One of the most common reasons that people come to Shelter Scotland for help with is disputes between tenants and landlords.

These represented 10% of all the cases we saw in 2016-17, and 20% of the cases from people who live in the private rented sector (PRS). Even more staggeringly, 46% of all the people who came to us for help were living in the PRS - a group that only makes up 14% of all households in Scotland. So, what can you do, as a tenant, to ensure that your tenancy runs as smoothly as possible?

The key is in good communication.

From 1st December 2017, all new PRS tenancies in Scotland must be Private Rented Tenancies. Some of the changes this has brought with it include tenancies no longer being for a fixed term - this means it runs indefinitely until you, the tenant, or your landlord choose to end it. There is no 'no fault' eviction anymore, your landlord must tell you which of the 18 reasons for ending a tenancy is applicable and give you a 'notice to leave' document. They also must give you an increased period of notice - if you've lived in a property for more than six months, landlords must give 84 days' notice to leave unless you have broken one of the agreed rules. Your landlord can also only increase your rent once every 12 months.

These changes do give greater security of tenure to tenants, but that doesn't mean you don't still have responsibilities. It's always a good idea to make sure that any communication between yourself and your landlord is in writing, and you should be given a written or electronic tenancy agreement before or on the date that you move in - make sure that you've thoroughly read your tenancy agreement before you sign it. When you move in, go through your inventory with a fine-toothed comb and take photos - if you disagree with anything on it then let your landlord know as soon as possible. Make sure that you keep a record of any agreements you make with your landlord.

Your landlord must make sure that your home meets the 'repairing standard'. This means that, for example: the property must be wind and water tight; water, gas and electricity must all be safe and in working order; any fixtures and fittings must be in a reasonable state of repair and in working order; furniture must be fit for purpose and smoke and carbon monoxide alarms must be fitted and work.

Essentially -it should be fit for human habitation. If something breaks then it is your responsibility, as tenant, to tell your landlord so that they can fix it. You should report all repairs, however minor, as soon as you can. Take photos and report it in writing if possible. You can download a repair letter template from our website. There's no set time limit on how long your landlord can take to make these repairs, but it should be within a reasonable length of time - some things like a problem with the gas supply should be dealt with urgently.

There are some repairs though, which you should be able to carry out yourself - such as replacing a lightbulb - and you should keep your home clean and tidy. This video from Renting Scotland should give you a clearer idea of whose responsibility it is to repair what.

If your landlord does need access to the property, for example to make a repair or to carry out an inspection, then by law they must give you 24 hours' notice in writing. If the proposed date or time doesn't suit, then you can refuse and ask for a more convenient time. They cannot show up unannounced.

What happens if you do have a dispute with your landlord, and it can't be resolved by clear communication? You can refer your issue to the First-tier Tribunal who will make a final decision. It will help if you can provide evidence of written communication you've had with your landlord, or other evidence such as an inspection by experts, a doctor's note, receipts for repair issues you've had to deal with yourself.

We have lots of advice about private renting, and how to be a good tenant, available on our website. In summary; make sure all communication between yourself and your landlord is in writing, keep a record of any agreements you make, report all repairs as soon as possible and keep your home clean and tidy. Hopefully then your tenancy will run smoothly.