Landlords are still ripping off tenants

Landlords are continuing to charge illegal rental fees despite them being outlawed more than a year ago.

The Scottish Government brought in new laws after housing charity bosses labelled the Scottish private rental market “the Wild West”.

Under the legislation it became illegal to charge for anything other than rent and a refundable deposit. But we have discovered some landlords are continuing to hit their tenants with unjust fees.

One agency, Caledonian Property Letting, who have properties in Stirling and Glasgow, charged an Italian student arrangement and guarantor fees totalling £220 on top of his £725 deposit to rent a Glasgow flat.

Housing charities claim this is not an isolated case and many similar complaints have been lodged.

Jacopo Grazzi, studying International Fashion Branding at Glasgow Caledonian University, has tried and failed to get back the £945 he handed over to Caledonian Property Letting, headed up by Steven O’Neill.

The 20-year-old, originally from Ferrara near Bologna, said: “A friend spotted a two-bedroom flat in Glasgow that looked ideal for me and a friend to move into. I paid a £725 deposit along with a £165 tenancy arrangement fee and a £55 guarantor form fee.

“I was due to move in at the end of August but the company wanted too much paperwork. They asked for three years’ worth of personal and business bank statements from my mum, who was to be my guarantor.

“I also started having concerns about the flat’s closeness to the university. I changed my mind and asked for my deposit back but the company refused. They told me they’d lost out on potential tenants when they took the property off the market and for that reason they were keeping the cash. What’s worse, I have now learned some of the charges I’d paid shouldn’t have been paid in the first place.

“I can’t believe they are keeping a hold of my money without any rational reason.”

We tried and failed to get an explanation from Caledonian Property Letting, based in Stirling Enterprise Park whose turnover last year was £620,000, about why they used illegal charges.

Across the UK, complaints about letting agents to the UK’s property ombudsman have seen a 123% rise in the last five years from 3,739 to 8,334.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, who previously labelled the industry “the Wild West”, said: “We are aware that some letting agents continue to charge unlawful fees. Anyone who feels they have been asked to pay unlawful upfront fees should report the matter to the police and seek expert advice.”

According to the charity in the last 10 years the number of Scottish households renting privately has nearly doubled to 290,000 and the number of households with children renting privately has risen from 5% to 13%.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The only fees a landlord can legally charge in connection with the granting of a tenancy are rent and a tenancy deposit.”

Have you been charged illegal rental fees? Call our newsdesk on 0141 567 2776