Tenants in Aberdeen have successfully won a small claims action for a refund of letting agency fees charged before the Scottish Government issued a clarification of the law against such fees in 2012. This decision is a very positive sign, and is likely to empower more tenants to take their letting agencies to court.
The Court heard that in 2009, Aberdeen Property Leasing had charged the tenants an administration fee of £125, in addition to the rent and deposit. The letting agency tried to argue that before the legal clarification made by the Scottish Government in 2012, such administration fees were legal, and that only fees charged after that date were prohibited.
The tenants, who were representing themselves, argued that the 1984 Rent Scotland Act clearly states that it is illegal for a landlord or letting agent to charge tenants any fees in addition to their rent and deposit, and therefore such fees were illegal even before the clarification. The Sheriff agreed with them. This new judgement published today may mean that letting agents in Scotland can no longer rely on this excuse.
In the judgement, Sheriff Lewis stated: “In my opinion the definition was not changed – it was improved to make it crystal clear to all involved in residential leasing that administration fees ought not to have been imposed and ought not to be imposed.
“I have concluded that the administration fee imposed by the defender was a prohibited payment and accordingly the pursuers are entitled to the return of it. ”
Sheriff Lewis decided that the the Rent Scotland Act 1984 makes it clear that the charging of administration fees is illegal, and that the clarification made by the Scottish Government in 2012 does not change that fact.
While decisions in a Sheriff Court do not create legal precedents, and so this does not necessarily mean that every Sheriff will make the same judgement, this kind of ruling should give confidence to tenants who have yet to claim back their illegal fees, even ones that were charged several years ago.
This a clear victory for private tenants who have been ripped off by illegal fees, and EPTAG would encourage any tenants who have not done so already, to write to their letting agency, and request a refund. If you have proof such as a receipt or bank statement, you can claim back fees from up to 6 years ago.
Private Tenants Scotland and EPTAG are currently supporting a dozen tenants to claim back fees they have been illegally charged, so if you need any tips or advice, get in touch. Or better still, join us and become part of Scotland’s private tenants movement.