Knowledge Centre

Knowledge Centre

Our Knowledge Centre has information and advice on a range of issues, including benefits, employment, housing, neighbourhood issues, and family & relationships.

Benefits

Employment

If you have an issue with your employer, the grievance process can be used to try and resolve it. The process starts informally and escalates to more formal means as it goes on. The idea is that if the issue can be resolved at any point in the process without more formal methods, it can be done.

1) Informal discussion

 

Very often, you can resolve issues in a straight-forward way, by discussing any issues that you have with your employer directly. This may be speaking to your line manager, the owner of the company or HR / Personnel team where appropriate.
Informal discussion can reach mutually beneficial solutions without the cost, time and stress of more formal methods.

2) Formal Grievance

 

This should be done in writing, outlining the situation and the preferred outcome. You should refer to your employer’s grievance procedure to see how to go about doing this.
Your employer should arrange a meeting with you to discuss the issues of concern. They will decide based on the information presented in the grievance and at the meeting. This decision will be to uphold or dismiss the grievance. If this is not resolved, you can then escalate this for early conciliation through ACAS.
Note – In instances where a grievance is escalated to an employment tribunal, there is a strict time limit within which you will need to make your claim. This is normally three months minus once day from the date of the issue that you are complaining about.

3) Consider escalating to early conciliation.

 

You must contact the organisation ACAS and go through a process called early conciliation before a claim is made to the tribunal. The employer (called the respondent) will have a chance to respond to your claim. You and the respondent will have the chance to agree on a solution. This agreement can include solutions that a tribunal is not able to reach.

If you cannot agree or either of you do not wish to talk, the complaint can be brought to the tribunal. An early conciliation will be given, and you will have 1 month to use it to make a tribunal claim. A claim to the employment tribunal must be made within 3 months minus a day from when the incident occurred.

 

The employment tribunal can be used If you have done the following:

  • Spoken to your employer or other senior manager about the issue.
  • Launched a formal grievance about the issue and exhausted every step in the process.
  • Gone through early conciliation.

You must make a claim to the tribunal within 3 months minus a day of the incident (e.g. being dismis sed) occurring. The employment tribunal does not have a fee.

You must contact the organisation ACAS and go through a process called early conciliation before a claim is made to the tribunal. The employer (called the respondent) will have a chance to respond to your claim. You and the respondent will have the chance to agree on a solution. This agreement can include solutions that a tribunal is not able to reach. If you cannot agree or either of you do not wish to talk, the complaint can be brought to the tribunal within 1 month.

You may need to go to a preliminary tribunal hearing where a judge will decide on whether the main tribunal hearing should take place. At the tribunal hearing, you will have a chance to present your case to the judge. You will be given the chance to ask the respondent for documents (e.g. your employment contract).

If you win the case, your employer may be asked to act in order to rectify the situation. The following are examples of what the employer may have to do:

  • Change your working conditions or offer your job back.
  • Pay certain court costs.
  • Offer you compensation.

If you lose your case, a reconsideration can be requested from the tribunal within 14 days.

An employer is not required to provide you with a reference by law unless it is:

  • Specified in writing that the employer will provide one.
  • For certain financial services jobs regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). This usually concerns jobs known as ‘controlled functions’ (you can find out more about controlled functions on the FCA website).

If an employer has a reference policy this can restrict:

  • How much they include in a reference.
  • Who can give a reference on the employer’s behalf.

References must not:

  • Be misleading.
  • Include irrelevant personal information.

If you applied for a job and were unsuccessful, ask the employer to:

  • Clarify the reasons why you did not get the job.
  • Share with you any formal rules such as a company recruitment policy, or rules it has on recruiting for that job (however, employers do not have to possess these formal rules).
  • Provide you with any other feedback such as how you could have done better in the job interview.

The employer is not obligated to give you this information. However, it is good practice to do this so that:

  • You understand what to do differently with your future job applications.
  • They show they are open in how they make these decisions.
  • They keep a good relationship with you if you already work for them.

You can try and challenge the decision if you think they are:

  • Breaching discrimination law, for instance, not getting the job because of your sex or race.
  • Not applying their own rules consistently, for instance they have a written policy on how they should conduct a job interview, and yours was conducted differently.
  1. Discrimination
What is a protected characteristic?

The Equality Act 2010 outlines protected characteristics whose holders are protected from discrimination. It is against the law for someone to be directly or indirectly discriminated against due to their possession of any of the following:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

You can take action about discrimination even if it is because someone thinks you have a characteristic when you do not.

Direct and Indirect Discrimination

You mustn’t be treated differently because of who you are, this would be direct discrimination. If you fall under one of the headings it would be unlawful to be discriminated against.
When you’re treated in the same way as other people at work, but it has a worse effect on you because of who you are. Employers may be able to justify indirect discrimination if they can show a good business reason.

If you have been discriminated against

If you feel that you are being discriminated against due to a protected characteristic, either directly or indirectly, then you should raise this with your employer in the first instance to see if this can be resolved informally.
If this cannot be resolved informally, then the next step is to raise this as a formal grievance.

  1. Bullying

If you feel you are being treated unfairly at work, you should recognise important which type of treatment you are experiencing. This is because you have different rights under the law, depending on which of the following is taking place:

  • Bullying.
  • Discrimination (see section).
  • Harassment (see section).
  • Victimization (see section).
What can I do If I am being Bullied at Work?

Bullying is regarded as a behaviour which derives from a person or group that is unwanted and makes you feel uncomfortable. It also includes you feeling:

  • Scared or Intimidated.
  • Less respected or put down.
  • Made fun of.
  • Upset.

Examples of bullying at work could include:

  • An individual or group spreading a false rumour about you.
  • An individual or group constantly keeps putting you down in meetings.
  • Your boss does not let you go on training courses, but they allow everyone else to.
  • Your boss keeps giving you heavier workloads than everyone else.
  • Your team never lets you join social events.
  • Someone at the same or more junior level as you consistently overrules your authority.

The bullying might:

  • Form a regular pattern of behaviour or it may be a one-off incident.
  • Occur face-to-face, on social media, in emails, or phone calls.
  • Occur at work or at work social events.
  • Not always be apparent or noticed by others.
What is Upward Bullying?

Bullying can also happen from staff towards a more senior employee, a manager, or an employer (commonly referred to as ‘upward bullying’ or ‘subordinate bullying’).

It can be from one employee or group of employees. Some instances of upward bullying can include:

  • Showing continued disrespect.
  • Refusing to complete tasks.
  • Spreading rumours.
  • Doing things to make you seem unskilled or unable to do your job properly.

It is hard for those in a senior position to realise they are experiencing bullying behaviour from their staff. It is essential to gain a better understanding the real reasons for the behaviour. For instance, it could be related to the wider issue with the culture of the organisation.

Employers and managers should work together to identify the cause of the issue and address it.

When is Bullying considered Harassment?

Harassment is when bullying or unwanted behaviour is about any of the following ‘protected characteristics’ under discrimination law:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Harassment because of pregnancy or maternity is treated differently and could be direct discrimination.

What Options do I have?

Sometimes, the person upsetting you might be unaware of the effect their actions can have on you so try speaking to them (if you feel you can). You should:

  • Explain how their behaviour makes you feel.
  • Be firm, not aggressive.
  • Stick to the facts.

If you do not feel comfortable talking to the person face to face, you could:

  • Put this in an email.
  • Ask for support from a trade union representative if you have one.

If you do not feel comfortable doing this or the bullying continues, speak with someone at work you feel comfortable with. This could be:

  • Your boss.
  • Another manager.
  • Someone in HR.
  • A counsellor if your employer provides one.
  • Your trade union or staff representative if you have one.

You should keep a record of all instances of bullying you have suffered, including:

  • How it makes you feel.
  • The dates and times it occurred.
  • Any evidence such as emails or screenshots of social media posts.
  • Any witnesses.

Most bullying happens out of sight of others, so you might not have any witnesses. This does not stop you reporting the bullying to your manager to get the situation resolved.

What can my Employer do?

Your organisation should possess a policy on bullying that states how it should be handled. If no policy exists, your employer still has a legal duty of care to protect you while you are at work (which includes dealing with bullying issues).

If you must leave your job because of severe bullying that your employer did nothing about, you might be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal for constructive dismissal.

What do I do if I am having Problems at Work, or I Lose my Job?

Under the law, you must not be treated unfairly at work through:

  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation

Examples of unfair treatment include:

  • After you report a case of harassment, your manager insists you are a troublemaker, so you lose out on promotions and training opportunities.
  • After you provide evidence as a witness of sexual harassment, your colleagues keep stopping you from joining social events.
  • After raising a grievance about discrimination, your employer makes you redundant.

If you experience any of these types of unfair treatment above, you can try and raise a formal grievance or appeal a dismissal.

  1. Harassment

If you feel you are being treated unfairly at work, you should recognise important which type of treatment you are experiencing. This is because you have different rights under the law, depending on which of the following is taking place:

  • Bullying (see section).
  • Discrimination (see section).
  • Victimization (see section).
If you are being Harassed at Work?

Harassment is when bullying or unwanted behaviour is about any of the following ‘protected characteristics’ under discrimination law:

  • Age.
  • Disability.
  • Gender reassignment.
  • Race.
  • Religion or belief.
  • Sex.
  • Sexual orientation.

Harassment because of pregnancy or maternity is treated differently and could be direct discrimination.
The law on harassment does not cover marriage and civil partnership.
Just like bullying, the person being harassed might feel emotions including:

  • Disrespected.
  • Scared.
  • Intimidated.
  • Humiliated.
  • Made fun of.
  • Offended.
  • Threatened.

For it to count as harassment, the unwanted behaviour must have either:

  • Violated the person’s dignity, whether it was intended or not.
  • Created a hostile environment for the person, whether it was intended or not.

Harassment can include:

  • A serious one-off incident.
  • Repeated behaviour.
  • Spoken or written words, imagery, graffiti, gestures, mimicry, jokes, pranks, physical behaviour that affects the person.

It is still unlawful even if the person being harassed does not ask for it to stop.
The law on harassment also applies to:

  • A person being harassed because they are thought to have a certain protected characteristic when they do not.
  • A person being harassed because they are linked to someone with a certain protected characteristic.
  • A person who witnesses harassment because of a protected characteristic and is upset by it.
Harassment Involving Sex

By law, you are protected against:

  • Harassment because of your sex, for example a male boss regularly putting down a female employee because she is a woman.
  • Sexual harassment which refers to unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. This may be done in writing, verbally, imagery, physical, or sexual assault. For instance, someone making sexual comments or trying to touch someone against their will.
  • Receiving unfair treatment because they suffered from or stood up against these types of harassment.
What Options do I have to Resolve this?

The easiest step would be to speak to your employer or someone senior at work to try and address the problem.

If you do not feel comfortable doing this or the issue is very serious, you can raise a formal grievance.

Any employee can report a harassment issue they have seen or heard at work, even if it is not directly aimed at them.

Check your workplace’s policy on discrimination and harassment if there is one. This should state how your employer deals with discrimination and harassment complaints.

What do I do if I am having Problems at Work, or I Lose my Job?

Under the law, you must not be treated unfairly at work through:

  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation

Examples of unfair treatment include:

  • After you report a case of harassment, your manager insists you are a troublemaker, so you lose out on promotions and training opportunities.
  • After you provide evidence as a witness of sexual harassment, your colleagues keep stopping you from joining social events.
  • After raising a grievance about discrimination, your employer makes you redundant.

If you experience any of these types of unfair treatment above, you can try and raise a formal grievance or appeal a dismissal.

  1. Victimisation

If you feel you are being treated unfairly at work, you should recognise important which type of treatment you are experiencing. This is because you have different rights under the law, depending on which of the following is taking place:

  • Bullying (see section).
  • Discrimination (see section).
  • Harassment (see section).
If I am being Victimised at Work

‘Victimisation’ refers to being unfairly treated because you made or supported a complaint to do with a ‘protected characteristic’, or someone thinks you did.

Protected characteristics under the law are:

  • Age.
  • Disability.
  • Gender reassignment.
  • Marriage and civil partnership.
  • Pregnancy and maternity.
  • Race.
  • Religion or belief.
  • Sex.
  • Sexual orientation.

For instance, your colleague makes a sexual harassment claim against your boss. After you give evidence as a witness to support their claim, your boss starts treating you unfairly.

What Options do I Have?

The easiest step to pursue is by talking informally with your employer or someone senior at work to try and address the issue.

If you do not feel comfortable doing this, you can raise a formal grievance.

Check your workplace’s policy on discrimination and victimisation if there is one. This should state how your employer deals with discrimination and victimisation complaints.

What do I do if I am having Problems at Work, or I Lose my Job?

Under the law, you must not be treated unfairly at work through:

  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation

Examples of unfair treatment include:

  • After you report a case of harassment, your manager insists you are a troublemaker, so you lose out on promotions and training opportunities.
  • After you provide evidence as a witness of sexual harassment, your colleagues keep stopping you from joining social events.
  • After raising a grievance about discrimination, your employer makes you redundant.

If you experience any of these types of unfair treatment above, you can try and raise a formal grievance or appeal a dismissal.

There are three broad types of apprenticeship: foundation, modern and graduate.

Foundation apprenticeships can be completed in the last 2 years of school. They are intended to give you work experience and qualifications accredited.by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) while continuing your studies in school. This work is unpaid, and you are not an employee.

Modern apprenticeships can be completed if you are between the age of 16 and 24 (with some exceptions for those that are older). This position allows you to gain qualifications accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and is a paid position.

Graduate apprenticeships are for anyone over 16 and can follow another kind of apprenticeship. This type of apprenticeship gives you the chance to earn a wage whilst getting a degree at the same time.
Further information on all these forms of apprenticeship can be found on the apprenticeships. Scot website and can be accessed by visiting, Apprenticeships | Apprenticeships.scot: Work, Learn & Earn

The duration of the apprenticeship should be detailed in your contract with the employer.

Pay

Foundation apprentices are not paid at all.

If you are a Modern or Graduate Apprentice, you are entitled to the National Minimum Wage. If you are aged 19 or older and have already completed at least the first year of your apprenticeship.

You are entitled to the Apprentice Minimum Wage if you are under 19 years of age and/or within your first year of an apprenticeship.

The Gov.uk website details minimum wage rates and can be found by visiting www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wagerates.

Hours

The number of hours that you can work are restricted. In almost all circumstances your employer can’t make you work more than 40 hours a week or 8 hours a day. There are some exceptions to this rule and the employer can make you work longer if the following criteria are met:

  • There is nobody available who is 18 and available to do the work
  • The work is urgent and significant (e.g. the business becomes unexpectedly busy).
  • Doing this work will not adversely affect your education or training.

Additional information on working restrictions, including times of day that you are allowed to work, is available on the Gov.uk website at www.gov.uk/child-employment/restrictions-on-child-employment

More information on child working rights can be found in the Scottish Government guide called “Employment of Children: A Guide for Children” – Available at Employment of children: a guide for children – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Children under school leaving age can work. The guidance also covers how many hours a child can work, however this differs based on the child’s age and on the laws of the local authority.

During school weeks you can work:

  • between 7am and 7pm (but not during school hours on days you have to be at school)
  • up to 2 hours on a school day (but only for one hour before school, if you live in a local authority area which has a byelaw allowing this) and not more than 12 hours in a school week.

Different local authorities may have restrictions in place. More information on these variations can be found by visiting Employment of children: a guide for children – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Holiday

Your holiday pay entitlement is dependent on whether you are over school leaving age. If you turn 16 between 1st March and 30th September you can leave school after 31st May of that year and if you turn 16 between 1st October and the end of February you can leave at the start of the Christmas holidays in that school year.

If you are under school leaving age, you are not entitled to holiday pay. If you are over school leaving age, you are entitled to 5.6 weeks statutory holiday pay (if you work 5 days or more. Fewer holidays can be taken if less days are worked) like adult workers.

The Rights to Work

Children can only work from the age of 13 and can only do so part time. Full time work is allowed from the age of 16 and can only be done for a maximum of 40 hours per week or 8 hours per day.

Additional hours may only be worked if there is no one over 18 to do the work, the service needs to be kept running/is busy, your education/training won’t be impacted by you do so. Adult working rules apply from the age of 18.

If you are under 18 and over school leaving age, you can only do certain types of work. You can only do the following types of work:

  • Work you are mentally and physically capable of doing
  • Work that does not have levels of cold, heat and vibration that could risk your health
  • Work that does not bring you into contact with radiation, toxic material or chemical agents.

If you are under school leaving age (16), these restrictions also apply. You may only work if the risk is reduced as much as possible, a suitably competent person is supervising you or it is part of training. Under normal circumstances you cannot usually work between 10PM and 6AM.

There are three exceptions to this:

  • The first is when an unexpected emergency occurs that requires your assistance.
  • The second is when local authority restrictions are placed on working hours of children.
  • The third is that you can work at night if all the following apply: 

– No one over 18 can do the work instead.

– The service is too busy for you to leave or you are needed to ensure it continues to run.

– You are given a compensatory rest break for it.

Different local authorities may have restrictions in place. More information on these variations can be found by visiting Employment of children: a guide for children – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Workplace Pensions

What is a Workplace Pension Scheme?

A workplace pension scheme is a way of saving for your retirement through contributions deducted direct from your wages. Your employer may also make contributions to your pension through the scheme. If you are eligible for automatic enrolment, your employer must make contributions into the scheme. Most schemes will also provide other benefits, such as support for your partner if you die. There are two types of workplace pension schemes:

  • Occupational Pensions.
  • Group Personal Pensions or Stakeholder Pensions.
What are Occupational Pensions?

Occupational pension schemes are set up by employers to provide pensions for their employees. There are two different types of occupational pensions:

  • Final salary schemes.
  • Money purchase schemes.
What are Final Salary Schemes? 

Final salary pension schemes are also commonly referred to as defined benefit schemes. In a final salary scheme, your pension is linked to your salary while you are working, so it automatically increases as your pay rises. Your pension is based on your pay at retirement and the number of years you have been in the scheme. Your pension entitlement does not depend on the performance of the stock market or other investments. In most final salary schemes, you pay a set percentage of your wages towards your pension fund and your employer pays the rest. This means it is normally beneficial for you to join a final salary scheme if your employer offers one. However, final salary schemes are becoming less common, and most employers no longer offer them.

What are Money Purchase Schemes? 

Money purchase schemes are commonly referred to as defined contribution schemes. The money you pay into the scheme is invested with the aim of giving you an amount of money when you retire. Your pension is based on the amount of money paid in and on how the investments have performed. You will typically pay a percentage of your wages into the scheme and your employer may also pay a regular amount in, but this is not always the case. However, your employer may have to offer you automatic enrolment into a workplace pension, in which case they will be obliged to make contributions. If you are offered a money purchase scheme through the workplace, it can be beneficial for you to join if your employer makes contributions. However, if your employer is not going to make any contributions to the pension or you are not yet eligible for automatic enrolment, you may want to compare the benefits of the scheme with personal pensions schemes elsewhere. 

What Other Benefits are there with Occupational Pension Schemes?

In addition to a pension when you retire, occupational pension schemes often offer other benefits such as:

  • Life insurance which pays a lump sum or pension to your dependants if you die while still employed.
  • A pension if you must retire early because of ill-health.
  • Pensions for your, wife, husband, civil partner, and other dependants when you die.
What Happens During the Automatic Enrolment Process into a Workplace Pension?

Your employer must enrol you into their workplace pension if you are an eligible employee -this is called automatic enrolment. You will be eligible if you are:

  • Not currently in a workplace pension.
  • Aged 22 or over.
  • Under State Pension age.
  • Earning more than £10,000 a year.
  • Working in the UK.

You can opt out of your workplace scheme, but it is beneficial for your interest to pay into it if you can afford to. This is because your employer must contribute into the scheme as well as you. Furthermore, you will receive tax relief on the contributions you make into the scheme. You should receive information about any workplace scheme you are entitled to join within two months of starting work. If you do not, contact your personnel or human resources (HR) department. There are different types of workplace pension schemes with different benefits. It is important to understand the differences so that you can work out whether the scheme is right for you or not and what other options you may have. You can find a tool to help you choose whether to automatically enrol into your workplace pension on the Money Advice Service website. If you are currently in a workplace pension that meets the rules about automatic enrolment, you are not required to join another pension. Further information and FAQs about automatic enrolment can be found on the DWP’s website at www.dwp.gov.uk . You can also find more on joining a workplace pension automatically on the Gov.UK website at www.gov.uk.

Group Personal Pensions and Stakeholder Pensions through Your Workplace 

Workplace (or group) personal pensions and stakeholder pensions work in a similar manner to the ones you can arrange for yourself. Your employer chooses the pension provider, but you will have an individual contract with the pension provider. Group personal pensions and stakeholder pensions may be an option if you are not eligible to automatically enrol into your workplace pension (see above). You pay contributions into your pension fund direct from your wages. The money is invested to grow your fund which you use to provide you with a pension when you retire. The main difference between arranging a personal or stakeholder pension yourself and joining one through your workplace is the amount of control you have over how the money you pay into your fund is invested. With a workplace scheme, the investment choices may be made for you by the provider. Your employer may also pay contributions into a personal or stakeholder pension, but they do not have to (this will depend on the terms of the pension). If your employer will not be contributing, compare what the workplace pension offers with other similar pensions on the market to make sure you are getting the best deal. It may also be worthwhile seeking independent financial advice.

How Do I Find Out More About My Workplace Pension Scheme? 

The best initial step is to gather basic information about what your employer is offering when you start work, to help you decide if it is worth joining the pension scheme. Here are some things to find out:

  • Are you eligible for automatic enrolment in your workplace pension? (See above).
  • Is it an occupational pension or a personal pension scheme?
  • How much are your contributions? – This will usually be a percentage of what you earn.
  • Will the employer also make contributions and if so, how much? – If you are automatically enrolled into a workplace pension, your employer must make contributions up to a minimum level.
  • How will the money you pay in be invested?
  • How will you know what is in your fund?
  • If you decide not to join now, will you be able to join the scheme later?

The amount of your contributions should appear on your wage slip each time you are paid and on your P60 tax information each year. If you think your payments are wrong, speak to your employer straight away and ask them to sort it out. If you are in a union, they may provide advice and help about your pension scheme.

When Should I Join the Workplace Pension Scheme?

After deciding to join your workplace pension scheme, it is best to join as early as possible to get the maximum benefit from your contributions. Some pension schemes do not let you join later, once you have said you do not wish to join, so check the rules before you decide. If you are unsure about what the rules are for your scheme, ask your Human Resources (HR) or personnel department or your Union if you are in one.

What Happens If I Have Already Got a Pension? 

There is no limit to the amount you can save up in your pension schemes. This means you can join a workplace pension scheme even if you have already got money saved up in another pension fund or you are still paying into another fund, such as a personal pension. There are limits to how much tax relief you can get on the contributions you make to your pension, so if may not be worth paying more than you will get tax relief on. If you are going to pay into more than one pension fund, you should work out your budget to make sure you can afford the payments before you join. You can get more information from the Money Advice Service website at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk.

What Happens If I Change Job?

What you do about your pension when you change jobs depends on what types of schemes you have joined. You may choose to:

  • Leave your pension behind in your old employer’s scheme to be paid to you when you retire.
  • Transfer your rights to a new occupational scheme.
  • Transfer your rights to a personal pension.

