Govan Law Centre has urged housing association to stop asking the homeless for up front rent payments when they are offered a property.

Many now demand hundreds of pounds in advance following a policy change, according to the centre’s Prevention of Homelessness Senior Manager, Alasdair Sharp.

Private landlords already ask potential tenants to pay up front for the first month but Mr Sharp said housing associations which “receive significant public subsidy, enjoy charitable status and numerous statutory powers” should not be permitted to do the same.

He said: “Social landlords enjoy a privileged position to ensure that the most vulnerable and less advantaged in our society are treated justly and fairly.

“Govan Law Centre believes that demanding advance rent from homeless households is at odds with the ethos and role of social landlords.

“More worryingly, it undermines prevention of homelessness and financial inclusion strategies in Scotland.”

Mr Sharp has urged the Scottish Government to put an end to the practice by using delegated powers to issue statutory guidance.

He also demanded that ministers insert “an appropriate ancillary clause in the forthcoming Housing (Scotland) Bill to amend the 2001 Act accordingly”.

David Bookbinder, Director of Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations insisted payment of rent in advance is “common across housing associations and councils in Scotland” and “consistent with the Scottish Government's Model Scottish Secure Tenancy Agreement”.

He said: “It is applied to all tenants and not just to any one group such as people who have been homeless. It is misleading of Govan Law Centre to suggest that associations are singling out homeless people.”

He also moved to reassure the homeless that housing associations “generally seek to come to a suitable arrangement with people who are struggling to pay their rent up front”.

Mr Bookbinder added: “Most housing associations make a lot of effort to support tenants facing financial hardship through welfare rights advice and money and debt advice arrangements, not just at the start of a tenancy but throughout it.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Local authorities have a duty to provide settled accommodation to unintentionally homeless households, which is the case irrespective of payment of rent in advance.”