A WEBSITE launched to help private sector tenants reclaim fees unlawfully charged by letting agents has helped 870 people to start proceedings to reclaim over £100,000.
Reclaimyourfees.com, launched by leading housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland only two months ago, offers information and advice on what letting agents can and can’t legally ask tenants to pay at the start or during a tenancy.
Unlawful fees commonly include charges for carrying out credit or reference checks, fees for checking and preparing an inventory and for arranging duplicate copies of a lease.
According to Shelter Scotland, the number of people visiting the website and downloading the online toolkit is a sign of how widespread the problem is. The charity says it wants tenants to be informed and stand up for their legal rights.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said:
“That over 800 people sought advice in only two months to try and reclaim £100,998 of unlawful fees further consolidates our belief that some letting agents are routinely ripping off tenants by charging extortionate and unjustified upfront fees.
“We hope that the Reclaim Your Fees website continues to help private tenants to claim a refund for charges made unlawfully by their letting agent.”
The charity says it wants to see a long-term solution to unlawful fees and is calling on the Scottish Government to clarify existing legislation.
Graeme Brown added:
“Despite the fact that premiums charged to tenants have been illegal in Scotland for almost 30 years, the nature of what is and isn’t a premium has been long-contested by some, to the detriment of tenants who are still being asked to pay these charges.
“We want the Scottish Government to explicitly clarify legislation to make it clear to tenants, landlords and their agents that all charges above rent and a reasonable deposit are unlawful. Only then will tenants, and indeed landlords, be assured that they are not being exploited.”
Shelter Scotland says misinterpretation of the law under section 82 of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 of what should be classed as a premium and how to deal with agents who break the law is leaving thousands of people open to unfair treatment and financial exploitation.
To find out more about unlawful charges and how to claim a refund, visit www.reclaimyourfees.com.
Notes to Editors:
1. Shelter Scotland provides expert support services, online advice and a free national helpline for everyone facing housing and homelessness difficulties. For advice and support visit http://scotland.shelter.org.uk or call 0808 800 4444.
2. Spokespeople are available for interview – call the media office on 0844 515 2442. An ISDN line is available for broadcast interviews.
Shelter Scotland believes everyone should have a home. We help people find and keep a home. We campaign for decent housing for all.