It can be hard to make the right decision without advice, even when you have all the information you need. So, unless you are fully certain, you should seek out professional independent financial advice as soon as possible.  There are special rules about what happens to your pension if you have automatically enrolled into a workplace pension, and you leave your job. You can find more on the DWP website at www.dwp.gov.uk/faqs  and at www.dwp.gov.uk/keyfacts . Make sure you do not forget to let your old pension provider know where you are if you change address later. It is easy to lose touch, and this can make things more difficult when you retire.

Accident at Work

What are the Guidelines for Dealing with Accidents at Work?

Serious injuries that occur within the workplace should be reported to your employer.

Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) system, they have an obligation to report it as the person that is responsible for the workplace. If you suspect that they have not reported it after you have told them, you can contact the Health and Safety executive to discuss the matter.

Fatalities (deaths) that take place in the workplace should be reported to your employer. As is the case with injuries, under the RIDDOR system, they have an obligation to report it as the person that is responsible for the workplace. If you suspect that they have not reported it after you have told them, you can also contact the Health and Safety executive in this instance.

More information is available on the Health & Safety Executive website at Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 – RIDDOR – HSE.

Options to Consider

An employer has a duty of care towards their employees to ensure that the working environment is safe. In some circumstances, raising the concerns with an employer does not resolve the issue while extreme cases may compel employees to feel the need to resign due to concerns around health & safety.

Employees with over 2 years’ service may be able to claim for constructive dismissal in these circumstances. It would be beneficial to have records of your accident as it could be very useful if you decide to try and make a claim for compensation or benefits, including Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

To have your accident recorded, this involves you reporting it at work and seeing a doctor. It is also best practice to:

  • Take photos of your injury and whatever caused your accident.
  • Ensure you have contact details for anyone who witnessed your accident.
  • Make notes about your accident as soon as possible (you may even include drawings to illustrate what happened).
  • Ask any witnesses to make notes and share them with you.
How do I Deal with/Report Health & Safety Breaches and Concerns in the Workplace?

Initially, who you report your accident to depends on:

  • Where you were working when you had it.
  • Your ‘employment status’ (for instance are you an employee, a worker, or self-employed?).

To see this, use check your employment status guide on GOV.UK.

You are also free to ask someone else to report your accident for you if you are unable to do it yourself.

If you have not reported to the incident to your employer/ health and safety representative, it is very important that you do so. By bringing this to their attention as early as possible, it may help to resolve the issue before it poses further threat to you or other members of staff. You could speak to:

  • The person in charge of the work.
  • A Trade Union representative
  • The employer

For those who work in their usual workplace setting – employees or workers should make sure your employer is aware about your accident. The most suited person to speak to would be your manager (check your staff handbook or intranet if you are unclear).

For self-employed people, you have to report your accident to the Health and Safety Executive if it happened while you were working on your own premises.

For those who are working in a setting that is not their usual workplace – employees and workers must make the person you usually report to aware of the incident when you are there. Inform your manager about it too.

For self-employed people who have been working on a client’s business premises, tell the person you usually deal with when you are there. You must report your accident to the Health and Safety Executive if it happened while you were working in someone’s home.

Record the Accident in an Accident Book

If the company or organisation you reported the accident to has more than 10 employees, they must record it in an accident book. It is worth making sure has been done sufficiently and if you are not sure you can ask your manager to check. Smaller workplaces might possess an accident book, so it is worth asking if your accident can be recorded.

If no accident books exist, write down the key details of the accident and send it to your manager or the person you report to. You should also keep a copy for your own reference.

Receiving Support from a Doctor

It is advised to arrange an appointment with your GP immediately. They can record the details of your accident in your medical records, as well as treat your injury. If you need to see a doctor straight away, you can find your local urgent care services on the NHS website.

It is advised to check your contract to figure out if your employer must give you paid time off for your appointment.

Maximising Income through Pay and Benefits if you cannot Work

See if your contract of employment states that:

  • You can get ‘contractual sick pay’ from your employer.
  • You have access to an employee assistance helpline or medical care.

If you do not possess a contract or it fails to mention anything on sick pay, speak to your manager, or check your staff handbook or intranet. Employees or agency workers may receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks, but you should check to see if you are entitled to this first. If you cannot claim SSP, you could try and make a claim for Universal Credit or another benefit.

For self-employed who have income protection insurance, you can make a claim. If you do not have insurance, check what benefits you may receive.

How do I Make a Personal Injury Claim?

You may wish to try and claim compensation for any injuries sustained and you believe it is your employer’s or client’s fault. This is a complex process to deal with and may take a long time. It would be best to consult legal advice from a solicitor about this especially since there are time limits involved when claiming compensation for an injury.

If you are a trade union member, speak to your local representative or check their website for how to get in touch. They can help you decide what to do and possibly attend meetings you may have with your employer to support you.

What Happens if I have not Reported it Yet?

If you feel uncomfortable about approaching your employer about the issue and do not want to report them to the relevant body at this stage, you can investigate the issue in more depth.

More detailed information is available on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website, where you can search all aspects of health and safety by topic or by the industry that you work in. Remember that if an issue is dangerous or could potentially put the safety or lives of others at risk, you should not hesitate in reporting this.

What Happens if I Reported the Issue, but the Employer did not Address It?

The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for enforcing health and safety in workplaces including:

  • Factories
  • Farms
  • Building sites
  • Mines
  • Schools and colleges
  • Fairgrounds
  • Gas, electricity, and water systems
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • Central and local government premises
  • Offshore installations

If your employer is listed from one of the above

The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for enforcing health and safety in your workplace. You can report any issues with Health & Safety in your place of work by visiting at their website. Alternatively, you can call the Health and Safety Executive on 0300 003 1647 and they will fill in the form with you. Their lines are open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm (on Wednesdays from 10am to 5pm).

They will use the information provided to assess if it is something that they should investigate. HSE will contact the company if they believe there is an issue, either by phone, in writing, or by visiting the site. The assessment will be made within 24 hours (during the working week), with an outcome supplied to you within 21 days (this can only be done if you provided your contact details). The Health and Safety Executive cannot help in getting compensation or taking someone to court.

If the Employer Is not listed from one of the above

You should contact your local authority environmental health department if you have a query about the following type of premises:

  • Offices (except – Government offices)
  • Shops
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Leisure premises
  • Nurseries and playgroups
  • Pubs and clubs
  • Museums (privately owned)
  • Places of worship
  • Sheltered Accommodation and care homes

If your employer belongs to one of these categories instead, you should contact the local authority (where the employer operates). You can find the local authority and their contact details by entering the postcode for the business at www.gov.uk/find-local-council.

If your employer is still not on either of these lists, a full list of other employer types is available on the Health & Safety Executive website. More information on who you can report Health and Safety issues to is available at their website.

Disciplinary Procedure:

The employment specialist organisation ACAS has a code of practice that outlines how an employer should investigate and take disciplinary action. The employer doesn’t have to follow the guide to the letter, but they can be taken to the employment tribunal if they act unfairly in violating its guidance.

Trying to resolve the matter informally.

An employer should first try to resolve the issue informally. It is not always possible or appropriate to do so but can sort out minor issues quickly without damaging the working relationship.

Disciplinary investigation.

This is when the employer gathers evidence about whether you are responsible for something. The employer should do this as soon as possible, but could take more time if the issue is serious or responsibility is not clear.
The employer may hold an investigation meeting to ask you questions. You can ask the employer if you can be accompanied to this meeting, but they can refuse.
If you are suspended during the investigation, you must be paid as normal, unless your contract has a ‘suspension clause’ that says otherwise.

Sending a disciplinary Letter

If your employer intends takes disciplinary action they should write to you explaining their concerns.
The letter should set out enough detail for you to be able to prepare a response or an explanation at a disciplinary meeting. The letter should also say you have a right to have someone at the meeting with you.

Disciplinary Meeting

The meeting should be held without unreasonable delay and you must be given reasonable time to prepare their case.

You have the right to be accompanied to a disciplinary meeting by:

  • a colleague
  • a trade union representative
  • an official employed by a trade union.

To use their right to be accompanied, the employee should make a ‘reasonable request’ to the employer.
Your employer doesn’t have to let you bring anyone else, but if there’s someone else you think is appropriate you can ask to be accompanied by them. If you’re not accompanied by anyone you should make sure to take your own notes.

If you or your companion can’t make the meeting you should ask your employee to reschedule to a reasonable time. Where an employee is persistently unable to attend without good cause, the employer should make a decision on the evidence they have. If you’re too ill to attend, you could ask if you can provide written evidence.

You should be given a reasonable length of time to consider evidence and prepare your case. If you don’t think you’ve been given enough time asked for the meeting to be postponed.

Making a Decision

After the meeting, your employer should tell you what they have decided.
If the employer confirms they’ll take disciplinary action, it is usual for them to a written warning for a 1st issue. If there is no improvement or there’s further misconduct within a set period, a final written warning is likely. You should be told how long a warning will remain.

However, if the 1st issue is considered serious enough an employer can directly issue a final warning. If an act is so serious it could lead to dismissal without notice, even for a first offence because of gross misconduct.

Gross misconduct is a deliberate or grossly negligent act that completely undermines the employer’s trust and confidence in the employee, for example sexual harassment, physical violence, deliberate damage to property etc. However, a fair disciplinary process should still always be followed, before dismissing for gross misconduct. An employer should suspend an employee while they investigate any allegation of gross misconduct rather than immediately dismissing them.

The employee should be informed as soon as possible of the reasons for the dismissal, when the employment contract will end, the appropriate period of notice and their right of appeal.

Appealing

If you’re unhappy with the decision that was reached by your employer, they should give you the option to appeal.
The appeal should be handled impartially, and if possible, by a manager who wasn’t involved in the original case.

Fair and unfair dismissal

The following are reasons where dismissal could be potentially fair:

  • conduct – because of poor behaviour such as violence or criminal activity, gross misconduct
  • capability – for example poor performance or you’ve been off sick a lot.
  • redundancy
  • some other substantial reason of a kind which justifies the dismissal. The employer has to show they had a good reason. The most common examples are due to a workplace reorganisation or refusal to agree a variation in contract terms.

Automatically unfair reasons for dismissal relate to:

  • family reasons: including parental leave, paternity leave (birth and adoption), adoption leave or time off for dependants
  • representation: including acting as an employee representative
  • trade union membership grounds and union recognition
  • part-time and fixed-term employees who aren’t treated the same
  • pay and working hours: including the Working Time Regulations, annual leave and the National Minimum Wage.
  • discrimination of a protected characteristic.

There are 5 main Employment Statuses that you can have while working. Your employment status affects the rights and responsibilities that you have under your employer. The easiest way to find your status is to consult the terms of your employment contract (bearing in mind that having an employment status named on the contract does not necessarily mean it applies to you).

Below are some key traits that can be used to find what your status is:

Employee
  • You are contracted to work a set number of hours each week.
  • You must work your contracted hours as part of your employment contract.
  • You must do this work yourself and not contract it to someone else.
  • You receive paid holiday, statutory sick pay and Pat/Maternity pay
Worker
  • You are contracted by your employer to do work
  • This work does not have a set number of hours.
  • You do work/work hours that are agreed to but there is no obligation to be available at certain hours.
Agency Worker
  • Your employer sends you to work for other companies that are its clients.
  • Your contract is with your employer and not the company that you are working at.
Self Employed
  • You are responsible for when and where you work
  • You own the company that you work at or are a freelancer.
  • You do not earn a wage and instead receive invoices with companies/individuals you are contracted with.
  • You can work for different companies and charge different rates of payment for doing so.
  • You can send others to do work in your place.
  • Genuinely Self Employed
Volunteers
  • You have no contracted hours or pay.
  • You have no obligation to work and may work when you choose.
Dismissal Under 2 Years Service

If you’re dismissed and haven’t worked for your employer continuously for at least 2 years you can’t go to an employment tribunal unfair dismissal unless the reason is automatically unfair.

A dismissal will only be automatically unfair if it’s because of:

  • pregnancy: including all reasons relating to maternity
  • family reasons: including parental leave, paternity leave (birth and adoption), adoption leave or time off for dependants
  • representation: including acting as an employee representative
  • trade union membership grounds and union recognition
  • part-time and fixed-term employees who aren’t treated the same
  • pay and working hours: including the Working Time Regulations, annual leave and the National Minimum Wage
  • discrimination of a protected characteristic. 

If the dismissal is for a reason that isn’t automatically unfair then the employee is limited with what action they can take.

If the employee is pregnant or on maternity leave, they are entitled to be given a written reason of why they’ve been dismissed if they’ve worked for under 2 years.

How Much Notice Should be Given?

Your employer must give you at least 1 week’s notice unless gross misconduct has occured. Check your contract, your employer may give you more than the statutory minimum. If you’re an agency or casual worker or if you’ve worked for them for under a month they don’t need to give you any notice.

Check You’ve Been Given the Correct Pay

On top of your basic pay, you could be owed holiday pay and notice pay. Your employer must pay you everything you’re owed in your last pay packet, even if you’ve been dismissed. If you owe them money they might be able to take it from your pay.

Wrongful Dismissal

If your employer doesn’t give you notice, notice pay or does not follow the correct procedures, you may have been wrongfully dismissed. This is a contractual claim rather than a statutory right, you would have to show that your employer had broken the terms of the contract of employment.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked for your employer to take a wrongful dismissal claim to tribunal. However, an employee should speak to their employer informally first to try and resolve the problem. If this is unsuccessful, they should follow the grievance procedure.

Dismissal Over 2 Years of Service
 

Getting an explanation

If you were an employee and have 2 or more years’ service, you can request a written statement from your employer giving the reasons why you’ve been dismissed. The employer must supply this within 14 days.
If you were dismissed while on maternity leave, you are entitled to a written explanation regardless of your length of service.

Dismissal

You will be able to take your employer to tribunal if the dismissal was unfair or was not done for fair reason.
If you have at least 2 years’ service, you must have been dismissed for one of the following reasons for it to be considered fair:

  • You are not capable of doing the job (e.g. poor performance)
  • Misconduct (e.g. committing crimes)
  • Your employer can no longer employ you (e.g. immigration status prevents it)
  • Your role is redundant
  • Any other reason considered substantial

A dismissal will only be automatically unfair if it’s because of:

  • pregnancy: including all reasons relating to maternity
  • family reasons: including parental leave, paternity leave (birth and adoption), adoption leave or time off for dependants
  • representation: including acting as an employee representative
  • trade union membership grounds and union recognition
  • part-time and fixed-term employees who aren’t treated the same
  • pay and working hours: including the Working Time Regulations, annual leave and the National Minimum Wage
  • discrimination of a protected characteristic. 
What is Redundancy?

In broad terms, redundancy is when the position that someone is employed for is no longer required by the employer.

There are 3 main reasons an employer can make you redundant:

  • Closure of the particular workplace.
  • Reduction in the size of the workforce – this generally may be for whatever reason, there doesn’t need to be less work to be done.
  • ​Closure of the business as a whole.

Redundancy can only apply when the position(s) itself is to be removed.  Simply modernising or renaming the position is insufficient.

Maternity Rights

What is Maternity Leave?

You possess the right to take up one year’s worth of maternity leave regardless of how long you have worked in your role, salary, or how many hours you work per week.

You are granted maternity leave if you are classed as an employee which means you carry out regular work within a fixed number of hours outlined by your employer.

You are not entitled to maternity leave if you are classified as a ‘worker’. You may be deemed a worker if you are:

  • An agency worker – unless you have an agreement saying you are employed by the agency.
  • A casual worker.
  • On a zero-hours contract.
What about for Self-Employed People?

You are not entitled to take maternity leave if you are a self-employed individual. Despite your contract insisting you are ‘self-employed’, it may be possible that you are in fact classed as an employee and are therefore entitled to this.

Armed Forces, Police and those working on Fishing Boats (and get a share of the Profits)

There may be different rules for maternity leave if you work in one of these roles. It is vital for you to check your contract for guidance on this or consult with your employer to clarify this.

How do I request Maternity Leave?

At least 15 weeks prior to the week your baby is due, you should inform your employer:

  • That you are pregnant.
  • When your baby is due.
  • You wish to take maternity leave.
  • When you wish your maternity leave starts and ends (you can change these dates later).

It is advised to request this with your employer in writing, so you have written evidence.

Your employer should confirm the end date of your maternity leave.

Should they not inform you about this, it is recommended to speak to them to ensure you both have the same date in mind.

Sometimes an employer can request to see a medical certificate, such as your MATB1 form. You receive this at an antenatal appointment after your 20-week scan.

What Happens if I Miss the Deadline?

Speak to your employer immediately, even if it is less than 15 weeks before the week of your due date. It is feasible to take your maternity leave should it not have been practical for you to give notice on time. This may be due to, for instance, if you:

  • Started your job less than 15 weeks prior your due date.
  • You were unaware of being pregnant.
  • Were in Hospital.
When am I allowed to start my Maternity Leave?

Your maternity leave commences any day from 11 weeks before your due date. Your maternity leave can start earlier than the selected date if:

  • Your baby arrives early, or
  • You are off work with an illness related to your pregnancy, and this occurs in the 4 weeks prior the week of your due date.
How long does my Maternity Leave last?

It will last for a year unless you inform your employer you wish to return earlier. Your maternity leave cannot last longer than a year.

The shortest maternity leave you can take is 2 weeks (up to 4 weeks for those working in a factory).

If I wish to take more than a year off

You do not possess the right to more than a year of maternity leave, but your employer may grant you this and allow you to take extra time away from work. Any extra time granted is not officially count as maternity leave and therefore you will have no maternity rights during this period.
If you are considering of requesting for more than a year away from work, speak to your employer first about clarifying certain conditions such as:

  • Whether you can return to your job after this extra time.
  • Whether the extra time granted will be considered as a break in your employment.
  • Whether you can expect to be paid for this extra time off.

Crucially, ensure that any agreement you reach with your employer is confirmed in writing.

It may also be worth considering asking your employer about flexible working routines or returning to work but taking unpaid parental leave.

What Happens with regards to changing my Maternity Leave Dates?

You can change the dates of your maternity leave providing you give an appropriate amount of notice to your employer:

  • Starting your leave sooner – Inform your employer at least 4 weeks prior to your NEW start date.
  • Starting your leave later – Inform your employer at least 4 weeks prior to your OLD start date.
  • Ending your leave sooner – Inform your employer at least 8 weeks prior to your NEW end date.
  • Ending your leave later – Inform your employer at least 8 weeks prior to your OLD end date.

It is possible to provide less notice should your employer fail to gice you your maternity leave dates in writing. However, it is best practice to give them as much notice as you can.

What Happens if I cannot get Maternity Leave?

The law states that people need to take 2 weeks off work after a client has their baby even if they are not entitled to maternity leave. However, if a client works in a factory this is 4 weeks.

You still have rights when you are pregnant and working and should check to see if you are entitled to maternity pay.

If you are not eligible for maternity leave, you may be entitled to claim statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance.

Your employer should agree to your request to take maternity leave providing you gave them the correct and suitable notice.

If your employer refuses your request to take maternity leave, you should talk to them to explain why this is happening. This may be potentially considered as ‘maternity discrimination’ and you can take further action should this occur.

Paternity Rights

If you are a baby’s father or the mother’s partner you will be entitled to 1 or 2 weeks of paternity leave when you and your partner have a baby.

You can also take paternity leave when you adopt a child.

You must take paternity leave in a block of 1 or 2 weeks.

To satisfy the requirements for taking paternity leave, you need to:

  • Have had the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date, or by the time you are matched with a child for adoption.
  • Be the biological father of the child or be the partner of the baby’s mother (you do not need to be married).
  • Be responsible for the child’s upbringing and wish to take time off to care for the child or support the mother.
  • Provide your employer with the correct notice to take paternity leave.

However, there are 2 additional conditions which must be met if you are adopting a child:

  • You cannot already know the child. For instance, they cannot be your stepchild.
  • You cannot take adoption leave. If both you and your partner are adopting, one of you can take adoption leave and the other takes paternity leave.
Paternity Pay Guidance

Should you be entitled to paternity leave, it is probable that you will be entitled to statutory paternity pay for the same days. To satisfy the conditions for this, you must also:

  • Keep working for your employer up to the date of birth.
  • Earn an average of at least £120 a week.

Statutory Paternity Pay is paid at the same rate as statutory maternity pay.

When can I take Paternity Leave?

Your paternity leave will either begin on:

  • The day the baby is born.
  • The day a child is placed with you for adoption.
  • A date after the birth or adoption that you agree in advance with your employer.

Should you agree a suitable date with your employer, you must ensure you complete your leave within 56 of days of the birth or adoption.

Informing your Employer about taking Paternity Leave

It is important to provide your employer with enough appropriate notice that you want to take paternity leave. Try and do this by 15 weeks before your baby’s due date, or within 7 days of being matched with a child for adoption.

When providing notice, you must inform your employer:

  • That you are entitled to paternity leave and that you are taking leave to support the mother or care for the child.
  • When the baby is due or the date of the birth (if you are adopting, give the date you are matched with your child or the date when the child is placed with you).
  • When you wish to start your paternity leave and pay.
  • Whether you are taking 1 or 2 weeks of paternity leave.

You can provide your employer with this information using HM Revenue and Customs certificates for a birth child  or for an adopted child .

You are allowed to make changes to when you want to take paternity leave as long as you provide your employer with 28 days’ notice of the changed date.

You are entitled to 48 consecutive hours off each week, and you must be given 12 hours off between each working day. In addition, you are entitled to a 30-minute rest break when you work for 4 and a half hours or more in a shift.

Although you can discuss when to take your breaks with your employer, there is no obligation for you to be paid for your break time. More information on child working rights can be found in the Scottish government guide called “Employment of children: a guide for children” available at Employment of children: a guide for children – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Visit a doctor

There isn’t a right given by law to have time off work for a medical appointment, but there might be one in your employment contract.
Otherwise you can try and negotiate.

If you are pregnant or have a disability you’re rights could be different.

Family emergency

If there is a emergency with a close family member such as a death/ illness / incident involving your child at school, you can take reasonable time off from work. This time may not be paid unless it says so in your contract of employment.

To look after a child

Most people can take time off work to look after a child under 18 if you’ve been with your employer for over a year. The leave has to be taken in blocks of a working week rather than days. You’re entitled to 18 weeks leave for each child and adopted child, up to their 18th birthday. In most circumstances you can only take 4 weeks off a year and will be unpaid unless your contract of employment says so.

Jury service

There isn’t a right to time off work for jury service unless in your employment contract. However there can be consequences for not turning up to court if summonsed. However, an employer who refuses time off could be fined for contempt of court.

Attend Court as a Witness

There isn’t a right to time off work to attend court as a witness unless in your employment contract. However there can be consequences for not turning up to court if summonsed. An employer should be prepared to grant an employee time off work to appear as a witness so may need to negotiate with them.

To look for work if made Redundant

Most people can take reasonable time off to look for new employment if they been with their employer for at least 2 years and made redundant. There is a limit to how much time you can get paid for this.

Hours

Your working hours are contractual terms that will need to be changed along with it. For a change in a contract to be binding, consent from both parties will be required. However, the employer will have the upper hand in most cases as there is a risk of you losing the job if you refuse.

Does my contract affect the change?

If your contract has a variation clause within it, your employer may change your hours without needing agreement with you. Otherwise your agreement is required.

Can I object to the change?

