A well known housing charity in Scotland is encouraging tenants to reclaim thousands of pounds of cash paid out in administration fees, and at the same time are warning property investors with an interest in landlord insurance to steer clear of unscrupulous letting agents.
The charity, Shelter Scotland, has launched a “Reclaim Your Fees” campaign throughout the country and is advising tenants in private housing that charges by letting agents for administration costs or reference checking is currently illegal and that they should request the money back. Already some tenants in Edinburgh have been successful in the small claims court but the charity is now urging the Scottish Government to outlaw tenancy fees completely in a bid to flush out bad letting agents.
Graeme Brown, a Director of Shelter Scotland. said “Over a quarter of a million families and individuals call the private rented sector home. 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.”
In the near future landlords in Scotland will have to place tenant deposits in an independent tenancy deposit scheme, which should help to reduce the squabbling between landlord and tenant when a tenure is ended. However, the scheme will be retrospective and it is questionable if unscrupulous letting agents holding on to tenant deposits at the moment will have the cash flow available to hand over the money. Certainly John Blackwood. from the Scottish Landlords Association. has his doubts, saying “If letting agencies don’t have that money tucked away then agents may suddenly disappear off into the night and fold. We suspect that a lot of small agents will simply disappear because they haven’t been able to make sufficient provisions for the deposit scheme.”