SHELTER Scotland has called for urgent crackdown on agents who charge unlawful fees and is offering advice to tenants to help claim refunds from unscrupulous agents
The charity is launching reclaimyourfees.com – a dedicated advice website with a step-by-step guide to help private tenants across Scotland reclaim charges made by letting agents for credit checks, reference checks, preparing and checking an inventory and other upfront fees.
Alongside the website, a Reclaim Your Fees campaign team is being mobilised to tour some of Scotland’s largest cities and universities to give advice on unlawful fees and how to deal with unscrupulous agents who break the law.
The Reclaim Your Fees team and website will offer information and advice on what letting agents can and can’t legally charge for, template letters which tenants should send to agents outlining the legal case for a refund and a user guide to taking agents to the small claims court if they refuse to pay up.
There are an estimated 500 letting agent businesses in Scotland, involving around 150,000 private lettings every year. The Scottish Government is currently consulting on how to clarify the law to make it clear exactly what an unlawful premium is. Shelter Scotland says misinterpretation of the law under section 82 of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 of what should be classed as a premium and how to deal with agents who break the law is leaving thousands of people open to unfair treatment and financial exploitation.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the Reclaim Your Fees campaign, Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Over 272,650 families and individuals in Scotland call the private rented sector home, and that number is rising. That some letting agents – established and new – are routinely ripping off tenants by charging extortionate and unjustified upfront fees is shocking and quite simply exploitative.
“They are not only ripping off people who need a roof over their head and who, in many cases, have little or no choice but to pay up, but they are also undermining the work of good letting agents who offer a fair deal to tenants.
“We hope that the Reclaim Your Fees team and website will help private tenants to claim a refund for charges made unlawfully by their letting agent. Nevertheless, that is not a long-term solution. We want the Scottish Government to explicitly clarify legislation to make it clear to tenants, landlords and their agents that all charges above rent and a reasonable deposit are unlawful. Only then will tenants, and indeed landlords, be assured that they are not being exploited.”
To find out more about unlawful charges and how to claim a refund, visit www.reclaimyourfees.com .