You can object to the change by using the grievance procedure. If you exhaust the procedure and believe your contract was broken, you can escalate the matter to tribunal. Employment tribunal is an option a claim will need to be raised within 3 months minus a day of the action being disputed. If you have objections, voice them as soon as possible because not answering will be presumed to be agreement.

Is this an unauthorised deduction of my wages?

If your employer shortens your hours after you have objected to it or there is no variation clause, it could be an unauthorised deduction of wages. This is when your employer has not paid you what they should.  Use the grievance procedure to take action against this.

What If I am in a trade Union?

Your trade union has the responsibility to negotiate on the terms of your workplace change.

Pay

Unauthorised deductions are when your employer pays you less than your contract states.

When are deductions legitimate?

An employer can make a deduction from your pay when there has been a genuine overpayment of wages. There also may be contractual allowances for damages to equipment or property.

This must be expressed in the contract of employment for this to be deducted. If you work in retail, the employer cannot, by law, deduct any more than 10% of your wage for any pay period for till or stock shortages. They can make a series of deductions over a number of pay periods (If you leave then the employer can take the full amount from your final pay).

Employers who include terms in a contract that may result in deductions of wages as punishment (e.g. deduction of pay as part of a disciplinary sanction) can be challenged on grounds of reasonableness through a civil court or Employment Tribunal.

What can I do if my wages face unauthorised deductions?

The following process should be followed –

Step 1 – Discuss the matter informally with the employer to find out the reason(s) for this. The employer may be able to resolve the matter by explaining any legal or contractual basis for the deduction(s), or arranging to make payment if they have made a mistake.

Step 2 – If an informal approach does not resolve the issue, or there is a dispute with the employer around whether or not the deductions should have been made, the next step is to raise this as a formal written grievance, outlining the sums the worker believes is owed as well as a requested resolution date (best practice should allow 7- 14 days where time limits allow).

Step 3 – If the raising of a grievance does not resolve the issue, then the worker can purse an Employment Tribunal for unlawful deductions. This must be done within three months (less one day) from the date of the deduction / underpayment being made. If the employer is in administration (insolvent) then the worker may be able to claim through the Redundancy Payments Service who can be contacted by calling 0330 331 0020.

You may also be able to resign and claim constructive dismissal if your employer has refused to pay you.
In this instance, you can only do this if you have worked for your employer for more than 2 years (Information button for more information).

Self-Employed Criminal Convictions and PVG

What Happens If I am Self-Employed?

For those who are self-employed and involved in ‘regulated’ work (such as individual music tuition to children, or offering one-to-one care in someone’s home), it would be a worthwhile idea for your sake to become a PVG scheme member. This guarantees that people who give you work understand your criminal records have been checked.

You can choose not to join the PVG scheme. See the below for examples of whether you need to enlist on the PVG scheme or not. To ease your concerns, you can always contact Disclosure Scotland for further assistance.

Self-employment or Volunteering and the PVG Scheme

It is good to know whether certain voluntary roles or self-employed occupations require membership of the PVG scheme. You can contact Disclosure Scotland to establish this if unsure.

However, regulated work is something that is not easy to define clearly. Here are some examples but you should always check with Disclosure Scotland in any instance just to be safe.

Specific ActivityRegulated Work and the PVG Scheme for each Activity
Taxi driver – normally regular school runsAny person who frequently transports children without other adults or transports vulnerable adults may be regarded as undertaking regulated work. At a minimum, the employer is expected to conduct a disclosure check. If the taxi driver is self-employed, it is their decision whether they should join the PVG scheme or not.
ChildminderChildminders must register with the Care Inspectorate and have a PVG check.
School and nursery teachersMost teachers must be PVG scheme members.
Self-employed tutors or teachers of childrenTeachers and tutors of this category can choose to be a PVG member.
Children’s group leaders, for example, the Girl Guides, Scouts and Boy’s Brigade, church crecheProviding there is an opportunity for the paid adult leaders or volunteers to have one-to-one unsupervised contact with someone under 18, both the staff and the volunteers should have had disclosure checks. This might include being a PVG member.
Sports coach volunteerSports coaching is a complex activity to explain in terms of the PVG scheme. If someone is coaching children which has been arranged through the parents of a child or group of children, this is not regulated work.
DentistDentists must belong to the PVG scheme.
Medical doctorDoctors must normally be PVG members in the NHS but may not be required to belong to the PVG scheme if there is no opportunity for one-to-one consultations involving personal examinations.
Window cleanerA window cleaner may have to be a PVG member if windows inside a building which accommodates vulnerable people gives the cleaner time alone with a protected adult or child.
Masseur or physiotherapistSomeone working with vulnerable adults or people under 18 must be a PVG scheme member.
Lifeguard in a swimming poolMost lifeguards in public pools will not need to be PVG members because this is not deemed regulated work. If a lifeguard works in a private agency and provides one-to-one swimming tuition, it is highly probable that they should enlist into the scheme.

Housing

What Should I Do If I Have Rent Arrears?

If you have rent arrears, do not ignore them! If you are behind with your rent, your landlord will have grounds to start legal proceedings for eviction. Contact your landlord to discuss how you will clear your arrears. Landlords are much more likely to be sympathetic if they know that you are trying to resolve the matter.

Can My Landlord Increase the Amount of Rent I am Required to Pay?

For Private residential tenancies – If you have a private residential tenancy, your landlord can only increase the rent once every 12 months. To increase the rent, they have to give you at least 3 months’ notice, using the prescribed ‘Rent-Increase Notice’ form.

You can find an example of this on the Scottish Government page Private residential tenancy: prescribed notices and forms

If you agree to the rent increase it will become payable when the notice expires. If you do not agree to the increase, you can refer the proposed increase to the rent officer. This must happen within 21 days of you receiving the original notice. The rent officer will make an order stating the rent payable and from which date that rent will come into force.

For short-assured and assured tenancies – If you are an assured tenant, when the fixed term expires your rent can be increased if:

  • Your tenancy agreement states a procedure for increasing the rent or
  • Your landlord gives you notice to change the terms of your tenancy, including the rent charged, on an AT1(L) form (only after serving you with a notice to quit) or
  • Your landlord gives you a written notice of the proposed increase on an AT2 form (they can only give you one AT2 notice per year)

Landlords of short-assured tenancies do not have to follow the above procedure. However, your rent cannot be increased during the fixed term of the tenancy, and the landlord should give you good notice of their intention to increasing the rent.

If you think the rent increase is too high, both assured and short assured tenants have the right to go to apply to the First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber for their rent to be set.

How Do I Deal with My Mortgage Arrears?

Keeping up with your mortgage payments should be your top financial priority. If your home is repossessed and you are evicted because of payment problems, you could become homeless.

Tip 1: Ensure You Act Quickly

Should you fall behind on your mortgage payments, you need to act immediately. Try to resolve the problem quickly or you might end up with a larger debt that is harder to manage. Many lenders charge penalty fees if you miss payments. The quicker you deal with the situation, the more options you will have, and less chance of losing your home.

Tip 2: Make Your Mortgage Your Top Priority

If you fail to keep up with the repayments on your mortgage or secured loan, your lender can pursue legal action against you to repossess and sell your home to help recover the money owed. Even if you keep up to date with your mortgage, you could lose your home if you fall behind with payments to a secured loan.

Be aware that if you have your current account, credit card, and other accounts with the same bank, the bank is usually within its rights to transfer money from an account that is in credit to another account that is in debt. This is known as ‘setting off’ debt. Due to this, it is best for you to set up an account with another bank to keep your mortgage money in. This will prevent your bank from taking money from your account that you were setting aside to pay your mortgage and using it to pay off a non-priority debt such as a credit card.

Tip 3: Pay as Much as You Can

If you are experiencing financial issues, keep paying as much as you can afford. This will help to stop your arrears from rising too quickly. It will also show your lender that you are making attempts to try and tackle the problem. If you have more than one loan secured on your home, do not make payments to one loan and not another, it is better to pay something towards both.

Tip 4: Consult Help to Tackle the Problem

Do not try to tackle the problem on your own. You can speak with an adviser at a housing aid centre, or local money advice centre and they will be able to:

  • Explore your options with you.
  • Help you find a realistic and affordable solution.
  • Help you negotiate with your lender.
Tip 5: Speak with Your Lender

If you are experiencing difficulties in paying for your mortgage (or think that you will have, for instance because you have lost your job) it is important that you talk to your lender straight away. Do not be put off because you think your situation is hopeless. There is often a solution. If you have not yet decided what to do about the problem, explain to your lender that you are going to get specialist advice about your options.

If you do not want to phone your lender or cannot get through to the right person, you can write to them.

Tip 6: Assess Your Situation

The best option for you to sort out your payment problem will depend on your individual circumstances. If you want to stay in your home, you will need to find a way of stopping your arrears from rising while keeping up with your future payments. You also need to pay off any arrears that have built up so far.

Firstly, try to assess whether your problems are likely to be short term (for instance, if you have lost your job, but will be getting a new job soon) or long term (for instance, if you have developed a chronic illness or have split up with your partner and they are no longer contributing towards the mortgage).

Tip 7: See If You Have Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance

If you have mortgage payment protection insurance, this would cover your mortgage repayments for a fixed period if you were unable to work because of an illness or disability, accident, or redundancy. You may have taken this out when you took your mortgage out.

If you have this type of insurance (which is different from a mortgage indemnity guarantee or life insurance), check the policy carefully. Many policies will not pay out until a few months after you are unable to work and then will only cover repayments for a year or two. You may need to make other arrangements to cover any payments that are not covered by your insurance.

Tip 8: Reduce Your Outgoings

Examine what you could do to reduce your outgoings, for instance by cancelling subscriptions (such as gym memberships, satellite TV subscriptions, etc), economising on shopping and leisure activities, or switching to a cheaper provider of electricity, gas, or telephone. The Consumer Credit Counselling Service website has advice on how to budget and save money, whilst you can investigate cheaper utility options at uSwitch.

Tip 9: Reduce Your Insurance Costs

It may be possible to reduce your buildings insurance, contents insurance, life insurance and/or payment protection insurance. You cannot stop your buildings insurance policy altogether (it is normally a condition of your mortgage) but you may be able to find a cheaper policy. You may be able to get cheaper contents insurance, life insurance and mortgage protection insurance by shopping around. There are many useful websites that allow you to compare the cost of different insurance policies such as Moneysupermarket.

Try to keep paying your insurance premiums. If you do not, your policy could be void and you could risk:

  • Your family losing their home if anything happens to you.
  • Not being able to replace your belongings if they are uninsured.
  • Not having the safety net of mortgage payment protection if your financial circumstances do not improve.
Tip 10: Reduce Your Mortgage Payments

Although you will eventually have to pay back the whole of your mortgage, it might be possible for you to reduce the size of your monthly mortgage payment so that it is more affordable.

Tip 11: Increase Your Income

It may be possible to increase your income by:

  • Working extra hours or taking on additional work.
  • Applying for benefits or tax credits.
  • Applying for help to pay your mortgage interest.
  • Renting out a room or letting your whole home.
Tip 12: Consider Switching Mortgages

You may be able to save money by switching to a different kind of mortgage with the same lender or a different lender. However, this may prove difficult if you have already built-up arrears. Furthermore, you may have to pay a redemption penalty, although it may be possible to add any fees or redemption penalties to your mortgage and pay them off over the rest of your mortgage term.

If you are thinking of switching to another mortgage, make sure you will be able to afford the repayments. Be aware that you may have to pay an arrangement fee and mortgage indemnity insurance.

Get advice from an independent financial adviser before you decide to switch mortgage.

Tip 13: Negotiate a Payment Plan With Your Lender

If you can afford to keep up with your mortgage payments and pay extra towards the arrears, you may be able to negotiate a repayment plan with your lender.

Most lenders will expect you to come up with your own plans for paying off your mortgage, rather than suggesting options to you of what you should do. You need to show that you will be able to pay off any arrears you have and keep up with future payments until your mortgage is completely paid off. If you have not worked out your options yet, it is still important to speak to your lender as soon as possible, to let them know that you are taking action to put things right.

Tip 14: Other Options

If none of these solutions proves possible, or if you want to leave your home, there are still some options open to you:

  • You could decide to sell your home voluntarily and somewhere else more affordable.
  • You may be eligible for the Scottish Government’s mortgage to rent scheme, a mortgage to shared equity scheme, or another mortgage rescue scheme operated by a local housing association.
  • You may be tempted to give your keys to your mortgage lender, but this will probably increase your debts.

A property factor is a decision-making body that maintains common parts of a property that are owned by more than one person (e.g. a common garden or a roof).

It can reduce time and disagreement if common repairs are needed. The property factor can be a landlord, a local government, or a business.

What does a property factor do?

The Factor’s responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining and repairing the common parts of the property
  • Hiring and paying workmen or staff to maintain the common parts of the property.
  • Holding the funds for repair and maintenance in a joint bank account. Ensuring owners pay towards it and pursuing them if they do not.
  • Getting common insurance for the property
  • Receiving and acting on complaints about repairs or maintenance.
Is a property factor required?

Not always. It will only be required under the following circumstances:

  • The property is a flat you purchased through the right-to-buy.
  • Your title deed obligates you to have one.
  • You are in a newly built development that is less than 5 years old (or 3 if it is sheltered housing or retirement accommodation).
How can I get a property factor, and must they be registered?

Use the Property Managers Association Scotland Limited to find a list of property factors. Alternatively, your local council may have a list of their own (link to council contacts article).

All property factors must be registered by law. Failing to do this incurs a £5000 fine. Check that a property factor is registered by using the Register of property factors website.

Can I complain about my property factor?

Yes, if they have not done any of their duties or has broken the Code of Conduct for Property Factors. You can make a formal complaint by writing to them. Make sure to keep a copy of the letter as proof.

You can also complain to the Property Managers Association if the factor is a member.

If writing doesn’t work, the complaint can then be escalated to the First Tier Tribunal (housing and property chamber).

Private Residential Tenancies and Evictions Guidance

If you have a private residential tenancy, you can only be evicted if your landlord follows the correct procedure.

What Happens When Ending a Private Residential Tenancy?

A private residential tenancy can only be ended by one of three ways:

  • By a tenant giving notice and leaving or,
  • The tenant and landlord reach an agreement to end the tenancy, or
  • Your landlord wants possession of the property and obtains an eviction order from the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland Housing and Property Chamber.

To start the eviction process, your landlord must give you written notice called a notice to leave. This notice must state:

  • The day on which your landlord will be entitled to apply to the First-tier Tribunal for an eviction order, and
  • Which ground is being used?

If you agree to leave the property, the tenancy will come to an end at the end of the notice period.

What is a Notice to Leave?

A notice to leave is written document that you landlord must provide you with if they wish to remove you from the property.

The notice to leave will tell you the reason why the landlord wants to evict you. These reasons are known as ‘grounds’. There are 18 grounds for eviction that your landlord can use and the notice to leave must state which grounds the landlord is using. This is important as the ground they use can impact your notice period.

Your landlord must take steps to ensure that you receive the notice to leave as soon as possible. The notice period starts from the day you receive the notice; this is assumed to be 48 hours after the landlord has sent it. Your landlord will not be able to make an application to the tribunal until the day after the notice period expires.

See what a notice to leave looks like on the Scottish Government website.

How Much Notice Do I Get?

If the notice to leave was served on or after the 7th of April 2020 – Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Scottish Government brought in new rules. These extend the notice period required before court or tribunal action for eviction can be started. The length of notice you are entitled to will depend on when the notice was served, and the grounds being used. Your landlord must wait until your notice has run out before they can ask the tribunal for a date to hear your case. This is not a ban on evictions. It does mean in most cases there will be a longer period between notice being served and the date the landlord can apply to the tribunal. For example, if your landlord is evicting you for rent arrears, they must now give you at least six months’ notice before they can apply to the tribunal. For other grounds, the notice periods may be shorter.

If the notice to leave was served before 7 April 2020 – If your landlord wants to end the tenancy, there are different periods of notice depending on how long you have been living at the property and what ground is being used:

  • If you have lived in the property for less than six months, then the notice period is 28 days, regardless of the ground used.
  • If you have lived in the property for longer than six months and the landlord is not using a conduct ground, then the notice period is 84 days.
  • If you have lived in the property for more than six months, and the landlord is using one of the six conduct grounds (see below) the notice period is 28 days.

The six conduct grounds are:

  • Ground 10 – not occupying let property
  • Ground 11 – breach of tenancy agreement
  • Ground 12 – rent arrears
  • Ground 13 – criminal behaviour
  • Ground 14 – antisocial behaviour
  • Ground 15 – association with a person who has relevant conviction or engaged in relevant antisocial behaviour
What is an Eviction Order?

If you have not moved out by the expiry of the notice period, the landlord will have to apply to the First-tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber for an eviction order. It is up to the tribunal to decide whether to grant the eviction. You may be able to defend the action.

An application to the First-tier Tribunal for an eviction order must include a copy of the:

  • Notice to leave given to the tenant, and
  • Section 11 notice – this is a notice which your landlord must send to the local council notifying them of a possible eviction

The notice to leave is valid for six months, if no application for an eviction order is made, then a new notice to leave would need to be issued.

Once your landlord applies to the tribunal you will be sent notification of this along with a date of a hearing or case management discussion.

If you want to defend the eviction it is important that you either attend the hearing or arrange a solicitor to represent you. If you do not do this there is a risk the tribunal will automatically grant the eviction.

If you receive any notification from the tribunal and want advice on whether you can defend the action you can speak to an adviser or contact a solicitor.

What Happens When there is a Wrongful Termination of Tenancy?

If your tenancy has been ended by the landlord, and you believe that they used misleading information to evict you, you can apply to the tribunal. The tribunal can make a wrongful termination order against the landlord. You can then be awarded compensation at a maximum of six months’ rent.

If the landlord served you a notice to leave using a false information or gave the tribunal false information to get an eviction order against you, then you may be able to get a wrongful termination order granted.

If you gave your own notice to end the tenancy, then you will not be able to get a wrongful termination order from the tribunal.

To apply to the tribunal, use application form G, using rule 110 – Application for Wrongful Termination. You can find supporting notes to help you fill out the form on the First Tier Tribunal’s website.

You will need to provide evidence to show that the landlord used false information to evict you. You will also need to show the tribunal a valid notice to leave from your landlord.

If you do not have a notice to leave from your landlord, then you may be unable to get a wrongful termination order from the tribunal.

What is an Example of Wrongful Termination?

The landlord served you with a notice to leave, and they ticked the box marked ground 4 – landlord intends to live in the property. This means they were evicting you so that they could move into the property once you moved out.

After you moved out, the landlord then re-let the property to new tenants. They did not move into the property themselves. The landlord misled you into leaving. You could then apply to the tribunal for a wrongful termination order.

What is the Required Notice Period if I Want to Leave the Tenancy?

If you want to end the tenancy, then you will have to give the landlord 28 days’ notice in writing. The notice must state the day on which the tenancy is to end, normally the day after notice period has expired.

You can still give notice after you have received a notice to leave. This might end the tenancy sooner if this is more suitable for you.

You can agree a different notice period, after the start of the tenancy, with your landlord if it is in writing.

Short-assured tenancies are normally given for a fixed length of time of 6 or 12 months. Once the fixed period is finished, the tenancy will then renew itself for another fixed period or it will continue a month-to-month basis. If your landlord wants you to leave at the end, you can be evicted quite easily but there are steps your landlord must follow. If your landlord wants you to leave when your fixed period comes to an end they must:

  • Give you a notice to quit, and
  • Give you at least two months’ notice in writing that they want the property back, known as a section 33 notice.

If your landlord does this and you do not leave:

  • Your landlord will have to tell the First Tier Tribunal that they want to evict you.
  • You will be sent a notice telling you when your case will be heard at the tribunal.
  • Your case will go to the tribunal, if the landlord has served you with notices correctly that the tribunal must make an order for eviction.
  • If the eviction is granted sheriff officers will be sent round to remove you from the property.

If you are an assured tenant then your landlord will need to state a reason as why they want to evict you and follow the steps below:

  • Serve you a notice to quit.
  • Serve you a notice of proceedings (also called an AT6 form)
  • You will be sent a notice telling you when your case will be heard in the First Tier Tribunal.
  • Depending on the grounds used you may be able to defend the action.
  • Your case will be heard at the tribunal.
  • If the tribunal grants an order, sheriff officers will be sent round to remove you from your property.

If the correct procedure is not followed, then you landlord will not be able to evict you.

What Should I Do If My Landlord Wants to Evict Me?

On the 7th of April 2020 the Scottish Government brought in new rules to extend the notice period required to be given to tenants before landlords can start legal action to obtain an order for eviction.

Your landlord must follow specific legal procedures to evict you. They cannot just throw you out into the street overnight. For example:

  • You should be given a certain amount of notice before you must leave.
  • Your landlord will need to have a reason for evicting you (for instance, because are in arrears with your rent or you have broken a term of your tenancy agreement).
What is the Eviction Process?

The eviction process follows these steps:

  • Anyone living in your house who is over 16 will be sent a notice of proceedings.
  • You will be sent a summons telling you when your case will be heard at court.
  • Your case will come to court.
  • The sheriff will decide on whether to grant a decree for eviction or not.
  • If an eviction decree is granted sheriff officers will be sent round to remove you from the property.

If your landlord is wanting to evict you get advice as soon as possible. An adviser may be able to tell you what your rights are and tell you if it might be possible to stop or delay your eviction.

What Happens After Court Proceedings?

Your landlord should send you a letter telling you when the eviction date is. This is called a ‘Form of Charge for Removing’ and must be served on you by a sheriff officer. This letter will normally give you 14 days to leave the property.

What is Meant by a Minute for Recall?

If you did not appear in court, and there was no-one there to represent you when the sheriff granted the order to evict you, then you may be able to lodge a minute of recall to get your case brought back to the court.

It is very important that you complete a minute of recall form correctly. You can speak to Shelter Scotland’s free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444 to speak to an adviser.

What Should I Do If I am/Going to be Made Homeless?

If you become homeless due to eviction, you should contact your local council for assistance.

Private Tenancies

Your landlord must keep your home up to a level of repair known as the ‘repairing standard’.

What are My Landlord’s Responsibilities?

Usually, your landlord is responsible for repairs to the property and to any items they provide you. As a tenant, you are responsible for any damage and disrepair you cause. Your tenancy agreement should say who is responsible for what. Your landlord cannot get out of their responsibilities by adding a clause into the tenancy agreement that says they do not need to carry out repairs, or that you will have to pay for any repairs that need done. These are unfair terms and will not be legally binding. The Gov.uk website has more information about unfair terms. Likewise, if your tenancy agreement does not mention repairs, you will still have legal rights to get certain repairs done.

What are My Letting Agent’s Responsibilities?

If your property is managed by a letting agent, then they may have some responsibility for repairs. When you tell your letting agent about repairs, they should carry out the repairs themselves, or tell the landlord so the landlord can do the repairs. Letting agents must follow the letting agent code of practice. This says what a letting agent must do when you tell them about repairs needing done in your home.

What is the Repairing Standard?

