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Five Questions About: Tenants' rights

Do tenants have rights beyond what's in the lease?

There are certain basic rights that tenant have, including the right to live in the property undisturbed, the right to live in a property in good repair and the right to information about the tenancy. No tenancy agreement, whether it's signed and sealed or a verbal contract, can remove these rights, they can only supplement them.

How can tenants be sure their deposit will be protected?

Since April 2007, a deposit has to be protected within a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme. The scheme will provide the tenant with information about where their deposit is being held, how they can claim it back and what they can do if there is a dispute over the deposit. This is not yet a legal requirement in Scotland, although landlords and letting agencies can voluntarily use a protection scheme.

How often can a landlord visit a property?

Although tenants have a responsibility to give their landlord access, they also have a right to live in their home without being harassed. Landlords cannot enter a tenant's home without permission or when they are not there, nor can they send builders around without notice.

Who protects these rights?

Tenants' rights are taken very seriously. If a landlord harasses tenants or unfairly evicts them, they can be fined and even jailed. There are many sources of advice for tenants, including Shelter, Citizens Advice and Community Legal Advice, a free and confidential advice service that's funded through legal aid.

What responsibilities do tenants have?

Some are obvious: paying rent, taking care of the place and paying the bills. Tenants also have a responsibility not to leave the property for an extended period, perhaps because they are going to prison or hospital. If that happens, they must inform the landlord as soon as possible.