The practice of charging supplementary letting agent fees was made illegal in Scotland in 2012, but many companies ignored this change.
If you live in Scotland and have been charged any extra fees by a letting agency in the last five years, you are entitled to claim them back.
Which fees are illegal?
According to housing charity Shelter Scotland, charging a tenant for any of the following breaks the law:
Credit checks - fees for carrying out credit checksReference checks - fees for carrying out reference checksInventory fees - charges for checking and preparing an inventoryRenewal fees – any administration charge to renew an existing tenancyHolding fees - any non refundable 'holding fees' or similar payment as an inducement to grant a tenancyCopies of the lease - charges for arranging duplicate copies of the leaseTransfer fees - a payment to formally transfer a tenancy to someone else (known as ‘assignment’)Overpriced furniture - sale of furniture to a tenant for an excessive price
Deposits are not illegal fees
Of course, your letting agent is still permitted to charge you a deposit to cover any potential damages at the end of your tenancy.
This money must be put into a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) if you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007.
Provided you meet the terms of your tenancy agreement, do not damage the property and pay your rent and bills, this deposit should be returned to you within 10 days of your former letting agent or landlord signing off on your tenancy.
How to claim fees back
If you have paid any supplementary fees to a letting agent since 2012, you should write to the agency and ask them to return the fees.
If you have proof of the charge (such as a receipt or bank statement), include a copy of this with your letter.
Make sure to sign, date and take a copy of this letter before sending - it will be helpful if you are refused your refund.
Shelter Scotland offers several free templates to help you write this letter.
If, after seven days, you hear nothing back, write to your letting agent again, including a copy of your original letter.
Your second letter should explain the law which makes extra fees unlawful. It should also warn your letting agent that you are prepared to take them to simple procedure court (which has replaced small claims court) if they do not return the fees.
You may need to go to your local Sheriff Court to get your fees back - but don't let this put you off (Photo: Shutterstock)
Lodging a simple procedure action
If the letting agency does not respond, you should take legal action. Do not feel intimidated by the thought of taking a simple procedure action - you do not need a solicitor to do this.
You can easily fill out a simple procedure claims form online on the Scottish Courts Service’s website. Then attach your Statement of Claim and give this form to your local Sheriff Court. The local Sheriff Clerk can advise you on which form to fill in if you are unsure.
You will have to pay a small fee to lodge this form, although some people are exempt.
Go to court, if necessary
If lodging a simple procedure claim does not prompt the letting agency to refund your fees, your case will go to court.
The process is designed to be simple, but you can seek guidance from Citizen's Advice or a Law Centre, as well as the Sheriff Clerk before your case is heard.