– Your landlord must make sure your home reaches a standard level of repair called the ‘repairing standard’. To meet the repairing standard:

  • The property must be wind and watertight
  • The property must be fit for you to live in, meeting the ‘tolerable standard’
  • The structure and exterior of the property (for example, the walls and roof) must be in a reasonable condition
  • The installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, and for sanitation, space heating and heating water must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order (these include external installations such as drains)
  • Any fixtures, fittings or appliances provided by the landlord (such as carpets, light fittings, white goods, and household equipment) must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order
  • Any furnishings provided by the landlord must be capable of being used safely for the purpose for which they are designed
  • The property must have suitable smoke/fire detectors – they should be mains powered or lithium battery powered.
  • The property must have suitable provision for giving warning if the carbon monoxide levels are hazardous to a person’s heath.

If your home does not reach this standard and your landlord refuses to carry out the necessary work, you can get a repairing order from the First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber. If you are moving into a new home, your landlord must make sure that the property meets this standard before you move in. If it does not, and they need to carry out repair work to bring it up to this standard, they must let you know about this before your tenancy starts.

What is The Tolerable Standard?

– Your home must also meet a basic level of repair called the ‘tolerable standard’ if it’s to be fit for you to live in. Your home may not be fit to live in if:

  • It has a bad problem with rising or penetrating damp
  • It is not structurally stable, for instance it is subsiding
  • It does not have adequate ventilation, natural and artificial light, or heating
  • It does not have adequate thermal insulation
  • It does not have an adequate supply of fresh water
  • It does not have a sink with hot and cold water
  • It does not have an indoor toilet
  • It does not have a fixed bath or shower and wash basin with hot and cold water
  • It does not have a good drainage and sewerage system
  • If there is an electric supply and it does not meet the relevant safety regulations
  • There are no satisfactory cooking facilities (this does not mean your landlord has to provide you with a cooker, but there must be somewhere suitable for you to install your own cooking facilities)
  • It does not have a proper entrance.
What is Structure and Exterior?

– Your landlord must make sure that the property is wind and watertight when you move in, and that it continues to be so while you are living there. This means that they are responsible for repairing damage to any part of the structure which might let in wind or rain, including the roof, chimneys, gutters and external pipes, walls (such as brick and plasterwork), windows and doors, and drains. The property should also be adequately insulated, so that you can keep your home warm without running up unreasonably large heating bills. As a guide, you should not have to spend more than 10% of your family income on heating. With a good heating system, you should spend much less than this. Your landlord must provide you with an energy report, which gives the property an energy efficiency rating. The higher the rating, the more energy efficient the home is, and the lower the fuel bills are likely to be.

What About Dampness?

– If dampness in your home is caused by a structural defect (such as a lack of damp-proof course, poor ventilation, an inadequate heating system or a hole in the roof) your landlord will probably be responsible for putting this right. You may need to show that the dampness is affecting your health to force your landlord to do any work. It is also up to your landlord to ensure that the property has a heating system that will enable you to keep your home free of damp and condensation without running up huge gas or electricity bills. However, dampness can also be caused by condensation produced by drying clothes indoors or the heating system not being used effectively, in which case your landlord may claim this is your fault.

What About Pipes, Drains, Gas, Electricity, and Heating?

– Your landlord should also be responsible for fixing installations, such as appliances for space heating (for instance, a central heating system or gas fire) or heating water (for instance, a boiler), water and gas pipes, flues and ventilation, electrical wiring, and Basins, sinks, toilets, and baths. Remember, it is up to you to take care of the installations. For instance, your landlord may want you to empty the water tank and turn off the water in winter if you are going away, to prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting.

What About Common Areas and Gardens?

– Repairs to areas that are shared with other people, such as hallways, stairs, or lifts, are the responsibility of the landlord. They must ensure that common areas can be used and are safe. If there are other flats in the building that your landlord does not own, the responsibility for common areas may be shared by your landlord with other owners. Your tenancy agreement should say who has responsibility for the upkeep of your garden. It is often the tenant’s responsibility, although this does not mean that you will have to improve the garden if it is in a mess. If you do not have a tenancy agreement or your tenancy agreement does not mention the garden, your landlord is likely to be responsible unless you agree otherwise.

What About Furniture and Equipment?

– Landlords must carry out an inspection of all installations, fixtures, and fittings in a property. Landlords also must give a copy of the most recent inspection report to the tenant before the tenancy begins. After the initial inspection, any property that is rented out will have to have a further inspection carried out at least once every five years. Any furniture your landlord supplies should be fire resistant. Your landlord is also responsible for the safety of any gas appliances provided. Remember, your landlord is not responsible for repairing anything that belongs to you. If you require further information on this specifically, check out furniture and equipment guidance on Shelter Scotland’s website.

What About Internal Decorations?

– Tenants are usually responsible for minor repairs to the internal decorations. This applies unless the disrepair is caused by disrepair or dampness that is the landlord’s responsibility, due to normal wear and tear, or caused by repair work your landlord has carried out. Check your tenancy agreement to see who is responsible for decorating the home and maintaining the internal decoration. If you want to redecorate, check your tenancy agreement first – you normally need your landlord’s agreement, and you may not be able to do exactly what you want. You should not have to redecorate before you leave unless your tenancy agreement says so, or you have damaged the decoration.

What is My Landlord Not Responsible For?

– Your landlord is not required to fix any damage caused by you or a member of your household, an ‘act of God’ such as freak storms or flooding, and a third party, for instance if your home is vandalised. This does not mean that repairs will not get carried out in these situations. For instance, your landlord should be insured against damage caused by storms or burglars, so may well decide to do the repair work anyway.

What are My Responsibilities as a Tenant?

– You have two main areas of responsibility:

Take good care of the property –  You need to look after the property and avoid causing any damage wherever possible. This involves:

  • Cleanliness your home should be kept reasonably clean
  • Keeping furniture provided in good condition allowing for normal wear and tear
  • Carrying out minor maintenance for instance, checking smoke alarm batteries and changing light bulbs
  • Keeping your home reasonably well heated particularly in winter so that you do not let the pipes freeze up and burst

If you cause any damage to the property or the furniture, either accidentally or on purpose, your landlord is entitled to make you pay for the damage, even if it is their responsibility to fix it. In some cases, your landlord may ask you to carry out the repair work yourself. If you have contents insurance, it may cover the cost.

Report repairs as soon as possible

– You are responsible for letting your landlord know about any repair work that needs done. Your landlord cannot be responsible for putting right problems they do not know exist. If you notice anything wrong with the property, for instance, a damp patch on the wall or a crack in the ceiling, it is important you report the problem to your landlord as soon as possible, even if you are not that bothered about getting it fixed. Do not wait until the problem has become bad – this could end up costing your landlord more to put right, and they may claim the extra money as a deduction from your deposit.

What Should I Do If My Landlord Wants to Access the Property?

Your landlord should give you notice before coming round. This is:

  • 24 hours if you are an assured or short assured tenant or
  • 48 hours if you have a private residential tenancy.

You can refuse your landlord access to the property if the time they want to come round is unsuitable. However, if they are coming round to fix repairs it might be best to let them in to complete the repairs. Your landlord can apply to the First-tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber if you cannot agree on a suitable time. The tribunal can then decide whether to assist the landlord in arranging a suitable time for access to the property.

What are My Responsibilities as a Tenant?

As a tenant you have 3 main responsibilities when it comes to repairs:

  • To report any repairs to the landlord as soon as possible.
  • To take good care of the property and avoid causing and damage.
  • Allow reasonable access to your landlord to fix any repairs.
What are My Landlord’s Responsibilities?

Your landlord is responsible for major repairs to the structure and installations of the property, while you will be responsible for minor interior repairs and decoration. Your tenancy agreement should set out exactly who is responsible for what.

Your landlord is not required to fix any damage caused by you or a member of your household or guest, either accidentally or on purpose.

What is the Right to Repair Scheme?

The right to repair scheme covers repairs which cost less than £350 to carry out. These are known as ‘qualifying repairs’ and must be completed, depending on what needs repair, within 1, 3 or 7 working days, they include repairs to:

  • Unsafe power or lighting sockets or electrical fittings.
  • The electricity or gas supply.
  • Blocked flues to fires or boilers.
  • External windows, doors, or locks which are not secure.
  • The space or water heating systems if no other sources of heating are available.
  • Tell you how long the repair will take to fix.
  • Explain your rights under the right to repair scheme.
  • Give you the contact details of the contractor who usually does repair work of this type for their properties, and at least one other contractor from their list of approved companies.
  • Arrange with you a day for the repair to be carried out.

If the repair is not carried out within the required time, then your landlord will have to pay you £15 initially then an additional £3 for everyday over the time limit until the repair is carried out, up to a maximum amount of £100.

What About Other Repairs?

For repairs not covered under the right to repair your landlord should have a procedure for dealing with these kinds of repairs, which should be explained in your tenants’ handbook.

When you report the repair, your landlord should let you know how long it will take to get the work done. There is no legal time limit, but the work should be done within a reasonable time.

What Should I Do If I Want to Make a Complaint?

Your landlord should have a formal complaints procedure if you are not happy about any aspect of your tenancy, including repairs. Your tenants’ handbook should have details of the complaint’s procedure, and you may also be able to find information about this at your landlord’s website.

Buildings insurance

Buildings insurance covers the cost of rebuilding your home if it’s damaged or destroyed. It’s usually compulsory if you’re planning to buy your home with a mortgage and you may not be able to get one unless you take out buildings insurance.

This page tells you what you can expect buildings insurance to cover and what you should think about when you choose a policy.

What is buildings insurance

Buildings insurance covers the cost of repairing damage to the structure of your property. Garages, sheds and fences are also covered, as well as the cost of replacing items such as pipes, cables and drains.

Your insurance should cover the full cost of rebuilding your house. This also includes the costs of demolition, site clearance, and architects’ fees.

Buildings insurance usually covers loss or damage caused by:

  • fire, explosion, storms, floods, earthquakes
  • theft, attempted theft and vandalism
  • frozen and burst pipes
  • fallen trees, lampposts, aerials or satellite dishes
  • subsidence
  • vehicle or aircraft collisions.
Do you need buildings insurance?
If you have a mortgage

Buildings insurance will be a condition of the mortgage and must be at least enough to cover the outstanding mortgage. Your lender should give you a choice of insurer or allow you to choose one yourself. They can reject your choice of insurer but can’t make you use their own insurance policy unless your mortgage package includes insurance.

If you buy a house you should take out buildings insurance when you exchange contracts. If you sell a house you are responsible for looking after it until the sale is completed so you should keep your insurance cover until then.

If your mortgage lender repossess your home you’re responsible for insuring it until it is sold and you should tell your insurer that you are no longer living there, otherwise you may not be covered.

If you don’t have a mortgage

Buildings insurance isn’t usually compulsory but it is advisable. Think about how you would afford to rebuild your house if it were damaged or destroyed. Owners of tenement flats are required to have buildings insurance.

If you’re a tenant

Your landlord usually takes out the insurance, although you may be responsible for loss or damage to fixtures and fittings. Your household contents insurance may cover this.

How much buildings insurance cover do you need?

It’s important to make sure you insure yourself for the amount it would cost to  completely rebuild your home. This is called the sum insured. The cost of rebuilding your home is not the same as the price you paid for your home, or its current value if you were to sell it. Rebuild costs are usually less than the current market value, so make sure you don’t over or under insure yourself.

To help you work out the cost of rebuilding your home,  there’s a Building Cost Information Service online calculator on the Association of British Insurers’ website.

Some insurers offer unlimited cover so you don’t have to work out the rebuild costs. However, if already know what they are, it may be cheaper to shop around for a policy that fits your exact needs.

Some policies work out the sum insured based on a general assessment of where you live and the type and age of your home. However, this may not fit your particular property, so you’ll need work out whether you’ve got enough cover.

You should regularly review the amount your buildings insurance cover as rebuild costs tend to rise over time. Some insurers offer policies that will increase the sum insured automatically in line with rebuild costs.

Remember, if you improve your home, such as adding an extension or a loft conversion, the rebuild costs may also increase and you will need to make sure you’re covered.

If your property has special features, for example a thatched roof, or it’s a listed building, you can pay for a survey from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors to assess the rebuild costs.

Do you need extra buildings insurance?

You might want to consider taking out extra buildings insurance to cover for you for other risks. You’ll have to pay higher premiums for this cover. You can add on extra insurance for:

  • flooding or subsidence if you live in a high risk area
  • accidental damage to your home
  • alternative accommodation if you have to move out of your home after you’ve made a claim
  • damage to boundary walls, fences, gates, driveways and swimming pools
  • damage to underground pipes, cables, gas and electricity supplies
  • glass in windows, doors, conservatories and skylights
  • liability cover if someone else’s property is also damaged
  • legal expenses cover
Other useful information
  • The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has guidance on rebuilding costs at: www.abi.bcis.co.uk
Household contents insurance

It is a good idea to take out home contents insurance to cover your possessions against fire, theft and other risks, such as accidental damage. If something happens to destroy or damage your possessions, it can cost a lot of money to replace them items, some of which may be essential.

This page tells you what you can expect home contents insurance to cover, how to choose a policy and what problems you might have with making an insurance claim.

Top tips

If you download music and films onto your computer, mobile phone, iPod or mp3 player, many home contents policies offer download insurance as an add-on.

This insurance protects you against the cost of replacing your downloads if they’re damaged, lost or stolen.

However, you won’t be covered if the loss is caused by a computer virus or hardware failure so make sure you’ve got up-to-date anti-virus protection.

What is home contents insurance?

Home contents insurance covers you against loss, theft  or damage to your personal and home possessions. It can also cover you if you take items out of the home, on holiday, for example.

The insurance covers your own possessions and those of close family members living with you. It may not cover the possessions of anyone staying with you temporarily.

You don’t have to take out home contents insurance. However, it’s a good idea to do so because if any of your contents are lost, stolen, or damaged you will have to pay to replace them.

What should your policy cover?

Your policy should cover damage caused by fire, flooding, storms and theft. You may have to pay extra to cover accidental loss or damage to your possessions. This may be worth considering is you have children or pets. However, check what’s included.

You will also have to pay extra to cover possessions that you take out of the home, for example, cameras or jewellery, or to cover a particularly valuable item. Your policy may not cover the contents of a freezer or a mobile phone and there may be an upper limit for a single item.

Most policies carry an excess. This means that you won’t be covered for the first few pounds of a claim. A typical excess may be between £50 and £100.

Most policies offer new for old cover. This means you get the full replacement cost of items that are lost, stolen or damaged. However, some policies will only offer you the amount that your items are currently worth if you need to make a claim. Make sure you know what your policy is offering to replace before you take it out.

Home contents insurance can also pay a lump sum if you die from a fire, theft or accident at home. It can also cover you if someone is injured or dies when visiting you.

Home contents insurance if you’re renting

If you are a tenant, check to see whether you are responsible for insuring any contents belonging to your landlord because you may be liable for replacing any items that are lost or damaged. If you rent an item, for example, a television, check whether you need to insure this.

Taking out a home contents policy

Before you take out a policy you need to work out how much cover you need, based on the cost of replacing all your possessions. Many people under-insure themselves, so make sure you include everything, including carpets or flooring and the contents of your garage or shed. You may want to get several quotes before choosing a policy.

Sum-insured and bedroom rated policies

Home contents insurance policies are usually worked either on the number of rooms in your house. These are known as bedroom rated polices. Alternatively, they may be based on the total value of the contents and possessions you own. These are called sum-insured policies.

Premiums can be higher if you take out a policy worked out on the number of rooms but they may offer more cover.

You will need to compare:

  • what each policy covers and what the exclusions are
  • the premium you have to pay
  • the amount of any excess that you will have to pay yourself
  • the no claims bonus which increases yearly if you don’t make a claim
  • any additional conditions, for example, about leaving your home unoccupied for a long period.

You must give your insurer as much information as you can about anything that might affect their decision to insure you, or how much to charge you. You must also tell them about any changes in your circumstances.

Problems with home contents insurance claims
  • If you are underinsured your insurer may only pay a proportion of your claim
  • There may be a limit on what you can claim for a single item and you may have to  pay an excess
  • If you didn’t take out a new for old policy, you will not be covered for fair wear and tear to an item
  • Your policy may say that your insurer can provide a replacement item rather than the money to replace it
  • If one item in a set is damaged, for example, one chair in a set, you may not be able to find a matching replacement. If this happens your insurer should pay for the damaged item and an amount towards replacing the undamaged items.

Planning

 
Planning Blight and Blight Notices Guidance

If the council or another public authority is planning a development in your area that affects your home, you could find it hard to sell your home for a reasonable price. However, you may be able to force them to buy your home by serving a blight notice. This section explains what planning blight is, what blight notices do, and how you may be able to get one.

What is a Blight Notice?

If a planned public development such as a new motorway, airport extension, railway line, or energy plant is affecting the value of your home, this is known as ‘planning blight’, because your home has been ‘blighted’ or spoilt by the planned work. A blight notice is a legal notice that you can serve on the authority responsible for the development if you want them to buy your home so you can move away. This article uses the example of the council as a public authority, but you can find out more about public developments and the authorities responsible for them on Shelter Scotland’s website.

For example, you may want to apply for a blight notice if:

  • Your home is next to a proposed new road or motorway, or a road that is due to be widened
  • Your home is near land that is needed by a utilities company, for example, to lay gas pipes or build a wind farm
  • Your home is in or near a housing renewal area where homes are to be demolished
  • Your home is subject to a compulsory purchase order (CPO) and you want to move away, but the CPO process is moving very slowly.
Who Can Apply for a Blight Notice?

You should be able to apply for a blight notice if:

  • You own your home, and
  • The council or another public authority is planning a development in your area, and
  • Your home is subject to a compulsory purchase order (CPO), or is likely to be subject to a CPO in the future, or
  • You cannot sell your home on the open market because of the development, or
  • The value of your home has dropped significantly because of the development, or
  • Your home will be badly affected by the planned work, and
  • You cannot get the authority to agree to buy your home voluntarily.
How Do I Get a Blight Notice?

To serve a blight notice, you need to fill in a standard form, which you can get from the council or authority.

Talk to a solicitor if you are in this situation, as blight notices are not easy to get. A solicitor will:

  • Advise you on your options.
  • Send the authority the blight notice on your behalf.
  • Agree a good price for your home.
  • Negotiate compensation.
  • Carry out the legal conveyancing work involved in selling your home.

Once you have sent a blight notice to the council, it must let you know within two months whether it will buy your home, and if not, why not.

If the council does not get back to you within two months, the blight notice will go ahead automatically, and the council will have to buy your home.

What If the Council Will Not Buy My Home?

Blight notices are not very common in Scotland, so you may find it hard to get one. If the council refuses to buy your home without good reason, you may be able to appeal to the Lands Tribunal – you can find out how to apply at the Lands Tribunal website. Talk to a solicitor before you apply – they will be able to tell you if it is worth pursuing your case.

Can I Get Compensation?

You may be able to claim a home loss payment when you move out, but the council will not have any duty to rehouse you, so you will have to find a new home yourself.

Where Can I Get Help and Advice?

Planning Aid for Scotland offers free, independent advice to individuals and community groups on all aspects of planning and related issues. You can also get information and advice from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Scotland (RICS) and your council’s planning department.

Who is liable for council tax?

Determining the person in each domestic property that is liable for its council tax is situational. A hierarchy of liability is used to find who needs to pay.

The following list displays this hierarchy. If nobody meets a tier of the hierarchy, it progresses to the next one. This continues until there is a resident that meets the description.

  1. Resident owner or partial owner
  2. Resident tenant
  3. Resident Sub tenant
  4. Resident without security of tenure
  5. Non-resident tenant or subtenant with a lease of 6 months or more
  6. Non-resident owner or partial owner
Who is exempt from council tax?
  • -Those who have a severe mental disability.
  • -Those between the ages of 18 and 19 who are in full time education.
  • -Full time students at university or college
  • -Anyone under the age of 18.
  • -Students
  • -Some apprentices
How is council tax calculated?

The valuation band determines the level of council taxation. This is based on the value the property held on the 1st of April 1991. Each council holds a list of properties with the assigned valuation bands. Below is a list of valuation bands with the corresponding property values.

  1. A-£27,000 or lower
  2. B-£27,001-£35,000
  3. C-£35,001-£45,000
  4. D-£45,001- £58,000
  5. E-£58,001-£80,000
  6. F-£80,001-£106,000
  7. G-£106,001-£212,000
  8.  H-£212,000 or higher
Am I eligible for a council tax reduction?
  • -You must be resident within the property for which you are paying council tax.
  • -You must be liable for council tax (see hierarchy of liability).
  • -You must have less than £16,000 in capital.
  • -You must be on a low income.
  • -You must not be subject to immigration control.
Is there a tax freeze in Scottish council areas (2021)?

Yes, all council areas have agreed to the council tax freeze until April 2022.

Your local council:

 

You can find your local council here – your local council website

What are the differences in tenancy types?
Secure Tenancy 

If you rent from the council, a housing association or housing co-operative, your tenancy type will more-than-likely be a secure tenancy.

 Assured Short Tenancy

This is a shorter-term agreement (minimum 6 months), usually when you rent from a private landlord or letting agency and gives the landlord greater rights of termination / eviction.

Private Residential Tenancy

This is the ‘newer’ of the agreement types – provides more security and stability to tenants and safeguards for landlords, lenders, and investors. This replaced Secure and Assured short tenancy for agreements taken out after 1st Dec 2017.

Landlords and Deposits

Deposits can often be the cause of dispute between landlord and tenant. Good practice in managing deposits can help avoid these problems. This article looks at the best practice for landlords in managing deposits.

What is a Deposit?

A deposit is a payment taken from the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy. It covers possible damage to the property or unpaid bills. Tenants will get all or part of their deposit back, if they have kept the property in good condition. It is important to note that the money legally remains the tenants throughout the tenancy.

Landlords cannot make tenants pay a holding deposit (sometimes called key money) to secure a property in advance of the tenancy beginning.

The introduction of tenancy deposit schemes means that all private sector landlords must register their tenant’s deposits in an approved tenancy deposit scheme within 30 working days of the tenancy starting.

What Should Tenancy Agreements Clearly State on Deposits?

A deposit should be covered by specific clauses in the tenancy agreement, the agreement should:

  • Outline the amount of deposit held (legally this cannot be more than two months’ rent).
  • Make clear in which way the landlord holds the deposit.
  • State what the deposit covers and what deductions can be made for.
  • State what the tenant is responsible for.
  • Make any clause fair and reasonable.
  • Refer to the inventory of the contents and conditions.
  • Include how interest will be dealt with (in theory any interest that accrues should belong to the tenant).
  • Outline the timetable for dealing with the return of the deposit.
  • State how any disputes will be resolved.

Landlords should also avoid making the following mistakes with clauses:

  • ‘Silent’ clauses: A silent clause is one that makes assumptions rather than being totally clear, for example, you may state in a tenancy agreement that the landlord can retain some or all the deposit if the tenant does not pay their rent in full. While this would cover you for any rent arrears it would not cover any damage to the property. You cannot simply assume that something is covered, it needs to be explicitly stated in the agreement.
  • ‘Unenforceable’ clauses: Unenforceable clauses are those which are unreasonable, or which limit the landlord’s liability. For instance, if you included a clause that stated three months’ rent would be held as a deposit, this would be deemed ‘unreasonable’ as it does not conform with the law (that only two months’ rent can be held as a deposit).
What is an Inventory?

Landlords should provide and agree an inventory with tenants. An inventory should be a clear statement of what fixtures, fittings, and furnishings are in the property at the beginning of the tenancy and their condition.

