Housing advice News

Five things landlords need to know about letting agents in Scotland

Thinking of becoming a landlord, or are you already renting out a property? Your legal rights and responsibilities can be a bit of a minefield. Instructing a letting agent can save you a lot of hassle in the long-run but if things go wrong it is often the landlord, rather than the letting agent, that will be held responsible.

So, here are five things you should know when you rent out a property with a letting agent in Scotland:

  1. Get yourself registered as a landlord
    Make sure that you’re registered as a landlord with the local authority in which your property is located. Even if you’re only renting out one property you still need to register, otherwise you could be liable to a fine of up to £50,000. Registration applies to both landlords and their agents, so whilst your letting agent might be registered you still need to register yourself.
  2. Keep your property safe
    Make sure that the tenancy and your property complies with the law. For example, does the property comply with gas and electrical safety regulations? Does the furniture meet the fire safety standards if sofas etc. are included in the lease? Under the law it’s your responsibility to make sure that you’re compliant with all of these requirements – even if you use a letting agent.
  3. Make sure your tenant’s deposit is registered
    Your tenant’s deposit needs to be registered in an approved tenancy deposit scheme. If this doesn’t happen, your tenant can claim up to three times the amount of the deposit back from you. If you’re using a letting agency make sure you get confirmation that they’ve put your tenant’s money into an approved scheme. If you’re doing it yourself, check our page on tenancy deposit schemes to find out about the scheme providers and what time limits apply.
  4. Letting agent fees to tenants are illegal
    Any fees apart from rent, and a deposit of no more than two months rent are often illegal. This includes any pre-tenancy administration, service charges or non-refundable ‘holding deposits’ or ‘holding fees’. Tenants can reclaim these fees in the small claims court: make sure that any letting agent you use doesn’t charge your tenants illegal fees.
  5. If your letting agent goes bust you can still be liable
    Has your letting agency gone bust taking your tenant’s deposit, or any other money, with them? Then it’s your legal responsibility to pay the deposit back to your tenant – even if you didn’t see any of the money. Solution: make sure your letting agency has registered the deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme.

By following these five simple rules and by doing a little homework, you can make sure that renting out your property is as stress-free as possible, and that you avoid any nasty surprises along the way.

About the author

James Battye

James Battye

I manage Shelter Scotland’s Oak Foundation funded private rented sector project work. The project is focussed on increasing private tenants’ consumer voice in Scotland, supporting new initiatives to encourage best-practice amongst letting agents and working with private landlords in Dundee and Lochaber to improve standards.