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Renting property in Edinburgh, Scotland: how to rent, where to look and what to think about

Updated on February 20, 2018
Property around the Meadows in Edinburgh is very popular.
Property around the Meadows in Edinburgh is very popular. | Source

How you can rent property in Edinburgh

There are three main ways you can privately rent property in Edinburgh:

Estate Agents

There are many estate agents who offer property for rent in Edinburgh.

Private Landlords

You can also rent property through private individuals.

There are advantages and disadvantages between letting agents and private landlords. Some private landlords are more approachable and interested in the upkeep of their property than an agent would be, although there are also private landlords who will try to spend as little as possible and you might come across "absentee" landlords are abroad and only contactable by email (if at all).

Agents may be more experienced in dealing with repairs and have a list of workmen on call. In general, agents may also be slightly more expensive than private landlords, tending to require a larger deposit. What is better depends very much on the individual or letting agent. If you are renting through an agent try googling them to see if they are reviewed online.

If they are a private landlord ask them questions and meet them if possible. Also, speak to existing tenants if possible. All landlords are legally required to register with the relevant local authority. You should always check your potential landlord is registered through the Scottish Landlord Register before signing up to rent somewhere privately.

Being a lodger

If you share your property with your landlord, then you are a lodger and have different (less) rights.

Questions to think about?

Edinburgh has lots of choice for people seeking to rent a property.

There are many things you want to think about before renting a property, some of them are:

  • Is it important to live near your University or your work, or are you happy to commute? Edinburgh is a small city, so if you are living and working within Edinburgh it is unlikely you will ever have to travel more than an hour. If you are working outside of Edinburgh think about proximity to a train station, or bus route.
  • Do you own a car, and do you want to drive regularly? The central part of Edinburgh is not very car friendly, and in many areas you will have to buy a permit to park on the street. If you want a garage for your car, you will have to either look at newer flats which come with a space, or look out of the centre at more suburban areas.
  • Do you want to live in a house, or a flat? Most of the property you will find for rent in the central part of Edinburgh will be flats. If you are looking for a house with your own garden, you are best looking at areas slightly outside the centre.
  • Would you prefer an old property or somewhere modern? Older properties are often more spacious with bigger rooms, and beautiful bay windows, but tend to be poorly insulated.

Where to look for property

If you are looking to share a flat common places to look are Gumtree and Spareroom.

These website can be used by anybody so be cautious before passing out your personal details, or going to a flat viewing. Scams happen. Never ever pay money upfront for a property before you have seen it.

It is worth looking out for signs in coffee shops, or student noticeboards or posting on social media, and if you are studying at Edinburgh, checking with your students union, or university accommodation service.

Looking for a whole property

If you are looking to rent a property on your own, or as a family or couple, gumtree is also worth checking. You could also try Citylets and individual letting agents in Edinburgh.

Areas in Edinburgh

Central areas popular for students:

  • Marchmont (right next to University of Edinburgh central campus)
  • Bruntsfield (bit hipper than Marchmont, lots of coffee shops and restaurants, easy walking distance to University of Edinburgh, and parts of Edinburgh Napier University)
  • Tollcross (some very busy parts with clubs, easy walking distance to University of Edinburgh, good bus links to Heriot Watt University campus at Ricarrton and Edinburgh Napier University Sighthill campus)
  • Newington (close to University of Edinburgh campus, busy area with lots of shops)
  • Morningside (close to University of Edinburgh campus at King's Buildings, and some parts of Edinburgh Napier University campuses. Slightly less central)

Central areas popular for young professionals

  • The areas listed above as popular for students are all also good for young professionals.
  • Stockbridge (to the north of the city - trendy cafes and second hand shops)
  • New Town (generally a little more expensive than areas like Newington and Tollcross)

Some further out residential areas which would suit young families:

  • Cramond
  • Balerno
  • Blackhall
  • Portobello
  • Barnton
  • The Grange
  • Liberton
  • Craiglockhart

Please note that Edinburgh is a very mixed city, and students and non students do live side by side. Student areas like Marchmont and Bruntsfield are also very popular with families, and have a reputation for excellent schools.

A Scottish tenement flat.
A Scottish tenement flat. | Source

References and deposits

References

You will usually require references to rent a property. Requirements will vary between landlords so make sure that you ask what is needed. A typical requirement is one reference from your previous landlord, and one reference from your current employer. Students or the unemployed are often asked to provide a guarantor for their rent, e.g. for one of their parents to take legal responsibility for paying the rent.

Some letting agents may also run a credit check on you to check if you have any credit defaults against your name.

If you are coming from abroad you should also be aware that some agents require their tenants to have UK based guarantors.

You shouldn't be asked to pay a fee to rent out a property in Scotland as this is unlawful.

Deposits

You will usually be required to pay a deposit before your move into your property. Typically this will be one months rent. In some cases it may be more, but should never be more than 2 months rent. Since 2 October 2012 the government has required that new deposits taken from tenants are lodged with a deposit protection scheme in order to safeguard them.

You will usually be expected to pay the deposit plus the rent for the first month before you move in.


Glossary of useful terms to know when renting in Edinburgh

Private residential tenancies

Since 1 December 2017 any new tenancy must be a private residential tenancy meeting certain rules. For information see the Scottish government guide for tenants. This is a new tenancy model that gives tenants more rights than previous, as it is open-ended, whereas previous most tenancies in Scotland were for specified periods, usually a year or 6 months. The landlord can still end the tenancy with 84 days notice but only for certain reasons, such as wanting to move back in, sell up or rent arrears.

House in multiple occupation (HMO)

If you share a house with 2 or more people who are not related to you, the landlord must have an HMO licence for their property to legally rent it to you. This specifies certain conditions about the size, safety and upkeep of the property.

Tenement flat

In many countries flats which are described as tenements have negative connotations. In Scotland the term tenement is widely used simply to describe blocks of flats with a shared stairwell. Do not be put off by something being described as a tenement - there are many high end, extremely spacious tenements in Edinburgh.

Council tax

Council tax is a local tax that is levied on properties by local councils. It is used towards paying for facilities run by the local council such as libraries, schools, bin collection and recycling. If you are a full time student you are likely be be exempt from council tax. Otherwise you are likely to have to pay. You should be aware that council tax is levied per property. If you are liable to pay council tax and live on your own, or with others who are exempt from council tax, for example full time students, then you will be entitled to a 25% discount.

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