An inventory should:

  • Clearly state the condition of decoration, carpets, and fixtures/fittings
  • Itemise the furniture and condition/location.
  • Give utility readings, meters, and providers
  • Refer to cleanliness – and ask the tenant to leave it in the same state.
  • Give photographic evidence (at the beginning and end of the tenancy).

When both parties have come to an agreement on the inventory it would be good practice for both of you to sign the document.

At the end of the tenancy, you cannot just replace an old item with a new one if the old one has come to the end of its lifespan. Tenancy deposits are to compensate for any damage or loss that cannot be put down to fair wear and tear.

How Do I Resolve a Deposit Dispute?

Once a deposit is registered in a tenancy deposit scheme, each scheme provider provides a free-to-access dispute resolution service. If a dispute reaches this stage, then an independent adjudicator, appointed by the scheme provider, will consider the opinions of both the landlord and tenant, and decide how much of the deposit should be returned to each party.

For deposits that do not need to be registered in a tenancy deposit scheme:

Sometimes at the end of the tenancy, disputes arise over the return of the deposit. You should already have made clear in your tenancy agreement how any dispute will be dealt with.

To resolve a dispute, you should:

  • Agree dispute resolution
  • Consider using a mediation service if one is available locally
  • Apply test of ‘reasonableness’
  • Discount fair ‘wear and tear’
  • Explain the timescales for returning a deposit to the tenant.

If the tenant is not satisfied with the outcome of the dispute, they can go to a small claims court to challenge the decision.

What is a Guarantors’ Agreement?

An alternative to deposits is to use a guarantor; this is where a third party agrees to take on liabilities arising from some one’s tenancy. Guarantors stand surety. This means that they guarantee rent payments and other tenancy obligations. A guarantor pays the landlord the rent if the tenant defaults, and pays the landlord losses, expenses, or damages where the tenant fails to carry out his obligations under the lease. As guarantors’ agreements are not technically a sum of money, they will not be covered by the tenancy deposit scheme requirements.

If you decide to ask for or accept a guarantor rather than a deposit you should make sure that the guarantor understands the responsibility, they are taking on. You should outline the nature of the guarantee arrangement in a letter or written contract, for instance:

‘This guarantor agreement creates a binding legal contract. If you do not fully understand the nature of the agreement, then it is recommended that you take independent legal advice before signing.’

Within the agreement you should set a limit for liability. The contract should be signed by both landlord and guarantor at least seven days in advance.
You may wish to extend contract for another fixed term if you renew the original fixed term lease.

Private Tenancies

What Should I Do If My Landlord Wants to Access the Property?

Your landlord should give you notice before coming round. This is:

  • 24 hours if you are an assured or short assured tenant or
  • 48 hours if you have a private residential tenancy.

You can refuse your landlord access to the property if the time they want to come round is unsuitable. However, if they are coming round to fix repairs it might be best to let them in to complete the repairs. Your landlord can apply to the First-tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber if you cannot agree on a suitable time. The tribunal can then decide whether to assist the landlord in arranging a suitable time for access to the property.

Allow Your Landlord Access

ou must also allow your landlord access to the property to assess and carry out repairs at reasonable times of the day. Your landlord or anyone acting on their behalf should give you at least 24 hours’ notice in writing before coming round. They do not need to give you notice to check or make repairs to communal areas such as the hall or roof if you live in a flat.

If your landlord needs to get access to your home in an emergency, they are entitled to break in if necessary (for example, if a pipe bursts in your home while you are away, and water is leaking into other properties nearby). However, your landlord will have to repair any damage caused by a forced entry.

Although your landlord should arrange for repairs to be done, they will probably expect you to be at home to let in any contractors. Your tenants’ handbook should explain your landlord’s procedure.

A resident landlord must:

 

  • Use the property as their only or main home (if your landlord only stays in the property occasionally and has another home elsewhere, they will not count as a resident landlord); and

  • Have direct access from their accommodation to yours.

What is My Right to Live in the Property?

As a tenant, you have a right to ‘possession’ of the property. This means that you have the right to live there and to stop other people from entering without permission. This means having the right to:

  • Prevent other people from entering your home.
  • Be left alone by other people.

Landlords are not entitled to breeze in and out of your home whenever they like without giving you notice. Likewise, if you rent a room in your landlord’s home, your landlord is not entitled to enter your room without permission.

However, landlords are entitled to have access to the property if they have a good reason, for example if they need to carry out repairs. Your landlord must give you reasonable notice before they do this. Your tenancy agreement might state the amount of notice your landlord has to give – usually it is at least 24 hours’ notice.

What is Squatting?

Squatting is when someone deliberately enters property without permission and lives there or intends to live there. This is sometimes known as ‘adverse possession’.

NOTE: Squatting in residential buildings (like a house or flat) is illegal. It can lead to 6 months in prison, a £5,000 fine, or both.

Anyone who originally enters a property with the permission of the landlord is not a squatter. For instance, if you are renting a property and fall behind with rent payments you are not squatting if you continue to live there.

It is usually a crime not to leave land or property when you are instructed to do so by:

  • The owner.
  • The police.
  • The council.
  • A repossession order issued.

What is the Law in Scotland?

Squatting is not an option in Scotland. If you are caught trying to get into someone else’s property or living there without permission, you could end up facing criminal and civil action.

The owner or lawful occupier of the property you are squatting in has the right to eject you from the premises without giving you any notice or applying to the court for an eviction order. However, in evicting you, they cannot do anything that would break the law such as using violence against you. You can also face a fine and even imprisonment if you are caught squatting.

Neighbourhood Issues

Checking property boundaries

The property documents or title deed should outline the boundaries to the property. You can order property documents through the Registers of Scotland website by visiting –
https://www.ros.gov.uk/services/order-documents

For those who rent, the tenancy agreement might have information on where the property boundaries are. If this information is not available or there is no written tenancy agreement, the landlord should be contacted. Landlord details are available through the Scottish Landlord Register –
https://www.landlordregistrationscotland.gov.uk/

Putting up walls and fences

If you wish to put up a fence on your property, you must contact the council to ensure that planning permission is not required. The fence may be categorised as permitted development and you will not need planning permission. However, if the fence meets certain criteria(it is either over 2 metres tall, facing a road, further than principle elevation, on the grounds of a listed building or the property is in a conservation area) planning permission will be required. More information can be found at:
Build a gate, fence or wall around your house – mygov.scot

Those looking to put up walls or fences can check the property boundaries. Property documents can be ordered through the Registers of Scotland website –
https://www.ros.gov.uk/services/order-documents

If the property documents or deeds don’t mention fences or barriers, then generally, one can be put up.
More information on building walls and fences is available through the Scottish Government website –
https://www.mygov.scot/build-fence-wall-house/

Responsibilities for shared walls and fences

To find out who can use or repair a barrier or fence, the first step is to find out who owns it. The property or title deeds may say who owns a wall or fence, and as such has responsibility for repairs and maintenance.

If the property documents or title deeds do not detail the rights to use and repair a barrier, then advice should be sought from a solicitor. The Law Society for Scotland have a search facility for finding a solicitor that can help –
https://www.lawscot.org.uk/find-a-solicitor/

A barrier that belongs to one person can be used by them as they wish, without their neighbour’s consent, as long as it is safe. The neighbour does not have any rights over the barrier. It cannot be used for things such as supporting trailing plants without the owner’s permission. If the fence is jointly owned, each neighbour can use it for support, as long as neither makes it unsafe.

A property owner does not have to repair their barrier unless the title deeds say so. If the barrier injures a person or damages property, then the owner may be liable for damages. It is in the interest of the owner to keep the barrier in a reasonable state of repair.

Disagreements over responsibility

The property documents or title deeds of the property may have information on who is responsible for keeping a shared garden in good order.

If a neighbours’ garden appears to be a health hazard, the local authority environmental health department should be contacted. Contact details for the local authority can be found by visiting –
https://www.mygov.scot/find-your-local-council/

What to do when a neighbours’ tree is causing a problem

The owner of the tree has a legal responsibility to make sure that it does not damage a neighbour’s property, garden, or driveway.

If the roots or branches of a neighbours’ tree are overhanging the property, these can be cut back. Discussing this with the neighbour first can help to avoid any animosity.

If a tree is causing a danger or obstacle in a public road or pathway, the owner can be forced to cut it back by the local authority. Failure to comply may mean that the local authority carries out the work themselves and sends the bill on to the owner of the tree.

What to do if a neighbours’ tree or hedge is blocking light or views

If daylight, or views that were previously enjoyed have been lost due to a neighbours’ tree or hedge, the first step is to negotiate with the neighbour to reduce the height of the tree. Permission must be granted before taking any height off a neighbours’ tree.

If there is a hedge, or two or more trees in a row that are blocking light, and no solution can be met, then a complaint should be submitted to the local authority.

What to do if a neighbours’ tree is coming into a garden

In the first instance, if a neighbours’ tree branches or roots are spreading across into your property, you should approach the neighbour.
You can cut branches or roots back to the boundary line without the neighbours’ permission, however this could cause damage to the tree and negatively impact the relationship with the neighbour.
There are further steps that can be taken if a neighbour refuses to cut back a tree, such as requesting a ‘High Hedge Notice’ from the local authority.
More information on this can be obtained by contacting the relevant local authority.

Garden neglect

If a neighbour is unable to look after their garden due to disability or old age, they may be able to get help from the local authority who may run a garden aid scheme. The local authority can advise on whether they run such a scheme.
Details of local authorities is available at –
https://www.mygov.scot/find-your-local-council/

Dangerous and non-native weeds

Some dangerous and poisonous weeds can be very invasive. It is against the law to let non-native plants like Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed spread into the wild.
Problems with a dangerous weed growing into a garden can be dealt with by asking the owner of the land to remove the weed. The local authority may be able to get rid of the weed in some cases.
There are specialist companies for controlling these types of weeds who should:

  • Visit for a quote free of charge
  • Charge a reasonable price, based on the time taken to get rid of the wees and the cost of chemicals used.
  • Guarantee the work for a reasonable number of years.
Am I Allowed to Park Outside My Home?

You do not possess an automatic right to park directly outside your home or to prevent others from doing so, unless parking in a street is prohibited, or a space is reserved by the local authority for a particular resident. For instance, blue badge holders may have designated parking spaces available to them.

What to do If a Car is Parked on a Pavement

It is not an offence to park on the pavement, but it is usually an offence to drive on a pavement. It is also an offence for a parked car to cause an obstruction to others such as by blocking a pathway.

No legal definition exists in terms of what is considered an obstruction, but if the police are called, they will decide if the vehicle is blocking the way and can have it removed if the person in charge of it cannot be located.

You should report parked vehicles which are causing a problem to the police by calling 101 or contacting your local police station.
There is a legal provision in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 at section 50 that does prohibit parking on the pavement, but it is not in force yet.

How do I Report an Abandoned Car?

To report an abandoned vehicle, you should contact your local authority. Find contact details for your local council on mygov.scot.

What Happens If there is an Abandoned Car?

It is an offence to abandon a vehicle on land or on a highway. A local authority or the police must, by law, remove a vehicle which is abandoned on a highway, or on any other open land in their area. Such vehicles may be impounded, and the removal and disposal costs charged to the last registered keeper.

What Happens If the Car was Stolen?

If the abandoned vehicle was stolen, the registered keeper of the car may not have to pay the costs incurred by the local authority in uplifting and storing or disposal of the vehicle.

If the local authority believes a vehicle has some value, it must attempt to trace the last registered keeper who has seven days to uplift the vehicle.

How do I Report a Problem with a Road or Pavement?

You should contact the development department of your local authority if you have a complaint about the condition of a road or pavement. Let your local authority know if you believe that defective or icy pavements or roads may cause an accident. Find contact details for your local council on mygov.scot.

Should you encounter problems you are having with your neighbour regarding damages or repairs, you can:

  • Approach your neighbour only if you feel safe to do so.
  • Speak to their landlord if your neighbour is a tenant.
  • Get support from a mediation service.
  • Contact your local authority.
  • Speak with your local councillor or MSP.
  • Contact the police if your neighbour is breaking the law.
  • Pursue legal action.
What can I do If my Neighbour Causes Damage to my Property?

The option you decide to take is dependent on whether the damage was intentional or accidental.

If the Damage were Intentional – Should your neighbour cause damage to your home deliberately, it could be a criminal offence. If you believe they intentionally caused damage, you should contact the police even if they insist that they never meant to. You can phone 101 to receive advice from a police officer and make a report. If you feel threatened or intimidated, make sure you tell the police this too. Your landlord is also in the position of being permitted to act on your behalf if you have experienced anti-social behaviour.

If the Damage were Accidental – If your house has suffered damage accidentally, for instance a neighbour’s washing machine has flooded which damages your ceiling, there are options for you to take such as:

  • Submitting a claim to your insurance company – If you do not have insurance or the insurance company insists the damages are not covered by the policy, you can ask your neighbour to pay for the repairs.
  • Asking your neighbour to pay for the repairs – If they refuse to pay you can take them to court for damages due to negligence. To have a strong chance of being successful, you need to prove that your neighbour failed to take reasonable care to prevent the accident happening.
What can I do If my Neighbour’s Property is Rundown or in Disrepair?

Disrepair can include:

  • Dry rot which may potentially spread from one property to another.
  • A burst pipe which may potentially damage neighbouring homes.
  • Poor maintenance which may decrease the value of other properties in the immediate area.

The option you can take is dependent on whether your neighbour is a local authority or housing association tenant, a private tenant, or an owner occupier. If your neighbour’s property is in disrepair, you can:

  • Talk to your neighbour – It may be beneficial to write a letter and keep a copy for evidence purposes.
  • Speak to your neighbour’s landlord – You can consider this if your neighbour is a tenant and speaking to them was unsuccessful.
  • Contact the council – The local authority has specific powers in place to enforce repairs and maintenance of properties in multiple occupation (HMO) and have statutory powers to deal with landlords whose properties fail to meet the tolerable standard. For instance, when the building is no longer structurally stable or is no longer free from rising or penetrating damp.
  • Contact the building control department – They can issue a statutory notice which means they have to do the repair within a certain period.
  • Contact the environmental health department – This option applies if the complaint is about dirt or waste or could be damaging to the public’s health.
What can I do If the Property is Empty?

Should you be concerned that a privately owned property has been empty for a long time, you can report it to Shelter Scotland’s Empty Homes Advice Service.

What should I do If I cannot Reach an Agreement about Cleaning and Maintaining Shared Space?

Sometimes there may be facilities which are shared between two or more properties, for instance:

  • Common stairs
  • Washing greens
  • Shared gardens
  • The roof of a block of flats.

Your first step here is to check the title deeds for who is responsible for maintaining them and who has rights to use them. If you do not have access to your title deeds, you can request a copy on the Registers of Scotland website.

When neighbours fail to reach an agreement about cleaning and maintenance responsibilities, the local authority environmental health department can help. They can order households to clean the stairs and prosecute if necessary.

If communal land, such as a shared drying green, is causing an issue or posing a danger, the environmental health department can serve a notice on the owner of the land, requiring them to take steps to maintain the land properly within a certain time. Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot.

What should I do If there is a Dispute about Common Repairs?

A common repair is a repair to any parts of a property for which owners share the responsibility to fix and pay for. An example would be in tenement flats whereby people have the responsibility for the maintenance of common stairs, lifts, and the roof.

Who is Responsible for Repairs?

The title deeds will normally outline an owner’s responsibility. If you do not have access to your title deeds, you can request a copy on the Registers of Scotland website.

If nothing within the title deeds states anything on this, then legislation called the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004 provides a set of rules that can be used to settle any arguments about who is responsible for which part of the building. The legislation applies to any shared property not just tenements. More information can be found on mygov.scot.

NOTE: This Issue is regarded as a very complex legal area. A leaflet called ‘Common Repair, Common Sense’ is available on the Scottish Government’s website. There is also some useful information on the Under One Roof website.

Dangerous and non-native weeds

Some dangerous and poisonous weeds can be very invasive. It is against the law to let non-native plants like Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed spread into the wild. Problems with a dangerous weed growing into a garden can be dealt with by asking the owner of the land to remove the weed. The local authority may be able to get rid of the weed in some cases.


There are specialist companies for controlling these types of weeds who should:

  • Visit for a quote free of charge
  • Charge a reasonable price, based on the time taken to get rid of the wees and the cost of chemicals used.
  • Guarantee the work for a reasonable number of years.
What Should I do If Land is Contaminated?

The local authority has responsibility for checking land that may be contaminated and ordering for it to be cleaned up. If you are worried that land may be contaminated, you should contact the environmental health department of the local authority. Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) also has a 24 hour pollution helpline that you can use to report accidents or incidents of contamination that need an urgent response on 0800 80 70 60.

What Should I do If there is a Problem with Litter?

It is an offence to drop litter. Local authority wardens and the police possess the power to provide people with a fixed-penalty notice if they are caught dropping litter. Failure to pay the fine can result in prosecution. Anyone caught dumping litter or waste can be prosecuted. Your local authority should make sure that streets, parks, and open spaces are kept clean. Local authorities and other public bodies such as government departments and transport operators must also keep their own public land clear of litter and refuse. Keep Scotland Beautiful campaigns for waste and litter reduction. More information can be found on the Keep Scotland Beautiful website.

How do I Report Littering?

If you wish to report litter on land owned by a public body, you should contact the organisation concerned. If no action is taken, you can approach the local authority environmental health department. If you want to report litter on land owned by a private organisation, you should contact the organisation first. If no action is taken you can contact your local authority and they can force the private organisations to control litter on their land. They can, for instance:

  • Create a Litter Control Area, for instance, a shopping centre or car park, within which the owner must control litter.
  • Issue a Street Litter Control Notice, for instance, to a shop owner, requiring them to keep a pavement clear of litter.
  • Issue a Fixed-Penalty Notice.
How do I Report Fly Tipping?

You can report acts of fly tipping on Zero Waste Scotland’s Dumb Dumpers Stopline 08452 30 40 90 or on the Zero Waste Scotland website.

What can I do If I am Unhappy with How Rubbish Bins are Being Emptied?

The collection and recycling of most types of waste are the responsibility of your local authority. This applies even if the authority has contracted its waste collection services out to a private contractor. A local authority may charge for the collection of large items. Should you be unhappy about how your local authority collects or disposes of waste, you should use the internal complaints procedure. Find contact details for your local authority using mygov.scot. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

How do I Get Rid of Electrical Appliances?

For those purchasing a new electrical appliance, the shop that sold it to you must offer you a free disposal service for your old item. This includes all large and small household appliances, fridges and freezers, IT equipment, and many other electrical goods such as tools and sports equipment. Shops must offer you at least one of three options for getting rid of your old appliance which includes taking your old item back to the shop; or directing you to a special local collection site where you can get rid of your old item for free; or making sure your old item is collected when your new appliance is delivered.

How do I Get Rid of a Fridge or Freezer?

For those wanting to dispose of an old fridge or freezer, and you are not planning to purchase a new one, you should make sure that it is done safely to prevent accidents or harm to the environment. The refuse department of your local authority must provide a collection service for bulky items, but they can charge a fee. Alternatively, you can take your appliance to your local recycling or dump site for disposal. They will ensure that your old appliance is disposed of safely. You can find out more about Waste and Electrical Equipment on the SEPA website.

What Should I do If Beaches are Littered?

The local authority is responsible for keeping leisure beaches clear of litter from 1st of May to 30th of September each year. Should you be unhappy about the condition of your local beach, you can contact the local environmental health department. Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot. In addition, sea water is tested regularly by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The results are published annually on the SEPA website. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) works to protect the marine environment and its wildlife, more information can be found on the MCS website.

Skips

A skip is often required for construction or renovation work that has a large amount of rubbish. You will require a licence for one in some circumstances.

When is a skip licence required?
  • When you operate the skip hire business (you do not need a licence if you are using a private hire).
  • You are using a skip that is not owned by a private hire company.
When is a skip licence not required?

When the skip is entirely on private land (e.g. your property).

How can I get a licence?

You can apply to your local council for a licence. You can find your council’s website using this link Find your local council – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

How much will a licence cost?

A licence will typically cost £22 for every week that the skip is used but the amount can vary between councils. Check with your local council about the costs in your area.

What other requirements must be met when using a skip?
  • You must have the name, address and phone number of the hire company that owns it.
  • It must be in suitable condition.
  • It must be safe for pedestrians to pass it.
  • It must not block drains, roads or footpaths.
  • It must be painted yellow on both sides (to reflect the headlights of cars).
  • It must not be placed on a road verge.
  • It must not be placed outside nightclubs when they are in use.
What is Antisocial Behaviour?

No accurate definition of antisocial behaviour exists, but it usually refers to people acting in a manner that causes or is likely to cause alarm or distress to one or more people in another household. It can also apply to people doing something that will cause alarm or distress to someone over time. To be antisocial behaviour, the behaviour must be persistent.

Sometimes antisocial behaviour and neighbour disputes over minor inconveniences can overlap with each other. However, minor incidents may, if persistent, become antisocial behaviour. Examples of what constitutes antisocial behaviour includes:

  • Abusive behaviour focussing on causing distress or fear to certain people such as the elderly or disabled people.
  • Animal nuisance, including dog fouling.
  • Bullying of children in public spaces, as they are heading to school or even on school premises, if normal school disciplinary procedures fail to stop the behaviour.
  • Driving in an inconsiderate or reckless manner such as drivers congregating in an area for racing.
  • Dumping rubbish.
  • Graffiti
  • Harassment which also includes racial harassment or sectarian aggression.
  • Intimidation such as issuing threats towards neighbours and others or using violence.
  • Noise.
  • Shouting, swearing, and fighting.
  • Vandalism, property damage and graffiti.
  • Verbal abuse.
What should I do if I believe that antisocial behaviour is taking place?

Firstly, it is important (as understandably difficult it is some cases) to remain calm and evaluate the situation. You should make sure that you know which individual (or group) is responsible. Then you should find out if they are doing this on purpose. They may be unaware that their actions are causing you distress or alarm. They may sufferer from a mental or physical illness that produces the behaviour out with their direct control.

What can I do to stop anti-social behaviour?

What you do depends primarily on the type of behaviour you are complaining about and on the result you want. You may wish for:

  • The antisocial behaviour to stop.
  • Compensation for any damage, loss, or injury suffered.
  • An apology.
  • To be rehoused elsewhere.
  • The people responsible for the behaviour to be moved or evicted.
How should I monitor anti-social behaviour?

It is advisable to keep a written record of the behaviour that has taken place. Write down what happened when it happened and how often it has happened. You should also make clear who was responsible. This will ensure that you have a reference to work from when taking action and can be used as supporting evidence later on.

Option 1: Negotiation-

It is important to try and resolve these disputes informally first.

This gives the individual or group a chance to recognise what they are doing and make steps to stop doing it. Consider what compromises you can reasonably make to ensure that both of you can realistically coexist as neighbours in the future. An informal solution ensures that neither party faces the stress and possible expense of more formal methods. It also prevents your neighbourly relationship from worsening any more than it needs to.

Before speaking to them, write down the behaviour you wish to discuss, a list of points on how it is affecting you and solutions you want to suggest. Keeping to this written plan will make what you say clearer and is likely to be taken as emotionally charged (e.g. coming from anger or frustration). Make sure not to get angry. It is preferable to leave rather than letting the conversation devolve into an argument.

