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Letting agents ignore the law to demand rip-off fees

Tenants in Scotland are claiming letting agents are demanding rip-off fees despite a law banning them from making the charges.

Campaigners Living Rent say tenants have told them that between a fifth and a third of letting agents are illegally charging tenants up to £15 million a year across the country for arranging tenancies.

The group also alleges one letting agent in Edinburgh is arranging holiday let agreements to tenants to avoid laws designed to safeguard tenant rights.

“These holiday let leases afford tenants almost none of the protections tenants would be guaranteed under short-assured tenancies or Scottish private residential tenancies; neither landlords nor agencies operating on their behalf need to register; properties are exempt from HMO licensing; tenants aren’t entitled to third-party protection of their deposits; the properties are not subject to the same standards in terms of fire safety and repairs; and it is significantly easier to evict someone from a holiday let,” said the Seize the Fees campaign report from Living Rent.

The Scottish Government abolished assured shorthold tenancies in 2016 and replaced them with open-ended contracts.

The aim was to give tenants more security from eviction and to limit the reasons landlords could use when removing renters.

Living Rent is urging councils and the Scottish Government to make going to court to reclaim illegal fees easier for tenants.

“We have also highlighted the flippancy with which the most basic legal protections safeguarding tenants’ rights are broken. With next to no proper enforcement of the law, tenants are expected to go down the long and isolating process of a first-tier tribunal in order to get their money refunded,” says the report.

“However, having uncovered how extensive the practice is, Living Rent firmly believes that it is an unrealistic and unfair expectation that every affected tenant should have to go through  this process and that it has, in fact, been a major deterrent for many who would have otherwise asked for their premiums back.”