Law relating to tenant charges to be clarified

28 August 2012

The law relating to charges that can lawfully be imposed on a tenant of a property is to be clarified. The only costs that can be lawfully charged to a tenant are rent and a deposit (which can be no more than two months rent). All other charges will be deemed to be illegal following statutory changes that have been announced. It follows a consultation that was launched earlier in the year on how to tackle the problem of the unfair and illegal charges.

It is in fact already illegal to charge a tenant, or prospective tenant ‘premiums’, such as ‘holding fees’ or fees for administrative charges including drawing up a tenancy agreement, reference and credit checks. However, the legislation, found in the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 is considered to be unclear, leading to confusion for tenants and potential gaps for unscrupulous landlords and letting agents to exploit. The Act has been criticised for not being explicit enough in its wording and it is hoped that introducing new regulations will leave no room for uncertainty as to what is permitted.

Housing Minister Keith Brown said: “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”

Meanwhile, housing charity Shelter has been campaigning on tenant’s behalf and their popular website,, has assisted many in reclaiming money unlawfully charged to them. While many letting agents may have previously argued that the lack of clarity meant they could impose the charges, the new regulations should be clear and unambiguous. If you are a tenant who is struggling to claim back fees from a letting agent, ultimately a small claims action may need to be raised in the local Sheriff Court. Initiating this action may ultimately result in the fees being repaid to avoid court, particularly as it is now well publicised that there will be little defence for retaining fees other than deposit and rent.

If you are a landlord or letting agency, you need to be aware that claims could be made from both current and past tenants.

If you need further advice on the proposed regulations and how it could affect you as a tenant, landlord or letting agency, Inksters are experienced property law practitioners and can advise you on how best to manage a claim. Please contact Brian Inkster or Louise King at our Glasgow office by email or on 0141 229 0880.



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