You should also consider whether other neighbours have been affected by the antisocial behaviour. They may be willing to accompany you to the conversation and give their own experiences. This can be useful in demonstrating the extent of the issue and helping the responsible individual or group understand the effects. However, your goal should never be to intimidate them, and you should avoid assembling large groups to speak with them if possible.

Option 2: Using Mediation – 

Should you simply wish for the behaviour to stop and avoid the stress involved in taking legal action, you could consider a mediation scheme.

A mediator aims to help both sides in a dispute to focus on the issue and reach a solution to resolve it. The needs of both sides are acknowledged, and you will try to compromise on the best solution to the problem. The mediator is not there to decide for you both but seeks to help you to agree a solution. Community mediation services address disputes between neighbours and in the community, including noise, children, pets, parking, and burglaries.

If you require assistance speaking with your neighbours, there might be a mediation scheme run by your local council. You can find your local council on mygov.scot. Other sources of mediation services can be found on both the community mediation service run by SACRO in your area as well as find mediators through Scottish Mediation. It should be noted, however, that fees may apply for mediation, depending on the provider. It may be possible for you to let them know you are on a low income as you might be eligible for a reduced rate.

Option 3: Agreeing to an acceptable behaviour contract (ABC)

An acceptable behaviour contract is an informal written agreement that recognises that anti-social behaviour is taking place. The person/those responsible must sign it, committing to stopping the behaviour and taking steps to prevent issues in the future. It can also cover solution involving you and others to help with any problems that are caused. These templates can include anything you and the individual who is causing the antisocial behaviour can agree to.

These contracts can be used for anyone, including children. They can be agreed with the help of the police, local council or other relevant authority.

No one can be forced to sign an ABC as it is an informal solution and not legally binding. An antisocial behaviour order is the formal and legally binding equivalent.

More information on this solution can be found at Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs) (lawandparents.co.uk)

Option 4: Requesting a Tenant’s Association or Landlord to Act –

You can ask your landlord to take the appropriate action required to tackle antisocial behaviour. The first step is to check to see whether the landlord has a policy and procedure for dealing with antisocial behaviour. Local authority landlords must have antisocial behaviour strategies in place.

All landlords are expected to tale reports of antisocial behaviour seriously. Despite local authorities and housing associations possibly possessing more resources to deal with these problems, private landlords must also take steps to resolve any issues.

If private landlords fail to respond to complaints of antisocial behaviour made by their tenants, occupiers, or visitors to the property they own, the local authority can serve an antisocial behaviour notice (ASBN) on the landlord. This will establish the steps that the landlord must take to tackle the antisocial behaviour.

If the private landlord also fails to follow through with these steps, the local authority can pursue a range of things such as obtaining a rent penalty order or a management control order.

A rent penalty order means that no rent is payable on the property until the landlord addresses the problem of antisocial behaviour. A management control order means that the local authority takes over the landlord’s functions in relation to the property.

Some extreme situations may see the local authority refer the landlord to the Procurator Fiscal for prosecution as it is a criminal offence to fail to comply with an antisocial behaviour notice.

Should you ask for a private landlord to deal with antisocial behaviour in their property and they fail to adequately do this, contact your local authority.

Several steps available to a landlord to deal with antisocial behaviour can include:

  • Requesting the police or the local authority to take the appropriate form of action.
  • Pursue court action to get the person behaving in an antisocial way evicted or take steps to bring the tenancy to an end.
  • Apply to a court for an antisocial behaviour order if the landlord is a local authority or housing association.
  • Rehouse the victim, or the person behaving in an antisocial way. Usually, this is very unlikely to happen unless the landlord is a local authority or a registered social landlord.

Should someone live in a public sector tenancy and has been issues with an antisocial behaviour order against them, their tenancy can be changed to a short Scottish secure tenancy. This means their landlord is unlikely to allow an exchange with another tenant.

The individual you are complaining about may have a tenancy agreement which prohibits certain forms of behaviour such as harassment, drug dealing, or noise. If they breach any of these terms, this could lead to the person being evicted.

Should you wish to complain about a local authority or housing association tenant, you will usually be able to do this through a housing officer. If they are not a local authority or housing association tenant, you may have to contact their landlord or the landlord’s agent.

Option 5: Requesting the Local Authority to Act

If you are suffering from antisocial behaviour, ask your local council to deal with it, regardless of whether you are a local authority tenant or not. Your local authority can:

  • Apply to a court for an order to stop or prevent violent antisocial behaviour in its area.
  • Apply to a court for an order to stop public nuisance, which includes drug-dealing.
  • Take steps to stop noise, nuisance, and threats to health.
  • Take steps to evict the person responsible for the behaviour if they are a local authority tenant.
  • Offer a victim if they would wish to move to accommodation elsewhere.
  • Send reports of any criminal offence to the Procurator Fiscal who will consider whether to prosecute having considered these reports and reports from the police.
  • Take steps to make sure private landlords tackle antisocial behaviour being exhibited by their tenants.

Should you feel unsatisfied with how the council deals with your complaint, you can contact the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. There is a leaflet about antisocial behaviour and neighbour problems on the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman website .

Option 6: Receiving Help from the Police –

The police can take appropriate action about any antisocial behaviour which is a criminal offence. They can refer someone to the Procurator Fiscal who has:

  • Carried out violent attacks against another person which has resulted in physical and/or psychological damage.
  • Caused damage to someone else’s property.
  • Behaved in a threatening or abusive manner to intimidate, frighten, or cause harassment, alarm, or distress intentionally, such as by stalking you or writing anti-gay slogans on the wall outside your home.
  • Incited racial or religious hatred or violence.

The police possess the power to disperse groups of people who persistently act in an antisocial way. They can also hand out on the spot fines (fixed penalty notices) for some types of antisocial behaviour, for instance littering and dog fouling or singing after being asked to stop.

When local bye laws are active it is an offence to drink alcohol outside and police can ask you to stop drinking if they think it is likely to cause antisocial behaviour. The police also possess powers to seize and retain vehicles if the owner has been driving in a particular manner which causes alarm, distress, or annoyance to the public.

The police can also apply for a court order to shut properties down where serious or persistent antisocial behaviour has been occurring. If someone tries to access the property, it will then become an offence and the property will be sealed. These closure orders are likely to be used in several cases such as where properties are used as drinking dens, for drug dealing or prostitution, and there is a high level of disruption and disorder as a result.

To report an incident of antisocial behaviour, you should contact the police directly by visiting your local police station or by phone. You can find details of how to contact the police on the Police Scotland website.

The police are required to take very seriously complaints about antisocial behaviour which is discriminating against you. Should you believe that your complaint has not been taken seriously enough or if you think the police are discriminating against you, you may want to make a complaint.

Option 7: Requesting Help from a Community Warden –

Community wardens seek to improve the quality of life and environment in local areas by reducing crime or the fear of crime, as well as antisocial behaviour. The activities of community warden schemes will vary between local schemes. They may include reporting antisocial behaviour and acting as professional witnesses or helping clear up litter or graffiti.

To see if a community warden scheme operates in your area, contact by your local council (Council contact details can be found on the mygov.scot website).

Option 8: Pursuing Legal Action –

You could apply to the court to try and claim compensation or request for an order to stop the perpetrator continuing with their behaviour.

Option 9: Relocating Elsewhere –

If you cannot get along with your neighbour, you may assume that your only option is to move. If you own your home and you move because of neighbour problems, a prospective buyer must not be misled by you or the estate agent about the problems that you have experienced. If a buyer asks if there is a current neighbour dispute and you or the estate agent fail to acknowledge this, the buyer may have the capacity to withdraw from the sale and pursue legal action for breach of contract.

Option 10: If Antisocial Behaviour takes place in Holiday Accommodation –

It may be possible that disruption through antisocial behaviour can occur from a property near yours that is rented out for short holidays, or weekends for a party. Legal powers are given to local authorities to control this problem. The council can apply for a court order to force the owners of the property to control the behaviour of anyone that rents it. The worst-case scenario may involve a sheriff court issuing a court order that allows the local authority to take over the management of the property for a year.

Noise

What Happens If my Neighbour is Making Too Much Noise?

If your neighbour is creating too much noise, such as playing loud music or from barking dogs, some options are available for you to take.

If you feel comfortable, try to address the problem directly by talking to your neighbour first. You should explain to them how the noise is affecting you and then make a request for them to reduce the noise (permanently or at certain times of the day). If your neighbour does not reduce the noise and they are a tenant, it might be worth contacting their landlord.

Should the problem persist, try and keep a record or diary of what the disturbance is and how often it happens. This can be used as evidence in any future action.

If an informal approach fails, you can take further action, including contacting your local council (normally the environmental health department). They might be able to visit your neighbour to ensure that the noise is reduced. For instance, they might persuade your upstairs neighbour to go downstairs and listen to the noise and vibration caused by their washing machine in the flat below. Your neighbour might then agree not to run the washing machine at night. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

What can I do If there is a Problem with Noisy Building Work?

Each local council has recommended times for building work. To find out when building work noise is permitted, contact your local council. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

How to Serve a Noise Notice on your Neighbour

If the local council officer thinks that a noise problem exists, a notice can be served on the neighbour. This notice will require the neighbour to stop the noise. If they fail to respect the notice, they can then be issued with a fixed penalty notice.

Can I Contact the Police Regarding Neighbour Noise Disputes?

The police also possess specific powers to deal with excessive noise. They might be able to issue fines to people who have failed to stop making excessive noise after being asked to do so, or they might confiscate sound-producing equipment.

What Happens If there is Excessive Levels of Noise on the Street?

Loudspeakers (except those used by the police, fire, and ambulance services) must now be used in the street at night. Ice cream and grocery vans can use chimes or bells between noon and 7pm.

You should complain about noise from loudspeakers or chimes to the police by calling 101 or to the environmental health department of your local council. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

What should I do If there is an Issue with Bright Light? 

Should you be frustrated because of the annoyance caused by a bright artificial light, such as security lighting, you should report the problem to the environmental health department of your local authority.

You can find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot. If the local authority decides not to act, you can pursue action through the sheriff court.

What should I do if my Neighbour is being Abusive?

If your neighbour is physically violent or verbally abusive or behaves in a dangerous manner towards you, you should contact the police.

Sometimes abusive behaviour could be related to cases of anti-social behaviour.

What should I do if my Neighbour is Abusive because of my Race, Religion, or Identity?

If you have been harassed or attacked because of a certain characteristic such as your race, religion, identity, or disability, the person who attacked or abused you might have committed another offence. Some abuse from your neighbours may be recognised as a hate crime or hate incident which is against the law.

Attacks can include verbal abuse or threats and abusive slogans painted on a wall or building. If your neighbours are discriminating against you, you can:

  • Report antisocial behaviour (see anti-social behaviour section)
  • Report them to your local council – they might be able to assist even if your neighbours are not local council tenants.
  • Report them to the police – if you are being harassed or victimised.
  • Take them to court – if you are being harassed or victimised.
What can I do if my Neighbour is Spreading Rumours about me?

If your neighbour is spreading rumours about you, you should consider what outcome you want. For instance, pursuing action might potentially gather more attention to the rumours in some cases, but tolerating the rumours may result in them becoming less frequent or disappear altogether.

If you want to act, attempts can be made to approach your neighbour (if you feel comfortable to) and explain how the rumours are affecting you. You could also try and get a mediator to help you both reach an agreement.

If speaking to your neighbour fails to lead to a suitable outcome, you could apply to the courts for an interdict. This is a court order to prevent your neighbour making negative and defamatory statements about you. However, sometimes it may be hard for to prove what the neighbour has said or done, and court action can be expensive.

What should I do If my Neighbour has Medical or Psychological Problems?

If your neighbour has medical or psychological problems, it might potentially affect their behaviour towards you and others.

If the neighbour has a regular visitor, such as another member of the family, a social worker, health visitor, or doctor, try discussing the situation with them. If you feel comfortable, you should explain how their behaviour is affecting you and they may possibly try and help you resolve any issues or concerns.

Can I Act If I Feel Concerned about CCTV or Drones?

If you have concerns about how a neighbour or your landlord is using CCTV or drones, guidance on this issue can be found at the Information Commissioner’s Office website.

When neighbours fail to reach an agreement about cleaning and maintenance responsibilities, the local authority environmental health department can help.

They can order households to clean the stairs and prosecute if necessary. If communal land, such as a shared drying green, is causing an issue or posing a danger, the environmental health department can serve a notice on the owner of the land, requiring them to take steps to maintain the land properly within a certain time. 

Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot.

Dealing with Animal Issues

If you are encountering issues which are being caused by animals, the action you can pursue depends largely on the type of problem and whether you know who is responsible for the animal or not.

Should you know who owns the animal, try to contact them first to see if you can resolve the problem.

If you are unaware of who the owner is or have had little success in resolving the problems with them, you can:

  • Contact the council environmental health department – This is mostly used for incidents around dog fouling and out of control dogs. Find your local council on mygov.scot
  • Apply to the Justice of the Peace (JP) court for an order which requires the owner of the animal to stop it from causing the problem. If the animal has caused significant damage, you can claim compensation from the owner at the same time as applying for the order. You are not required to use a solicitor. You should contact the clerk at the JP court for further guidance on how to proceed. Find details of your local JP court on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website
  • Contact the police if there has been incidents involving animal cruelty, a dangerous dog being out of control, or someone having a dangerous animal without a licence. The police are also responsible for helping with lost or stray dogs.
How Do I Report an Instance of Dog Fouling?

Your local council must clear up dog mess from public pavements. You can usually report dog fouling online. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

An offence will have been committed if someone in charge of a dog fails to remove and dispose of dog poo from public places, like:

  • Pavements and roads
  • Common passages, closes, courts, stairs, back greens
  • Children’s play areas
  • Recreational or sporting areas.

You do not need to clear up dog mess if you are a blind person in charge of a guide dog, or if you have a disability that the dog has been trained to assist with and your disability prevents you from clearing the mess.

Fixed Penalty Notices for Dog Fouling

Fixed penalty notices for dog fouling can be issued by the police or local council environmental wardens.

If you receive a fixed penalty notice, you must pay it by the date on the notice, or the fine will go up. If you do not agree with the fixed penalty and want to argue against it, you can try and challenge it.

You may also make a request for a hearing to argue your case by following the information on the back of the fixed penalty notice. If you do nothing and fail to pay the fine, legal action may be taken against you.

What can I do If I Have a Problem with Barking Dogs?

If your neighbour’s dog is making too much noise, there are steps you can take:

  1. Informal Resolution – Providing you are comfortable doing this, you should try and talk to your neighbour about the problem first and see if you can reach a solution to resolve the dispute.
  2. Mediation with your Neighbours – If you require assistance with speaking to your neighbours, there might be a mediation scheme run by your local council. You can find your local council on mygov.scot.  There may also be a community mediation service run by SACRO in your area. You can also find mediators through Scottish Mediation. There might be a fee for mediation, depending on the provider. However, if you inform them about you being on a low income, they may offer might a reduced rate providing you are eligible for this.
  1. Contact your Local Council – Alternatively, you can contact your local council. It can give your neighbour a noise notice or a fine. More about dealing with noise complaints here Neighbour Disputes: Noise and Abusive Behaviour Guidance | Salesforce
What can I do If a Dog is Out of Control?

Dogs can be dangerous when they get out of control.

Should you be concerned about a dangerous dog, or a dog attacks you, you should report it to the police on 101 or contact your local police station.

If there is an area where dogs are often a problem, you can contact your local council. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

Your local council can:

  • Enforce Local Laws – They could introduce laws to require owners to keep dogs on leads in particular areas or ban dogs from places like children’s playgrounds.
  • Provide the Dog Owner with a Dog Control Notice (DCN) – This requires owners ensure they take control of their dog, and they may need to possibly muzzle or microchip the dog. If they fail to follow the conditions of the DCN they can be prosecuted.
What can I do If Dogs are Worrying Sheep?

You are committing an offence if you let your dog worry livestock, like sheep or cows. The definition of worrying includes attacking or chasing in a way that might reasonably be expected to cause injury, suffering, or loss.

It is also an offence to have a dog in a field or enclosure where there are sheep if the dog is not on a lead or under close control.

If your dog kills or injures livestock, you may be sued for damages. You may be less liable for any damage done if the livestock strayed onto your land.

If a farmer kills or injures your dog, they may offer as a defence that this was done to protect the livestock.

What Happens If I have a Guard Dog?

Should you have a dog which is instructed to protect your home or agricultural land, you have a responsibility to make sure it is not out of control in any place, even in its own territory.

If you have guard dogs for business premises there should be clear warning notices that there are guard dogs, and they should be under the control of a dog handler or securely tethered.

How do I Report Stray Dogs and Cats?

Should you see a stray dog, you can report this to your local council environmental department. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

Alternatively, you can contact the police by calling 101 or contacting your local police station. Be aware that it is an offence to keep a stray without reporting that you have found it.

If you find a stray cat, you can report it to the SSPCA or Cats Protection.

When are Wild Animals Protected?

Wild animals have protection under the law. They may be protected if they are rare, or because people harm them.

Find out about protected species and non-native animals on the NatureScot website.

What is Wildlife Crime?

Wildlife crime is an act that may be committed by people who deliberately violate the laws protecting wild animals, but someone may accidentally commit an offence, for instance, disturbing a colony of bats.

The Scottish government has established a code of practice on how to act responsibly within the law to ensure that non-native species do not cause harm to the environment. Failure to follow the expected guidance outlined within the code is not an offence, but it could be used in court as evidence in criminal proceedings. The non-native species code of practice is on the Scottish government website.

How can I Report Wildlife Crime?

You should report wildlife crime to Police Scotland on 101. You can also check out the link to further information on how to report wildlife crime on the NatureScot website.

What is Animal Cruelty?

Any individual who is responsible for an animal has a legal duty to ensure that its needs are met. It is illegal to fail to meet an animal’s welfare needs or fail to protect an animal from unnecessary suffering.

For instance, this could mean giving the animal an unsuitable diet, providing poor living conditions, or hurting an animal deliberately.

You can see the welfare codes of practice and guidance on the Scottish government website for catsdogshorses and rabbits on how to meet the welfare needs of these animals. 

It is also an illegal act, which might be a criminal offence, to:

  • Dock a dog’s tail (except for working spaniels or hunt point retriever puppies if they are under five days old).

  • Participate in an animal fight for instance between dogs or cocks.

  • Offer live animals as prizes (except if a family member gives a relative a live pet).

  • Operate on an animal without due care and humanity.

  • Use an animal in an experiment that causes pain.

  • Abandon an animal.

Which Animals are Protected?

All vertebrates looked after by people are protected in law from cruelty. Vertebrates include mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.

Spiders and insects, including tarantulas and stick insects, are not protected. Certain insects are protected by the law to protect wildlife.

It does not matter where the animal is – for instance, inside a person’s home, a pet shop, a market, a circus, a kennel, or a cattery.

How Do I Report Animal Cruelty?

You can contact one or more of the following organisations for further assistance:

What Happens After I Report A Possible Instance of Animal Cruelty?

The police and inspectors from the local council and the SSPCA can apply for a warrant to search a home if animal cruelty is suspected but the occupier refuses to let them in. 

A warrant is not usually required to search business premises.
The case will be investigated and the animal’s welfare and living conditions will be assessed. 

Police and inspectors can remove an animal and take it to a place of safety. Most of the time an inspector receives the owner’s consent prior to doing this. The police possess the power to request a vet to put down any animal that they find so ill or injured that moving it would be cruel, whether the animal’s owner agrees to this or not.

Depending on the circumstances, an inspector might:

  • Persuade or educate the person responsible for the animal to look after the animal properly.

  • Provide them with a care notice which states what the person is failing to do and giving them a period to take action to improve the animal’s welfare.

  • Start criminal prosecution proceedings by reporting the case to the Procurator Fiscal.

Should the person fail to follow a care notice properly, they are likely to be charged with an offence and prosecuted. Their name might also be added to a database of people convicted of animal cruelty.

What are the Criminal Penalties for Acts of Animal Cruelty?

Should someone be prosecuted and found guilty of serious neglect or cruelty of an animal or animal fighting, they can be jailed for up to five years, fined, or both.

Should someone be convicted of failing in their duty of care, abandonment, or other offences of neglect of an animal, they can be jailed for up to a year, fined up to £40,000, or both.

A court can enforce several orders to restrict the person’s contact with animals, such as:

  • A deprivation order to take the animal away and stop the person from owning it. The order might also require that the animal be sold or destroyed.

  • A disqualification order to prevent the person from owning or working with animals.

Should someone be disqualified from owning an animal in England and Wales, they will also be disqualified in Scotland. If they breach the order, they can be imprisoned for up to six months or fined by a Scottish court.

If the Damage were Accidental – If your house has suffered damage accidentally, for instance a neighbour’s washing machine has flooded which damages your ceiling, there are options for you to take such as:

  • Submitting a claim to your insurance company – If you do not have insurance or the insurance company insists the damages are not covered by the policy, you can ask your neighbour to pay for the repairs.

  • Asking your neighbour to pay for the repairs – If they refuse to pay you can take them to court for damages due to negligence. To have a strong chance of being successful, you need to prove that your neighbour failed to take reasonable care to prevent the accident happening.

Abandoned Properties

Introduction to Empty Homes and Property Guardian Schemes

How Do I Report an Empty Home?

Should you be aware of an empty home in your area, you should contact Shelter Scotland’s Empty Home Advice Service on 0344 515 1941 or email:  emptyhomes@shelter.org.uk.

Empty Homes List

Shelter Scotland has a partnership with the Scottish Government to help councils work with homeowners to bring empty houses back into use. You can cess further information about this on the Scottish Government website and on Shelter Scotland’s website.

Why Bring a Property Back into Use?

Several reasons exist about why it is beneficial to bring an empty property back into use, including:

  • The potential to make an income from the property.
  • The potential to reduce maintenance and security costs on the property.
  • Increasing the value of the property.

However, it should be noted they are some disadvantages to keeping a property empty:

  • The Empty Homes Agency estimates that it can cost an homeowner up to £7,000 per annum to keep their home empty (this includes the cost of council tax, minimal security to the property, and lost potential rent).
  • Should a property lie unused and deteriorating, it is at higher risk of vandalism, crime, and damage from the elements.
  • The longer your property is left empty, the less valuable it becomes.

Should you possess an empty property and would like to bring it back into use, there are a few options to consider.

What is the Empty Homes Loan Fund?

The Empty Home Loan Fund has 17 projects across the country and many of which involve either councils or housing associations (or a partnership of the two) providing loans to empty homeowners to renovate their empty property. Several other councils have established their own loan and sometimes grant funds for empty homes.

What is Involved When Selling My Empty Home?

There are several options available to you if you are considering selling your home.  It is worth acknowledging that it is not always necessary to renovate an empty home before it can be sold. You need to calculate what resources you have at your disposal and whether the increased sale price you might achieve after any renovation works is sufficient to cover the costs both in time and money it would cost you to undertake such works.

  • Estate agents – Shelter Scotland recommends people to check with your local estate agents to see if they list and market empty properties.
  • Auction houses – They also have suggested that empty homes are frequently sold at property auctions. Selling your home at auction provides a quick way to sell your property as there is no process of exchanging missives, the price is agreed, and legally binding on the day of the auction. Below are some auction houses that often feature Scottish properties:
  • Housing Associations – You could contact your local housing association to see if they are interested in purchasing your property to add to their own portfolio of properties.
  • Matchmaker Schemes – It may also be possible to check if your council runs an Empty Homes Matchmaker Scheme. The scheme functions by taking some details from Empty Homeowners who are considering selling their property and people who are interested in buying empty properties and getting them in touch with one another.
  • Council Buy Back Schemes – Some councils invest in ‘buying back’ ex-council stock and along with other properties to increase their own housing stock.
What about Renting Out an Empty Property?

