Despite the fact that it is illegal under Scots law, most letting agencies operating in Scotland charge new tenants a fee on top of their rent and deposit. Because the practice is so common, even among “reputable” agencies, it can be difficult to avoid paying illegal fees.
Sign the Petition
We the undersigned call on the Scottish Government to:
- Instigate ‘mystery shopper’ style checks on letting agencies to see if they are charging illegal fees.
- Remove Accredited Landlord status from anyone found to be charging these premiums.
- Put in place an education campaign to inform tenants of their rights.
- Put in place systems for the quick, cheap and easy reclaiming of illegal fees from letting agencies, backdated to the last ten years.
Section 82 of the Rents (Scotland) Act 1984 says “Any person who, as a condition of the grant, renewal or continuance of a protected tenancy, requires, in addition to the rent, the payment of any premium or the making of any loan (whether secured or unsecured) shall be guilty of an offence under this section.”
The Scottish Government have announced that they intend to clarify the law to specify that reference checks, credit checks and inventory fees are examples of illegal premiums. While we welcome this clarification, we feel that this alone will not be enough to address the issue. These fees are already illegal under current law.
The problem isn’t that letting agencies are unaware of the law. It is that they are confident the law won’t be enforced. Beyond launching civil action for specific cases, a prohibitively exhaustive process for most tenants, there is no mechanism to keep letting agents in line.
It is clear that being challenged on individual cases will not be enough of a deterrent to letting agencies. There should be wider consequences for letting agencies who flout the law. If disregarding the law made agencies ineligible for Accredited Landlord status, they would think twice. The City of Edinburgh has so far not struck any agency from their Accredited Landlord Scheme for any reason.
In addition, there needs to be a system (outside of having to go to court) whereby tenants can easily claim back illegal premiums. We feel that letting agencies have always been aware that these fees are illegal, so it is right that these claims be backdated for ten years. Liberal Youth Scotland are calling for proper enforcement of the law and justice for tenants.