There is a lot of false information or ‘myths’ out there about housing and homelessness which we have found to be harmful to people, causing them unnecessary stress and worry. Read on and let’s debunk those myths!
1. MYTH: “You don’t have to pay any rent if you are on benefits such as JSA, ESA, Income Support.”
>>TRUTH: You may have to pay some rent even if you are on means-tested benefits, for example due to a non-dependant deduction if you have adult relatives living with you, or due to a Housing Benefit overpayment.
2. MYTH: “If my landlord wants to evict me, they just need to send me a letter.”
>>>TRUTH: Landlords must follow specific legal procedures and issue certain documents such as notices, depending on your type of tenancy, before they can legally evict you. Ask us for help to check whether the documents issued by your landlord are valid. But here is an overview—for each type of tenancy:
(a) Social landlords, such as a housing association or the council, can only evict you on certain grounds (specific reasons), for example due to a breach of tenancy agreement or rent arrears. They must issue a Notice of Proceedings with sufficient notice period, followed by a Court Summons before the case can go to the civil court. A Sheriff (judge) may issue a Court Order if they decide it is reasonable to evict you.
(b) For private Assured Tenancies, landlords can only evict you on certain grounds and must obtain a Court Order first. First they need to issue you with a Notice to Quit and a Notice of Proceedings (AT6 form) which must give enough notice.
(c) For private Short-Assured Tenancies, landlords do not need to use any grounds to evict you, but must issue valid notices before the eviction can proceed. If you refuse to leave after these documents have been issued, your landlord would need to get a Court Order to forcefully remove you. However, it’s not a good idea to wait for that stage because you would have no defence in court and would be liable for court expenses due to the type of tenancy you have.
(d) A new Private Residential Tenancy regime replacing Short-Assured and
Assured private tenancies came into force in December 2017. For these new tenancies, landlords must issue you with a Notice to Leave and give sufficient notice period, which varies depending on how long you’ve lived in the property and the reasons/grounds for the eviction. Landlords must also obtain an Eviction Order from the First-Tier Tribunal (Housing & Property Chamber) who decide whether it is reasonable to evict.
3. MYTH: “If I don’t move out, my landlord could change the locks or forcefully
remove me from the property.”
>>>TRUTH: Changing the locks or removing a tenant without an Order (from Court or from the Housing and Property Chamber for new Private Residential Tenancies) is a criminal offence. Call the police if the landlord attempts to evict you without a Court Order. If the landlord has a Court Order, Sheriff Officers may then come to the property to forcefully remove you if you refuse to leave.
4. MYTH: If I live with my landlord they can ask me to go at any time as it’s their home.”
>>>TRUTH: The resident landlord only has to give reasonable notice to evict their tenant. If the tenancy is longer than 4 months’, 40 days’ notice is required. If the tenancy is for less than 4 months, resident landlords must give a minimum of 28 days’ notice. The lease (tenancy agreement) may extend but not reduce these notice periods.
5. MYTH: If I am evicted, I will be re-housed by the Council.”
>>>TRUTH: If you have nowhere to stay, you should make a homeless presentation to the local authority. Currently presentations can be made at City of Edinburgh Council’s office at 1A Parliament Square, Edinburgh, EH1 1RF. They can be called on 0131 529 7368 or 0800 032 5968 for out-of-hours assistance. Presentations can also be made at any local council office.
The Council will initially give you temporary accommodation until they can do a full homelessness assessment to decide if they have a duty to re-house you. They will use specific criteria to make their decision:
- You must be actually homeless.
- You must have a local connection with Edinburgh, for example if you live/have lived, work or have relatives here.
- You must not be intentionally homeless, i.e. they will look into whether you deliberately did or did not do something that caused you to leave accommodation which you could otherwise have stayed in.
If the Council decide that they don’t have a duty to re-house you, we can appeal the decision. Ask us for an appointment.
6. MYTH: The Council can refuse to give me temporary accommodation if there is no accommodation available at the time.”
>>>TRUTH: The absence of available accommodation does not excuse the local authority from their legal duty to provide temporary accommodation. Ask us for advice and we can help you challenge this.
Click here to download this article as a factsheet (PDF – Housing Myths).
Click here to read our next post ‘Busting Myths about Debts and Bankruptcy’.
Click here to read our next post on Benefit Myths.