There are several options you can pursue to rent out your property.

  • Renting the property out yourself – Should you be considering the possibility of letting your home, it is vital that you are aware of your legal rights and responsibilities (see the guide on legal rights and obligations on the Shelter Scotland website).
  • Using a letting agent – Letting agents can provide a property management service, find you tenants, and deal with collection of rents and deposits in exchange for a fee. The Association of Residential Letting Agents and the Council of Letting Agents are useful places to check out, if you are not sure what letting agents operate in your area.
  • Private Sector Leasing Scheme – Some councils run Private Sector Leasing schemes to increase the number of homes they can offer to people on their housing waiting list. Properties will normally be required to meet set standards and in exchange property owners are guaranteed a set rent level for the agreed lease period.
What is Energy Efficiency Funding?

There are various funding streams in Scotland that specifically seek to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions which can be accessed by private sector empty homeowners, depending on their situation. Considering energy efficiency measures a part of a refurbishment project can provide several benefits. For more information on this, please contact Home Energy Scotland.

What Should I Do If My Property Requires Renovation?

Should your property need renovation or repair before you can sell, rent, or live in your property yourself, then your council might provide you with advice and information about doing up your property. Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for some forms of assistance such as a grant or loan. You may also be eligible for VAT discounts that long term empty properties are entitled to (where properties have been empty for 2 years or more).

Many councils also run Trusted Trader Schemes that can help you to find a reliable local tradesperson to carry out work on your property.

Should you be confused as to where you should start when looking to renovate your property, you should consider whether selling the property in its current state might be an option. If you are sure you want to renovate but do not know what to do, try getting in touch with your local council to see if they can offer you some advice.

What is the Empty Homes Advice Service?

Further information on what you can do to bring an empty home back into use can be found by contacting Shelter Scotland’s Empty Homes Advice Service. This service provides advice and support to owners and neighbours of empty homes, including:

  • Providing first level empty homes advice to empty homeowners, neighbours, and organisations interested in empty homes work.
  • Making referrals to their network of local Empty Homes Officers working in Scotland’s Local Authorities.
  • Following up on empty homes reports and pursuing empty homes case work in areas without a local empty homes service.
  • Provide information on where empty homes grants and loans are available throughout the country and link into local Empty Homes Matchmaker Schemes.

The service can be contacted either by phone: 0344 515 1941 or email:  emptyhomes@shelter.org.uk.

Resolving Problems if you Live Near a Business

Sometimes you may encounter an issue with a business and how it operates near your home. For instance, the business might:

  • Handle Waste Inappropriately such as using public bins, littering, not separating food waste, or attracting rats.

  • Operate under Late Opening Hours.

  • Produce Smells such as from restaurants or factories.

  • Create Significant or Unpleasant Noise such as from loud music or from people entering or leaving the premises, like a bar or pub.

  • Have Guard Dogs (clear warning notices should be made available to state that guard dogs are on the premises and must be under the control of a dog handler or securely tethered).

Many of the activities that could develop issues like noise are covered by licensing procedures. If a business breaches the conditions of their licence or the local authority decides that the problem is a statutory nuisance then formal action can be taken. A statutory nuisance can be described as anything that has an unreasonable impact on your ability to enjoy your home or other premises.

Record Everything that Occurs

You should try and keep a record of what happens. For instance, if a club plays music past the time on its licence with the council, take a note of the date and time it happens.

Consider Writing to the Business

You can ask the business to take action to address the issue. It is best to do this in writing and keep a copy of the letter as evidence that you have made reasonable attempts to resolve the problem.

You should outline what the dispute is about and how this is causing a problem. For instance, food waste is not disposed of correctly and is attracting rats. If you do not receive a response, or get an unhelpful one, you can raise the matter further by contacting the local council for example.

Can I Act through the Local Authority?

Businesses need licences from the local council for:

  • Entertainment such as for nightclubs or sports stadiums.

  • Commercial waste disposal.

  • Alcohol.

  • Selling food.

  • Street traders and markets.

  • Temporary obstructions such as scaffolding.

The local authority is typically responsible for providing licences to businesses, although some other public bodies also do this. For example, Food Standards Scotland.

Should you believe that a business is failing to conform to its licence, contact the authority who provided it, usually the local authority. Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot. You should make them aware of the problem and be clear about the effect this has on you. For instance, loud music at night is preventing you from sleeping properly. 

Pet related businesses

Any breeding kennels, boarding kennels, riding stables and pet shops need to be licenced by the council to operate.
If you encounter an issue with a pet related business (e.g. noise or the abuse of animals), you can report it to the environmental health department of you local council. 

How do I Report Pollution Problems from a Business?

Your local authority will also deal with complaints about smaller industrial processes such as an incinerator or a foundry. If you want to complain about pollution from a larger industrial process such as a power station or oil refinery, you should contact the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

What can I do if I am Concerned about a New Business Applying for a Licence?

Normally licence applications are published in the local press and at the site of the proposed activity. If you are aware that an application for a licence has been made for an activity which may create problems, it might be possible for you to comment on the proposal and potentially speak at the local committee meeting assigned to discussing the proposal. Contact your local authority for more information. Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot.

Family & Relationships

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is recognised as a crime in Scotland. If you are being harmed by their partner or ex-partner, you may be experiencing domestic abuse.

This is not your fault and numerous organisations exists who can provide you with support and help you with this issue.

It is difficult sometimes to identify signs of domestic abuse occurring or come to terms with it. There is not a single ‘typical’ type of victim of abuse, and it can affect people of any age, including teenagers and students as well impacting both men and women alike.

Your abuser does not have to be violent towards you for it to be abuse. They might be using strategies to undermine you, take away your freedom, and trap you into living under their control (this is referred to as coercive control). The abuse could be directed towards you, your children, or even your pets to as means of intimidating and controlling you.

You should reach out for specialist assistance if you or your children are experiencing any behaviour from a partner or ex-partner that is:

  • Mentally and emotionally abusive – this covers verbal abuse, undermining your confidence, gaslighting (making you question your version of what has happened).
  • Violent, including sexual violence.
  • Isolating from friends, relatives, health services, and sources of support.
  • Monitoring or controlling – for instance, tracking you, watching your social media accounts, making you stay in the house during the day, or limiting time at the shops.
  • Degrading or punishing – for instance, not allowing you to eat or rewarding you for only ‘good’ behaviour.
  • Financially controlling – for instance, not allowing you to have your own bank account or having benefits paid only to the abuser.
  • Intimidating – for instance, making threats of violence.
  • Harmful towards pets or your belongings as means of attempting to manipulate, frighten, or control you.

In addition to domestic abuse, you might be experiencing other forms of gender-based violence, such as stalking, rape, or sharing intimate photos or videos without consent. There are certain organisations (see below) that can help you.

What Should I Do I am Not Sure Whether It Is Abuse or Not?

Trained advisers at Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline can discuss with you about your situation and help you understand what is happening.

Both men and women can phone or email 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is confidential and can be anonymous if you want. A translation service is available if English is not your preferred language.

Should you believe there is a possibility of your calls or emails being monitored by your partner or ex-partner, it might be best to call from a public phone, or the phone of a friend you trust.

Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline

Tel: 0800 027 1234
Email: helpline@sdafmh.org.uk
Website: sdafmh.org.uk

How Do I Find Out If My Partner has had an Abusive Past?

You can find out if your partner or ex-partner has abused other people in the past by applying to Police Scotland’s Disclosure Scheme which is also known as Clare’s Law.

The police can inform you whether your partner has a history of being abusive and you will receive help and support to decide whether to continue the relationship or not.

You can apply for yourself or someone you know. To apply to the scheme, and find out more about it:

How Do I Leave an Abusive Relationship Safely?

Before you leave, it is very important to develop a safety plan with the help of advisers at Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline. They are trained to help people leave abusive relationships safely.

Your safety plan should cater to your specific needs and might cover things like:

Get help to make your safety plan from the Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline (their contacts details are shown below).

What Should I Do If I Desperately Require Financial Support?

Should you urgently require money, you could apply for:

  • A crisis grant or a community care grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund which are grants from local councils that do not have to be paid back. For further information on this, please see Benefits: Scottish Welfare Fund Overview | Salesforce
  • Emergency help from your council’s social work department – You might be able to receive a cash payment called a section 12 payment. If you have children, you might be able to get a section 22 payment (ask your local authority for more information on this). More information on emergency sources of help is available here Benefits – Emergency Sources of Help | Salesforce. You can also find contact details for your local council.
  • A budgeting loan or a budgeting advance – These are loans from the DWP that must be repaid from your benefits. For budgeting advances, you need to be receiving Universal Credit. You can find out more about these sources of assistance here Benefits – Emergency Sources of Help | Salesforce. For budgeting loans, you need to be in receipt of other benefits such as Income Support, Pension Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or income-related Employment and Support Allowance. For further information on this, see Benefits – Emergency Sources of Help | Salesforce.

You may need to consider addressing any non-urgent money issues you are facing. You should check if you are entitled to any benefits and whether to apply for any maintenance for yourself or your children. You can use our benefits calculator to see what you may be entitled to claim to provide you with better financial security (see Advice Direct Scotland (inbest.ai)).

How to Receive Support from Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline

The helpline is for anyone affected by abuse including friends or family members supporting someone affected by abuse.

Both men and women can phone or email 24 hours a day. It is confidential and can be anonymous if you want. The helpline is run by Women’s Aid in partnership with the Men’s Advice Line. If you are a man, you will be put through to the Men’s Advice Line.

A translation service is available should English not be your preferred language. You can use this helpline whatever your immigration status is.
Should you believe that your calls or emails are being monitored by your partner or ex-partner, it might be best to call from a public phone, or the phone of a friend you trust.

Specially trained staff will answer the phone and you see further information on what to expect when you call on the helpline’s website.

Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline

Tel: 0800 027 1234
Email: helpline@sdafmh.org.uk
Website: sdafmh.org.uk

What Should I do If I am Experiencing Someone Stalking or Harassing Me? 

You can call the National Stalking Helpline for advice. Their details are as follows:

National Stalking Helpline (run by Suzy Lamplugh Trust)

Tel: 0808 802 0300 (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9.30am to 4.00pm; Wednesday from 1.00pm to 4.00pm)
Website: www.suzylamplugh.org

Care Homes

What is a care home?

A care home provides nursing care and/or personal care. For a service to be considered a care home, the care and accommodation must be inextricably linked. Personal care is care related to day-to-day physical tasks (for example, to eat and to wash) and the mental processes connected to those tasks (for example, remembering to eat and wash). It does not include domestic services.

People who need such care could include older people, people with physical disabilities or learning disabilities, ex-offenders, people with past or present dependence on drugs or alcohol or past or present mental illness. A stay in a care home can be long-term or short-term.

Care homes do not include:

  • hospitals
  • public, independent, or grant-aided schools
  • independent health care services (including independent hospitals, clinics and medical agencies).

Care homes may be run by:

  • local authorities
  • NHS bodies
  • housing associations and voluntary organisations on a non-profit making basis; or
  • private organisations or individuals on a commercial basis.

All care homes must register with and are regulated by the Care Inspectorate.

How to get a place in a care home

Different routes to a care home

The route a person can take to get a place in a care home is important because applying to the local authority first ensures that someone’s care needs are assessed.

If the person has been assessed by the local authority as needing personal and/or nursing care, the local authority may provide financial support for the person in a care home. The person may be fully funded or partially funded depending on her/his situation. Someone with capital assets (including property) over the upper capital limit for receiving financial assistance is entitled to payment towards personal care and another payment if s/he also needs nursing care.

A person can obtain a place in a care home by:-

  • – Self-funding – applying directly to a private or voluntary home but paying the full costs themselves; or
  • – applying to the local authority and being placed either in a private, voluntary or local authority home following an assessment of care needs; or
  • – applying to the local authority because they need care urgently.
Paying the care home’s fees

Information on care home fees can be found here.

Complaints about care Homes

Complaints about the local authority
If the complaint is about the action of the local authority, for example, if the local authority will not pay for the home in which the client wishes to stay, or the resident or their attorney do not agree with the financial assessment the local authority’s complaints procedure should be used. If the client is unhappy with the result of using this procedure there are a number of additional actions s/he could take.

If the client wants to complain because free personal and nursing care payments are not being made to the care home although they have been assessed as eligible, they should complain directly to the local authority in the first instance. It may be helpful to get a copy of the regulations about free personal and nursing care. There is more information on the Care Information Scotland website at www.careinfoscotland.scot.

Complaints about care homes

All care homes must have a complaints procedure. They should clearly state their complaints procedure in their service users’ guides.
The type of complaints procedure which a client can use will depend on whether the client:-

  • has been placed by the local authority in a home which it owns and/or manages itself; or
  • has been placed by the local authority in an independent care home; or
  • is living in an independent care home which s/he has arranged her/himself.
The client is in a local authority home

If the client has been placed by the local authority in a home which it owns and/or manages itself, s/he can use the local authority’s complaints procedure or s/he can complain to the Care Inspectorate. More about how to make a complaint to the Care Inspectorate

The client is placed by the local authority in an independent home

If the client has been placed in an independent care home by the local authority, s/he can use either the home’s complaints procedure or the local authority’s complaints procedure or she can complain directly to the Care Inspectorate.
Residents receiving publicly arranged care in an independent sector care home, such as a private or voluntary care home, are protected by the Human Rights Act.

More about making a complaint to the Care Inspectorate

The client has arranged her/his place in the home her/himself

The client has arranged and is paying for the place in the care home her/himself, s/he can either use the home’s complaint’s procedure or s/he can complain directly to the Care Inspectorate.
More about how to make a complaint to the Care Inspectorate

Complaints about criminal matters and mistreatment of a resident

If the complaint is about misuse of a resident’s money, the complainant or the Care Inspectorate can refer the matter to the police and/or the local authority social work department. The local authority has a duty to make inquiries into an adult’s well-being, property or financial affairs where it knows or suspects that the resident may be at risk of harm. It has a number of measures available to it to help protect adults at risk of harm.
More about how the Care Inspectorate deals with complaints about care homes

If a person in a care home is being mistreated or feels threatened from possible ill treatment, s/he (or a friend or relative) should complain to the manager of the home and can get advice from Action on Elder Abuse. Reports can be made to Disclosure Scotland about a member of staff’s behaviour and it can investigate if the person is suitable to work in a care home.

Protected adult and the Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme

Residents of a care home are usually all vulnerable because of some physical or mental frailty. Staff working in a care home are usually in a position to have unsupervised contact with individual residents. As the nature of the service being provided by staff is likely to involve practical, physical or emotional support they have considerable power over the residents. Under the Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme the residents of a care home are classed as ‘protected adults’. This means that the law in the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme is there to protect care home residents from potential abuse by monitoring staff behaviour through PVG scheme membership.

Covert medication

If medication is given to a person in a care home without her/his knowledge, for example by being disguised in what s/he is eating or drinking, it is being administered covertly. If a resident who can make decisions about her/his welfare is being given medication covertly, this may constitute assault. Even when a resident does not have full mental capacity, covert medication is permitted only in very limited circumstances. However, if a resident has a welfare guardian, the guardian may be allowed to consent to medication being given covertly. The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland has issued guidance on covert medication which is available on its website at www.mwcscot.org.uk .

If the care home resident (or her/his friend or relative) suspects that s/he is being given medication covertly, this concern can be raised with the care home manager. If s/he is not satisfied with the manager’s response, s/he can complain to the Care Inspectorate.
More about how to make a complaint to the Care Inspectorate

Prosecution of care home partners

If court action is taken against the partners of a care home this can include partnerships which have been dissolved up to five years after the date of the dissolution.

Complaints about controls over residents’ finances

If a client wishes to complain about the manager of a care home being given control over a resident’s finances, or about the way in which that control is being exercised, then s/he should use the home’s complaints procedure. If this does not produce a satisfactory outcome, the client can complain to the Care Inspectorate (any home using the power of control over residents’ finances must be registered with the Care Inspectorate for this purpose).
More about how to make a complaint to the Care Inspectorate

If the customer is concerned that a resident’s financial affairs are being mis-managed, they could also report their concerns to the local authority social work department which has duties and powers to protect the financial affairs of adults at risk of harm.

Marriage

What forms are required to get a marriage certificate?

You need to complete and return a Marriage Notice Form, which advised the local registrar that you want to marry. More information on the required forms can be found on the National Records of Scotland website.

Will I have to pay a fee?

You will be charged a fee to register your marriage. The local registrar office can advise on the associated fees. This, and any other documentation needs to be returned to the registrar at least 29 days before the wedding takes place.

What documents are required?

Additional documentation that should be provided includes:

  • your birth certificates
  • evidence of where you live, for example a bank statement with your address
  • your divorce certificate if you or your partner were previously married
  • your dissolution certificate if you or your partner were previously in a civil partnership
  • a death certificate if a previous spouse (husband or wife) or civil partner has died
  • your passport or another document that provides evidence of your nationality
  • your certificate that you are free to marry under the law of your own country if you don’t live in the UK
What is a marriage schedule?

A marriage schedule is a form you sign during the wedding ceremony. You can collect this from 7 days before the wedding. You or the person you are marrying is required to collect this form in person.

The marriage schedule needs to be returned to your local registrar after your wedding. You must do this within 3 days of the ceremony. If you are having a civil ceremony, the registrar will bring your marriage schedule to your ceremony and return it to the registrar’s office for you.

Copies of marriage certificates can be ordered from the National Records of Scotland (NRS). This is sometimes referred to as an ‘official extract’ and can be used to replace an original certificate if it is lost or damaged. Copies of certificates usually costs £12 per certificate, plus postage.

Birth

When must a birth be registered?

Within 21 days of the child being born. This still applies if they are stillborn or die within the 21-day period. If this is not done within 3 months, the registrar general will need to investigate the matter.

How can a birth be registered?

With the registrar of births and deaths in Scotland. The local registrar can be found by contacting your local council.

Who can register a birth?
  • The mother
  • The father (if he is not married to the mother, this requires the mother’s agreement)
  • The Mother’s wife or civil partner
Should the unmarried father’s name be on the birth certificate?

Unlike a married father, an unmarried father’s name is not automatically added to the birth certificate. If the mother agrees, the father can register his name on it. If the unmarried father registers their name on the birth certificate, they gain full parental rights and responsibilities.

What information is needed to register a birth?
  • When and where the birth happened
  • The sex of the child
  • The full name of the child and the mother
  • The mother’s address and occupation or last occupation
  • The Father’s full name, address and occupation (or last occupation) if he is married to the mother.
  • The date and place of the parents’ marriage/civil partnership (if they are married)
Choosing the baby’s name

If the parents are married or civil partners, an agreement must be reached on the child’s name.

Changing a birth certificate

A child’s name may be changed up to 2 years after the birth certificate. After 2 years, the birth certificate can be amended.

ID

When will I be asked for ID?

You may be asked for valid forms of identification (I.D) for a number of things, including:

  • opening a UK bank account
  • proof of age (on age restricted sales)
  • employment application / checks
What is considered to be ID?

Primary Trusted forms of ID include:

  • Current Driving Licence Photo Card (UK/Isle of Man/Channel Islands and EU)
  • Current Valid Passport
  • Birth Certificate issued at time of birth (UK)
  • Biometric Residence Permit (UK)
  • Adoption Certificate (UK)
    There are other forms of identification, such as a proof of age card, such as the PASS card from the national Proof of Age Standards Scheme.
Are personal identity cards valid?

Personal Identity Cards were scrapped as forms of ID in 2011. These are no longer valid and you cannot use them as proof of identity.

Can I use ID abroad?

For those from countries outside of the EEA – The changes to identity cards do not affect biometric residence permits (previously known as identity cars for foreign nationals). These are still valid and you can continue to use them.

If you do not have a valid ID card, you can use a passport for entry if it is valid. You should speak to the relevant embassy for the country you are travelling from / to for more information as this varies in different circumstances.

Information on embassy offices in the UK can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/foreign-embassies-in-the-uk

Taking a Child Abroad

You must obtain permission from everyone with parental responsibility for a child or from a court before taking a child abroad. Taking a child abroad without this permission is child abduction. You can take a child abroad without permission for 28 days without getting permission if a child arrangement order says the child must live with you (unless the order says you cannot).

A letter from the person with parental responsibility for the child is usually enough to show you have permission to take them abroad. This may be requested at a UK or foreign border, or if there is a dispute in relation to this. This should include contact details from the person granting permission, as well as details of the trip. Carrying evidence of your relationship to the child (birth or adoption certificate, divorce or marriage documents – if name is different).

If you have not got permission from the other party with parental responsibility, you can apply to the court for permission. You must outline details of the trip and supply contact details for the others with parental responsibility staying in the UK.

You must supply more detailed information if the trip is for a prolonged period (i.e. what education the child will receive). You should seek specialist legal advice on this matter. You can use The Law Society of Scotland website to search for a solicitor by visiting https://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/.You may also be entitled to legal aid in some circumstances. You can find more information on this by visiting the Scottish Legal Aid Board website.This is available at https://www.slab.org.uk/.

You should contact the embassy or consular office for the country you are travelling to for more information on the age limit up to which someone is considered a child.

Changing Your Child’s Name

You may change your name any time, but you will be required to produce evidence of the change when used for formally.

How can I change my name?

You can officially record a change of your name with the register general. If you were born or adopted elsewhere, you will need to change your name there separately. The relevant forms and instructions are detailed on the National records of Scotland website.

Who should be informed of a name change?
  • Banks, building societies, and credit unions
  • Benefits agencies
  • DVLA
  • Healthcare practitioners
  • Insurance
  • Pension providers
  • The passport office
  • Utility providers
  • Your employer
  • Your mortgage provider
  • Your student loans company
Can I change my name after a marriage or civil partnership or divorce?

Yes, you can change your name after a marriage, civil partnership or divorce. Those who hold your information (e.g. your bank) will need to be told about the change. Relevant documents (e.g. marriage certificate) may be needed as proof.

How can a child’s name be changed?

A child under 16 can have their name changed by one of the following:

  • where only one parent has parental responsibilities of a child, that parent
  • where both parents have parental responsibilities, both parents
  • where no parent has parental responsibilities, any other person who has such responsibilities.
What forms are required to change a child’s name?
  • If the child is under 12 months old (first name only), form 21
  • If the child is under 16 years old, form 23
  • If the parents are not married, Form PRF

Arranging Who Should the Child(ren) Live With

Parental Rights and Responsibilities

If a child’s birth parents both have parental responsibilities and rights, they both have a duty to decide what’s best for the child. 
Although it can often be difficult, a cooperative approach is best when agreeing:

  • what parent the child should live with

  • how often either of you should see your child/ren

If the father doesn’t have parental rights, it’s up to the mother to decide what’s best for the child. The father can try to get these rights and responsibilities by:

  • signing a legal agreement with the mother’s agreement that allows the him to have these rights

  • or they can apply for a court order granting these rights.

Legal advice could be required for these options.

A Parenting Agreement could be a useful tool for both parties to decide which parent contact and when.

Mediation

A couple might want to consider using a mediation scheme or collaborative practice, both of which enable solutions to be found without going to court, although this could involve both partners making compromises.

