On October 2nd, protesters from Edinburgh Private Tenants’ Action Group shut down a letting agency which is still demanding illegal fees from its tenants, despite the Scottish Government confirming that charging such fees is a crime.
A dozen EPTAG ‘sheriffs’ arrived at the offices of the Edinburgh Spaces letting agency to investigate reports of a crime: Edinburgh Spaces have been forcing tenants to pay a £500 “check-out fee”, and between £60 and £120 of illegal fees per tenant upon starting a tenancy.
EPTAG spokesperson Jon Black said: “Rip-off letting agents like Edinburgh Spaces have been getting away with breaking the law for too long. Tenancy fees have been illegal for decades and yet tenants are still being forced to pay. We are pleased that our protest has disrupted this company’s illegal practices by forcing them to close for the day”.
Under Rents (Scotland) Act 1984, it is an offence for a landlord or letting agent to charge tenants any fees in addition to their rent and deposit. Agents have often flouted the law, claiming that it does not apply to the specific types of fees they charge.
The Scottish Government has recently confirmed that all fees charged to tenants are illegal, but in a recent survey carried out by EPTAG, only 21% of letting agents reported that they have stopped charging fees. Some tenants are still being forced to pay over £100 per person in to obtain a lease for a property.
Edinburgh Central MSP Marco Biagi said: “EPTAG are rightly bringing to attention those letting agents who continue to charge the fees that they and Shelter have campaigned against, and which the Scottish Government has clearly stated are unlawful. There is no ambiguity – charging anything other than rent and a deposit for a tenancy is illegal, and has been since 1984. Anyone charging such premiums could potentially even face prosecution. With 45% of my constituents living in private rented housing this issue is a real priority for central Edinburgh. Tenants must be able to expect letting agents and landlords to play by the rules.”