Letting agency horrors revealed by GUSRC as tenants continue to be charged illegal fees

A recent investigation by The Advice Centre has found that many of Glasgow’s letting agencies continue to charge illegal administration, credit check and holding deposit fees to prospective tenants.

A recent investigation by The Advice Centre has found that many of Glasgow’s letting agencies continue to charge illegal administration, credit check and holding deposit fees to prospective tenants.

The Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 makes it illegal for letting agencies to charge a tenant for anything other than rent and a deposit. Despite this fact, GUSRC’s research found that some agencies were charging fees to tenants such as £60 to carry out a credit check, 5% of the monthly rent to prepare an inventory and one agency, Zone Letting, even charge a £120 “pre-emptive” cleaning fee to cover the cost of cleaning the property at the end of the tenancy.

Despite being illegal, many agencies confirm these fees on their own websites and in documentation provided to prospective tenants, which demonstrates their continued disregard for tenants’ rights. GUSRC is particularly concerned at the continued exploitation of the student market, many of whom are first-time renters unaware of their rights under Scottish housing legislation.

GUSRC contacted 31 agencies based across Glasgow in July 2015 asking them to complete a short survey on their current practices in relation to renting properties to students, charging fees to tenants etc. This was followed by a series of mystery shopping enquiries to the same agencies across August and September 2015. Here are the results (PDF) of the survey.

It was found that 58% of agencies continue to charge prospective tenants holding deposits to “reserve” a property, with the amount charged ranging from £200 up to an entire month’s rent. This is clearly a lucrative source of income for agencies as in almost all circumstances these deposits were stated to be non-refundable. In addition to outlawing these fees, the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 section 90 (1) states that the charging of this type of fee in relation to a tenancy constitutes a statutory criminal offence.

GUSRC urges prospective tenants who are faced with these types of fees to seek advice from the SRC Advice Centre before signing up to a tenancy agreement. Additionally, The Advice Centre has written a comprehensive guide to finding accommodation, and helping you avoid illegal rip-offs like these. President Liam King stated “This investigation confirms our experiences that there are a significant number of letting agencies in Glasgow that are exploiting students, and particularly students from outwith Scotland many of whom are not aware of their rights.”