With mediation the couple work towards agreement with the help of a trained, impartial mediator.

A solicitor may be able to help the couple sort out their arrangements without going to court. Some solicitors are trained in mediation skills.

Collaborative practice is where the couple and their respective solicitors meet to reach agreement.

If it’s impossible to sort out the disagreement, it will be necessary to ask the courts to intervene.

Residence Order

If both parents can’t agree amicably, a court can make an residence order which says who a child should live with. This can state that a child should live with only one person, or that the child should spend some time with one person and some time with another.

The residence order won’t stop parents coming to other informal agreements but only the residence order is enforceable if there’s a dispute.

Factors that the courts often take into account when deciding a residence order include:

  • the child’s feelings

  • the proposed arrangements for the care of the child and how these affect the child’s health and physical welfare

  • stability for the child and not moving her/him from home

  • keeping the children together

  • the parents’ behaviour

  • the child’s happiness and psychological welfare

  • the parents’ ability to support the child financially.

There are few hard and fast rules, and every court case may be different, you should seek further advice from a solicitor.

How should Contact be Maintained?

A parent who doesn’t have the child residing with them has a duty to maintain contact with the child. How this is arranged will depend on the circumstances of the parents and the child.
It’s worth trying to negotiate with the other parent about contact arrangements even if the relationship is strained.
Sometimes it’s hard for parents to communicate with each other. If it’s possible, try to communicate directly with your partner, rather than through intermediaries. If you know you’re going to have a difficult conversation, do it somewhere where your child can’t hear. 

Mediation

A couple might want to consider using a mediation scheme or collaborative practice, both of which enable solutions to be found without going to court, although this could involve both partners making compromises.

With mediation the couple work towards agreement with the help of a trained, impartial mediator.

A solicitor may be able to help the couple sort out their arrangements without going to court. Some solicitors are trained in mediation skills.

Collaborative practice is where the couple and their respective solicitors meet to reach agreement.

If it’s impossible to sort out the disagreement, it will be necessary to ask the courts to intervene.

Contact Orders

Contact orders are where the court makes a decision on the contact that the non resident parent has with the child. Arrangements will be made for the child to see the parent unless there are strong reasons for not doing so.

An order might say exactly how and when the contact should happen, or it could be general and say reasonable contact should be maintained.

A court won’t make a contact order unless it’s needed, parents who have rights and responsibilities are allowed contact with their children anyway.
A court would make a contact order to:-

  • state explicitly how the contact should be maintained if there is a dispute, or

  • award contact to someone who doesn’t have full parental rights and responsibilities. This could be, for example, an unmarried father, or another relative.

A court could arrange for contact to be supervised where necessary. A third party will always be present (Normally a friend or relative, it could be a social worker if required).

Supervised contact could be set up:

  • where there is concern about how the child will be treated.

  • when there is a worry that the child might be abducted.

  • as a temporary measure if there’s doubt over the relationship between the parent and the child. If the child is very young, supported contact could help the court in make a sustainable decision over the child’s future.

  • where the parent the child lives with is refusing to comply with the contact arrangements made by the court.

Contact Centres

If parents are going through a tough divorce or separation, it can be too difficult for them to see each other.  Contact centres are a neutral place to drop children off for contact to be made elsewhere or in the centre itself.
They’re meant to be a steppingstone to a more permanent arrangement for contact in the future. There are 44 child contact centres in Scotland, a list is here. There could be a charge to use this service.

Relationship with ex’s new partner

After a relationship breaks up either parent may have begun a new relationship. There are often concerns to limit or even exclude that new partner from any contact with the child. Parents sometimes try to challenge both residence and contact orders due to this concern. However, the courts don’t place a great significance on a new partner unless there is actual or anticipated harm to the child.

Grandparents

It’s always best for an amicable arrangement to be made and the child’s views should be considered in relation to contact with other parties. If an arrangement can’t be made grandparents could consider mediation or apply to court for a contact order.
Grandparents Apart UK gives advice and support to grandparents: www.grandparentsapart.co.uk

Child Maintenance

Who must pay or can be paid Child Maintenance?

If the following apply, you can be asked to pay child maintenance:

  • You are the child’s legal parent (be that biological or adopted).
  • The child does not live with you.
    If either of the following apply, you can receive child maintenance payments.
  • You are the child’s parent (or in some cases a guardian or grandparent), you are the primary carer of the child and the other parent is not part of the same household.
  • You are a child aged 12 or older and the parent is not part of the same household as you.
Setting up child maintenance

There are two ways that child maintenance can be set up:

  • An informal arrangement made between the parents.
  • An arrangement made using the Child Maintenance Service where payments are enforced.
How is fatherhood determined legally?

In Scotland, fatherhood is determined by the following:

  • He is married to the mother of the child
  • His name is on the child’s birth certificate
Calculating Child maintenance

The Child Maintenance calculator on Gov.uk can tell you how much a formal child maintenance you get and can give you an idea of the amount of informal maintenance you should receive.

Informal Family Based Arrangement

An informal arrangement is best for when both parents agree on the arrangements for a child and when it may be subject to change. Unlike formal arrangements, terms can easily be changed to suit the circumstances of all parties and does not have the unnecessary.
It is possible to use a mediator when setting up an informal arrangement or if it needs to be changed. A mediator can help you reach an agreement without risking stressful and destructive confrontations. You can find a mediator on the Scottish Mediation Network at Scottish Mediation – Engaging positively with conflict.

Requirements for a Child Maintenance Options Arrangement

Child Maintenance Options can arrange for child maintenance to be paid on behalf of the parents. Unlike informal arrangements, these arrangements are legally enforceable. You can apply if all the following are met:

  • Both parents and the child must be resident in the UK.
  • The child is either under 16 or under 20 and in approved education.
  • No one else is receiving maintenance for the child.
Applying to Child Maintenance Options

You can apply by calling Child Maintenance Options on Telephone: 0800 953 0191 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm). Unless you are under 19 or experiencing abuse, it will cost £20 to apply.

Types of child maintenance offered by the Child Maintenance Service

Direct pay is when the CMS oversees the paying parent transferring the money to your bank account on a monthly basis. A non-geographical bank account can be set up if you don’t want the other parent to know your address.
Collect and Pay is when the initial agreement brakes down or domestic abuse has occurred. The CMS will collect the maintenance and pay you. There is a 4% fee to you and a 20% fee for the other parent for this service.

Appeal a Child Maintenance Service decision

You can appeal the arrangements through a mandatory reconsideration as long as this is within a month of the original decision. Failing that, you can launch a formal appeal. ‘Child Maintenance Options’ can be contacted by calling 0800 083 4375.

The Scottish Government has published a detailed guide on what will need to be done if you are responsible for the arrangement of someone who has recently died.

Where can I find the ‘What to do after a death in Scotland’ guide?

What to do after a death in Scotland – practical advice for times of bereavement: revised 11th edition 2016 (web only) – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

If a Death Happens Abroad

If a friend or family member dies abroad, the best option is to inform the local British embassy/consulate. Deaths abroad can be more complicated than those that occur domestically, and arrangements will need to be made for the deceased to be returned to the UK.

What if someone dies abroad but I am still in the UK?

The police in the UK will be informed by the British embassy/consulate/high commission. They will inform you if you are the deceased’s next of kin. If someone else (e.g. a tour operator) informs you, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office can be contacted for further advice.

What if someone dies while abroad with me?

You should contact the local the British embassy/consulate/high commission for advice. You should also inform the company representative if you are on a package holiday.

Will the local authorities have to be informed?

Yes, the death must be registered in the nation that your friend/relative died. Use the register a death’ guide on gov.uk to do this.

How can my friend/relative’s body be returned to the UK (repatriation)?

If you wish to return the body to the UK, you will need three key documents:

  • A certified English translation of the foreign death certificate from that nation
  • Authorisation to remove the body from the country
  • A certificate of embalming.

The British embassy/consulate/high commission or an international funeral director can help you access these documents.
In addition, a certificate is needed after the body has been returned to the UK for the funeral to take place. This can be accessed from the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the district where the funeral is to take place.

Can travel insurance be used to cover repatriation costs?

This is possible. Contact the insurance provider as soon as possible to see if it is covered.

What if the death was deemed suspicious?

You should speak to the British Embassy if this is the case. They can provide advice on what can be done and where legal help can be found. They can also pass on your concerns to the local authorities.

EMA

Payment

You will receive £30 per fortnight, paid in arrears.

If you claim before the 30th of September and your course starts in August, it can be backdated to the start date of the course.

If you claim before the 1st of October, it can be backdated to the Monday of the week that the application was received. If your course has a winter intake (starts in January), it can be backdated to the first day of the course if the claim is made by the end of February.

Entitlement
  • You must be ordinarily resident in Scotland.

  • You must have a household income of £24,421 or less (if it has 1 dependent child) or £26,884 (More than one dependent child).

  • You must also be a full time school student, on a learning agreement or on a non advanced college course.

  • You will be required to follow a learning agreement. This is an agreement that requires you to maintain a level of attendance and coursework completion for your course.

Where to apply and how often

You can apply for an EMA at your current place of learning (e.g. your school or college).
This should be applied for annually.

Appeals
  • If you are at school, this can be appealed through your local council’s EMA team.

  • If you are at college this can be appealed through your college’s EMA team.

More information, including the contact details for the appeals teams can be found by visiting www.mygov.scot/ema/appeal-an-unsuccessful-application/

If you have any questions about how the EMA programme operates, you can contact the Scottish Government EMA team: EducationMaintenanceAllowance@gov.scot

From the 12th of March 2021, students can apply for funding from the UK government’s Turing Scheme. This replaces the Erasmus scheme and provides students with the funding to study and work abroad. The scheme aims to expand the availability of support to disadvantaged students.
Applications are made to your education provider (e.g. your school, college, or university). Your provider can tell you what funding is available, what placements are available and where the placement will be.

What Education providers can access funding?
  • A registered Higher Education provider in the UK or a British Overseas Territory
  • A school that provides general, vocational, or technical education (from primary school to upper secondary education)
  • Further Education (FE) college or school providing further education or Vocational training (VET)
  • A local or regional public authority, coordination body or other organisation with a role in the field of FE and VET
  • A company or organisation (private or public) that is hosting, training or otherwise working with learners and apprentices in FE and VET
  • A school providing general, vocational, or technical education on any level from primary school to upper secondary education.
  • A national school consortium applying on behalf of schools, for example, local or regional authorities, school coordinating bodies or a social enterprise or other organisations with a role in the field of school education.
Who can apply for funding?

All successful applicants must be studying with a provider in the UK or a British Overseas Territory. The eligible providers are the following:

  • Higher education students or those that have graduated within the last 12 months.
  • Further education learners
  • Vocational education and training learners, including apprentices.
  • Recent graduates of a Vocational education and training provider (within 12 months of graduating).
  • An individual that is not in permanent education or training, who may be re-training or upskilling, if their training is taking place through a college or school.

Getting Married

Who can get married in Scotland?

Generally, two people who are at least 16 years old may get married in Scotland. This is the case unless any of the following apply to you or your potential spouse:

  • Either of you are under 16 years old.
  • Either of you are between 16 and 18 years old and do not have parental consent to get married.
  • You are close relatives (e.g. parents, grandparents, children or siblings).
  • Either of you legally unable to consent to the marriage.
  • Either of you legally unable to understand the nature of a marriage ceremony.
What if I wish marry someone of the same sex or I am transgender?

Same-sex marriage is legal in Scotland. The restrictions on who can marry are the same as those for opposite sex couples (see above).
Transgender people have the same rights to marry as anyone else in Scotland. The same restrictions apply as everyone else (see above). You do not have to be remarried if you receive a gender recognition certificate.

What is the legal significance of getting engaged?

Getting engaged is not a concern of the law in most cases as it is done for ceremonial and cultural reasons. There are some exceptions, like using it as proof of your intention to marry for the purposes of immigration. Ending an engagement cannot be legally contested.

How can I register my marriage?

You must send a completed marriage notice application form(m10) to the local registrar at least 29 days before the wedding takes place.

You can find the form and a list of the necessary documents at the national records of Scotland website. A successful marriage application is placed in the marriage notice book for 28 days where it will be open to objections. If a valid objection is raised, the notice can be amended or if the law would be broken by the marriage, an investigation will be launched.

What kind of marriage ceremony can I have?

You can have one of two types of ceremony:

  • A civil ceremony that takes place at a registration office or another non-religious premises that the registrar agrees to.
  • A religious or belief ceremony held by an approved celebrant. This can be done for any faith or belief system (e.g. humanism) that can provide a registered celebrant.
What other requirements are there for a wedding ceremony taking place?

At least two witnesses over the age of 16 must attend the ceremony.

How is a marriage formally registered?

This is done using a marriage schedule which is issued at most 7 days before the marriage takes place.
If you are getting married in a religious or belief ceremony, the schedule must be signed and returned to the registrar within 3 days of the ceremony taking place. The registrar will keep the signed schedule if a civil ceremony is used.

What if I am getting married in Scotland and I live elsewhere in the UK or vice versa?

If you live elsewhere in the UK and want to get married in Scotland, they can give their notice of marriage to the superintendent registrar in the district of England and Wales where they live.
If you live in Scotland and want to get married elsewhere in the UK, you need to get a certificate of no impediment from the Scottish Registrar. This ensures that you have no legal barriers to getting married.

Getting Divorced

Divorce and civil partnership dissolution can be complex and expensive. While it has its advantage

What should I consider before getting a divorce or civil partnership dissolution?
  • Whether you believe that the relationship can be saved and if you want that to happen.
  • How your benefits could be affected.
  • Whether you will have somewhere to live afterwards.
  • Who will look after your children
  • If any child maintenance or support will need to be paid.
  • Whether you share debts with your partner.
  • Whether your immigration status will prevent you staying in the UK afterwards.
  • What procedure will need to be used
What are the alternatives to divorce or civil partnership dissolution?
  • If possible and appropriate, try to repair your relationship with your partner.
  • Informally separate, which will not require formal means like court.
  • Use a separation agreement instead (e.g. if you cannot do it for religious reasons)

Getting Divorced (For Civil Partnerships)

Can I end my marriage?

If you formed a civil partnership in the UK, it can be dissolved in Scotland if you meet two criteria:

  • You meet the residency rules.
  • You are able to prove that your civil partnership in Scotland.
Which divorce procedure should be used?

There are two methods of dissolving a civil partnership in Scotland. The first is an easier and cheaper option called the DIY (simplified) procedure. This is the preferable option, but can only be used if all the following are true:

  • You have either separated for a year (if your partner agrees to the dissolution) or two years (if your partner doesn’t agree to the dissolution)
  • There are no children of the marriage under the age of 16.
  • There are no financial matters that you have yet to sort out with your spouse.
  • You and your partner are legally capable of managing your affairs.
  • Neither of you have other court proceedings that will end the partnership.

If this is not possible, the more complex ordinary dissolution process can be followed. This is more complicated but can sort out issues such as financial arrangements and children. A solicitor’s advice must be taken for the ordinary procedure to be used.

Which court can dissolve a marriage?

For both procedures, a civil partnership can be dissolved by either the sheriff court or the court of session. Each court will have different rules and forms for the dissolution.

Applying for dissolution

If you are applying for dissolution, the relevant forms depend on which court you are applying to and the procedure being used. Scotcourts can provide these forms:

The rules and forms for the Simplified/DIY procedure at the sheriff court
The rules and forms for the ordinary procedure at the court of session
The rules and forms for the ordinary procedure at the sheriff court
The rules and forms for the ordinary procedure at the court of session

Costs of applying for divorce

This will depend on the procedure and court that you use.

Can I get a court fee exemption?

You or your partner must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Receiving income support
  • Receiving Income-based employment and support allowance
  • Receiving Pension credit guarantee credit
  • Receiving working tax credit with child tax credit and gross annual income used for calculation of tax credit is £18,000 or less
  • Receiving working tax credit with a disability element and gross annual income used for calculation of tax credit is £18,000 or less
  • Receiving working tax credit with a severe disability element and gross annual income used for calculation of tax credit is £18,000 or less
  • Receiving financial or other assistance under the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015, within the period of 3 months prior to the date the specified fee would be payable but for the exemption.

Alternatively, you can qualify for exemption if one of the following applies to you:

  • Receiving income-based JSA
  • Receiving universal credit
  • Receiving civil legal aid in respect of the matter for which the fee is payable
  • The fee must be made in connection with a simplified divorce or dissolution of civil partnership application and you are receiving advice and assistance from a solicitor in respect of that application
  • The fee must be paid in connection with work being undertaken by your solicitor which qualifies for civil legal aid as matter of ‘special urgency’

You can find the fee exemption form on the Scotcourts website.

Where can I get the help of a solicitor?

The Law Society of Scotland website can give you a list of solicitors in your area and you can select the area of law you need.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board can tell you if you qualify for legal aid. Legal Aid is help towards the costs of legal advice & representation. Alternatively, it can be contacted on this number:
0131 226 7061 (Mon – Fri, 8.30am – 5pm)

What is the Separation Process for Married Couples?
 

  1. Informal Arrangements – If you and your partner are married, you can separate by an informal arrangement. 

You may have a legal responsibility to tell:

  • Your benefits office if you are getting a welfare benefit such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Income Support.
  • HM Revenue and Customs if you are getting tax credits.
  • Your local council if you pay council tax or if you receive Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction.

If you and your partner agree, you can make arrangements about children, money, housing and other property without going to court. However, any informal arrangement made when you separate may affect future decisions if you do go to court. If there are children, the Child Maintenance Service may get involved. If you do decide later to divorce and the court is involved it can change an arrangement made informally by a couple that it considers to be unreasonable or, in the case of a child, if it thinks the arrangement is not in the child’s best interests.
 

  1. Separation Agreement – A separation agreement is a written agreement between a couple who intend to stop living together. It sets out how they wish to sort out financial arrangements, property, and arrangements for the children. When your agreement includes financial matters, it should be made with the help of a solicitor. Examples of what you might want to include in an agreement are:
  • To live separately. This stops both partners from having to live together.
  • Not to molest, annoy, or disturb the other partner.
  • To provide financial support (maintenance) for the other partner. A separation agreement would normally say that maintenance will stop if the partner starts living together with a different partner. Any agreement not to apply to court in the future for financial support does not count legally.
  • To provide financial support (maintenance) for any children of the relationship. Any agreement not to apply to a court or to the Child Maintenance Service in the future is not valid legally.
  • Who should the children live and have contact with?

The advantage of a written agreement is that it is easier to make sure you both understand what has been agreed. It also means that either partner can go to court to change the agreement in the future. The court may only change what it considers to be unfair or unreasonable. It is advisable to consult a solicitor when drawing up a separation agreement, but you should work out in advance the general areas you want to cover as listed above.

If you can reduce the time it takes to draw up the agreement with the solicitor, it could keep legal costs down. You may get help with your legal costs. 

What is the Separation Process for Civil Partnerships?


 1. Separating informally – If you and your partner agree, you can make arrangements about children, money, housing and other property without going to court. This is called separating informally. However, any informal arrangement made when you separate may affect future decisions if you do go to court. If there are children, the Child Maintenance Service may get involved. If you do decide later to apply for dissolution of your civil partnership and the court is involved, it can change an arrangement made informally by a couple. This is only likely to happen if it considers the arrangement to be unreasonable or, in the case of a child, it thinks the arrangement is not in the child’s best interests. It is advisable when you separate to inform the relevant parties.

2. Separation Agreement – A separation agreement is a written agreement between a couple who intend to stop living together. It sets out how they wish to sort out financial arrangements, property, and arrangements for the children. When your agreement includes financial matters, it should be made with the help of a solicitor. Examples of what you might want to include in an agreement are:

  • To live separately. This stops both partners from having to live together.
  • Not to molest, annoy, or disturb the other partner.
  • To provide financial support (maintenance) for the other partner. A separation agreement would normally say that maintenance will stop if the partner starts living together with a different partner. Any agreement not to apply to court in the future for financial support does not count legally.
  • To provide financial support (maintenance) for any children of the relationship. Any agreement not to apply to a court or to the Child Maintenance Service in the future is not valid legally.
  • Who should the children live and have contact with?

The advantage of a written agreement is that it is easier to make sure you both understand what has been agreed. It also means that either partner can go to court to change the agreement in the future. The court may only change what it considers to be unfair or unreasonable. It is advisable to consult a solicitor when drawing up a separation agreement, but you should work out in advance the general areas you want to cover. If you can reduce the time it takes to draw up the agreement with the solicitor, it could keep legal costs down. You may get help with your legal costs. 
 

  1. Judicial separation – A judicial separation is a court order which stops the obligation of the partners of a civil partnership having to live together. It is quite rare to get a judicial separation, but it can be used by couples who have a moral or religious objection to dissolution of a civil partnership. The order does not end the civil partnership so neither partner is free to enter a civil partnership again (or marry). The order does not change each partner’s rights to stay in the family home. If you want your partner to leave, after a judicial separation, and they are not willing to, you must go to court for an exclusion order.


Can I Access Further Support to Help Me Reach an Agreement Out of Court?
 

  1. Consensus – Consensus is a group of experienced collaborative family lawyers in Scotland. Collaborative practice is an option for separating couples, who are prepared to work together with their respective solicitors, to reach solutions and settle disputes without going to court. More information about the collaborative law process and how to find a practitioner in Scotland is available on the Consensus website.
  1. Comprehensive Accredited Lawyer Mediation (CALM) – CALM offers mediation on all aspects of relationship breakdown. The mediators are all qualified solicitors who specialise in family law. Fees are set at the normal hourly rate for a solicitor but, if you qualify for help with legal costs (see above), you may also qualify to have the fees of a CALM mediator paid. 

Comprehensive Accredited Lawyer Mediation (CALM) (Scotland)
Nicos Scholarios, CALM Secretary
MSM Solicitors
51 Moss Street
Paisley
PA1 1DR

Tel: 0141 889 6244
Email: ns@msmlaw.co.uk
Website: www.calmscotland.co.uk

 

  1. Scottish Mediation – Help to reach agreements out of court. There might be a fee for this service. 

Scottish Mediation
18 York Place
Edinburgh
EH1 3EP

Tel: 0131 556 1221
Helpline: 0131 556 8118
Email: admin@scottishmediation.org.uk
Website: www.scottishmediation.org.uk

 

Who to Inform About a Separation

Once a couple have separated they may need to inform the:-

  • landlord or housing authority
  • local authority council tax office
  • local authority housing benefit office
  • mortgage lenders, accompanied by a proposal for paying the mortgage.
  • gas, electricity and telephone companies. Readings on meters should be taken and future responsibility for payments reallocated. 
  • local benefits office
  • HM Revenue and Customs
  • the current school and future school if there are children and they are moving with the client. If the children remain at the same school, it might be helpful to contact the teachers to let them know what has happened
  • the bank. If the couple have a joint account they can still use it and arrange for statements and other correspondence to be sent to both of them. However, they usually will close it altogether as one of the account holders could withdraw some or all of the money in the account without the other’s permission. You can also freeze the account to stop the other withdrawing some or all of the money
  • hire purchase or credit companies but the client should make a proposal on how the debt is to be repaid
  • insurance companies, particularly if the couple have a joint policy
  • telephone company, although the customer might have to pay a fee if the account name is changed
  • the post office, if the customer needs to redirect their mail
  • doctor, dentist or child health clinic.