in Scotland must have a valid energy performance certificate (EPC), which gives the property an energy rating. This shows you the energy efficiency of the property, so you have an idea of how much your energy bills might cost before you sign a tenancy agreement.
All full-time registered students are exempt from paying council tax. You can collect an exemption form from the Student Service Centre on campus.
Council tax is a bill that working people have to pay for the upkeep of the city (water rates, rubbish collection, roads, schools etc). The council tax rate is calculated per property (not per person) and varies depending on the size and age of the property. Find out more about council tax on the Edinburgh City Council website.
If your spouse or partner will be living with you and will be working, then they will be eligible to pay council tax (you will still be exempt though).
For more information and housing advice, you can contact: