Letting agent fees law to be tightened

Key in house door It is estimated that there are about 500 letting agent businesses in Scotland

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Scottish rent laws are to be clarified to ensure letting agents do not charge private tenants unlawful fees.

The Scottish government said existing legislation had not been explicit enough about additional charges such as reference checks, credit checks and inventory fees.

The law will be clarified so all charges, other than refundable deposits and rent, will be deemed illegal.

Charity Shelter Scotland said it welcomed the step.

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

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

Housing Minister 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."

Mr Brown added that necessary legal provisions would come into force later this year.

'Unscrupulous agents'

Shelter Scotland head of policy Gordon MacRae said: "This is great news for everyone who has been ripped off by unscrupulous letting agents.

"It will finally put an end to this unlawful practice and ensure that tenants are no longer exploited."

Shelter Scotland, which has been campaigning for the fees to be outlawed, said its Reclaim Your Fees website had already attracted more than £100,000 worth of claims against letting agents.

"Moves like this can only strengthen Scotland's private rented sector and help make it a fairer and more secure place to live for the 270,000 households that now call the sector home," added Mr MacRae.

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