LETTING agents could be banned from levying up-front charges on tenants, Housing Minister Keith Brown said today.
A consultation has been launched on how to deal with unfair and illegal premiums that can prove a barrier to people getting into rented accommodation.
It is estimated that there are around 500 letting agent businesses in Scotland that are involved in around 150,000 private lettings in Scotland per year.
Keith Brown said: “Responsible letting agents play an increasingly important role in the Scottish private rented sector with the majority operating in a thoroughly professional and above board manner.
“However, concern exists in relation to the legality of pre-tenancy charges made by some agents and we are determined to end this practice.
“I see this consultation as part of a process to help support the development of a professionally run letting agency industry in Scotland. For that reason I want the letting agent industry, landlord and tenant representative groups to be actively involved in the consultation.”
Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, says: “Our secret investigation last year uncovered the shocking scale of extortionate and unjustified upfront fees being charged by some letting agents.
“They are not only ripping off desperate people who need a roof over their head and who, in many cases, have little or no choice but to pay up, they are also undermining the work of good letting agents who offer a fair deal to tenants.
“Legislation passed last year clarified tenant’s rights and made it clear that all charges above rent and a reasonable deposit are unlawful. We support them being completely outlawed.
“Times are hard enough for many people right now and the last thing they need is to be fleeced by unscrupulous letting agencies in their search for a home.”