Letting rules tightened to stop ‘rip-offs’

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Letting agents should not be charging a range of up-front fees to private tenants, Housing Minister Keith Brown has warned.

Under the Rent (Scotland Act) 1984, landlords and their agents can legally charge rent and a deposit only when granting a tenancy.

However, research has shown that the current legislation is not explicit enough about additional charges such as reference checks, credit checks and inventory fees.

The law will now be clarified so that all tenant charges, other than rent and a refundable deposit, will be deemed illegal.

The move follows a consultation launched earlier this year on how to deal with unfair and illegal premiums.

It is estimated that there are around 500 letting agent businesses in Scotland involved in around 150,000 private lettings per year.

Keith Brown said: “The majority of letting agents operate in a thoroughly professional manner and play an important role in the Scottish private rented sector.

“However, numerous cases of tenants across the country being ripped off were uncovered by Shelter Scotland.

“As a result of this consultation, we will make it crystal clear to tenants, landlords and their agents that all premium fees, over and above rent and a deposit, are unlawful. We will now commence the necessary legal provisions to come into force later this year.”