So you want to rent a flat? You’ve got money for your rent and your deposit all sorted (handily now to be protected under the new tenancy deposit scheme) but then they hit you with it… fees. A little word but one that anyone renting privately will know only too well.
Late last year here at Shelter Scotland we carried out a mystery shopper exercise, contacting 30 letting agencies across the country. We found that just under 90% of those we spoke to charged fees that ranged up to £180. In fact, 11 of them charged upfront fees of £120 or over.
So by our reckoning, around 90% of letting agencies are breaking the law. But you don’t hear of the police carrying out early morning raids on fancy shopfronts on Great Western Road very often or in fact at all.
And do you know what? It’s actually illegal for them to charge upfront fees and this has been the case since 1984.
So that’s why we launched our reclaim your fees campaign. Our free-to-use reclaim your fees website has all the information you need to get your money back – money that was illegally taken in the first place. People all over the country have been successful in getting their cash returned. Since the campaign was launched over 1,400 have taken the first steps and the amount they’re looking to recover is over £169,000. Hear from tenants who have challenged the letting agents and got their money back.
The Scottish Government announced a couple of weeks ago that these upfront fees –are illegal and will remain so in the future. So all credit to the government for doing the right thing and stopping tenants from being ripped off. But there’s no sign yet that the bulk of letting agencies accept that they’re doing anything wrong or will stop abusing their power over people who only want to rent a home for them and their family to live in.
We have examples of tenants getting their money back through the small claims court, with agencies being forced to return people’s money. The question now though is about enforcement. Why should a tenant have to go to court to get their money back from a letting agency acting contrary to the law? There is a need and demand for the service they provide. But what is wrong is the letting agencies, including major high street chains, making money by flouting a law that’s been in place for the best part of thirty years.
The next step for our campaign is either for letting agencies to abide by the rules or for us to work for there to be some form of penalty faced by those who make money illegally by charging upfront fees.
We’ll be raising the issue with politicians and the police. And we’ll use this blog to keep you informed on our progress. In the meantime if you or anyone you know has been charged upfront fees then go to our campaign website at reclaimyourfees.com and get your money back.