Many people have been successful in claiming back unlawful fees from their letting agency. Here are just a few.
After hearing of our Reclaim Your Fees campaign, Michael and his former flat mates decided to contact their letting agent about the £143 admin fee they had paid back in 2009.
Michael filled out our online toolkit and sent off the letters. However, each time the agent responded claiming the fees were perfectly legal, as they were charged before the legislation on premiums was clarified in 2012.
This didn’t seem right to him, and so Michael got in touch with Shelter Scotland. We confirmed that the letting agent’s fees were indeed unlawful, and encouraged him to pursue his claim.
So Michael decided to proceed, and raised a small claims action. In court, the letting agent again argued that the fees had been charged before 2012, and were therefore legal. However, in her decision the Sheriff confirmed our position - that the change to the law in 2012 was just to clarify that fees were unlawful, not to make them so - and stressed that any letting agent fees charged prior to the 2012 clarification were unlawful.
And so the case was found in Michael’s favour, and the letting agent was ordered to repay the tenants’ fees, plus interest from the date the claim was started. Michael said:
“Though the small claims process was long and intimidating at first, with the help and support of Shelter Scotland and Aberdeen Law Project I was able to get the result I felt I deserved."
I would encourage anyone who has been charged unlawful fees to start the claims process. It’s straightforward and easy to follow.
Thanks to the support of Shelter Scotland, Claire Smith was able to reclaim £355 in holding deposit and credit check fees from her letting agent.
“We paid the letting agent £355 as a holding fee after finding a lovely flat. Unfortunately we were not able to take up the tenancy.
“As we’d already paid the letting agent £355 I emailed them to request they return the money but they didn’t respond. I tried to phone them and sent further emails to no avail.
“After a few weeks I decided to contact Trading Standards to find out about my rights and that’s when they recommended I contact Shelter Scotland. I phoned the helpline and was told about the Reclaim Your Fees campaign which had just started.
“After I found out that the fees were unlawful I was even more determined than ever to get my money back. Armed with the information from the Reclaim Your Fees website and the free toolkit I filled in and sent both the template letters and waited.
“I didn’t hear back from the letting agent and sent the third letter in the toolkit making it clear I would take them to the small claims court. I still heard nothing back.
“After getting advice from a Shelter Scotland helpline advisor I phoned the letting agent to make it clear that I know my rights and I would take them to court if I didn’t receive a refund.
“After that phone call they refunded the total £355.”
“The Shelter campaign makes it easy to understand the tenant's rights and their template letters helped me get back money which should never have been charged in the first place.
“It’s important everyone knows their rights as a tenant. I would encourage anyone who has been charged unlawful fees to start the claims process. It’s straightforward and easy to follow. I’m glad I got my money back and hope that others will do the same.”
I should never have been charged in the first place, and they had caused me a lot of needless stress and anxiety. Why should I settle for a partial refund?
When she found a new house to rent, Yvonne Scott was charged a £100 reference fee, in addition to a £465 deposit. She thought that this would be enough to secure the property. Unfortunately, she was wrong.
Just four days before she was due to move in, the letting agent contacted her to say the let would not be going ahead. Unfortunately by this stage she had already handed in her notice to her current landlord - leaving her in a very stressful and difficult situation.
The letting agent returned her deposit, but informed Yvonne that she would not be getting the £100 reference fee back, as they had already made a reference check.
This didn't sound fair to Yvonne - and upon checking with Shelter Scotland she discovered that it was unlawful for the letting agent to have charged this fee in the first place.
When she informed the letting agency that she was aware the charge was unlawful, they offered to refund her £75 - three quarters of the original fee. To Yvonne, this was unacceptable.
“I should never have been charged in the first place, and they had caused me a lot of needless stress and anxiety. Why should I settle for a partial refund?”
Yvonne responded saying that she would not accept anything less than the full £100. When she raised a small claims action and a hearing date set, the letting agency soon changed their tune – and Yvonne received an email saying she would be refunded the full amount.
Yvonne said: “More people need to realise that you can get back what is rightfully yours. Don't back down and fight all the way to make sure you get your money back.”
Moving house is a stressful and expensive business. The last thing you need is letting agents adding extra costs on top. I would encourage anyone who has been charged unlawful fees by a letting agent to claim their money back.
After deciding to move in together for the first time, Rachel Ryan and her partner Christopher started flat hunting in Edinburgh. After viewing several flats the couple realised that every letting agent they contacted seemed to charge additional fees for their services.
Rachel said: “When we first started flat hunting we were really excited. We were moving in together for the first time and were determined to find the perfect flat. Because every letting agent we contacted demanded additional fees, for either credit checks or admin fees, we thought nothing of it and assumed it was completely above board.
“We eventually found a flat that we liked and decided to arrange a viewing. The agent that showed us around answered our questions about the rent, deposit and when we could move in but the one thing he failed to mention before we paid the £250 non-refundable ‘holding fee’ was that we would also be asked to pay £175 in agency fees and £35 VAT. That meant that as well as paying two month’s rent in advance - which came to £1,275 – we also had to pay £460 in one lump sum to them if we wanted to secure the flat.”
By chance, Rachel heard about Shelter Scotland’s Reclaim Your Fees campaign on social media and decided to challenge the agent about the fees.
Rachel said: “I have a strong sense of justice so I wasn’t going to pay the agency a fee I know is unlawful. I contacted Shelter Scotland who led me to www.reclaimyourfees.com and advised me to challenge the fee. I quoted the legislation and pointed out that the premiums they were charging are illegal. I also questioned why the fees were so high for things like credit checks, which in reality cost only a couple of pounds to get online.”
After sending them a letter with information from the Reclaim Your Fees website and offering to gather references from landlords and employers themselves for a fraction of the cost the letting agent charged Rachel received a response from the letting agent to say they would waive the fees and could move in to the flat as planned.
Rachel said: “The letting agent refused to acknowledge that the fees they charge are illegal, which is disappointing but I was still really pleased that they agreed to waive them. We gathered our own references from current landlords and employers, and only had to spend a couple of pounds to get credit scores online.
“I was pleased that not only were we no longer being charged the fees but the VAT had been wiped too. After initially debating with the letting agent about the fees, we’ve now moved in and are enjoying our new flat. I’m glad we went through the process and hope that more people will stand up for what is right.
“Moving house is a stressful and expensive business. The last thing you need is letting agents adding extra costs on top. I would encourage anyone who has been charged unlawful fees by a letting agent to claim their money back.”
They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this – we wouldn’t stand by and let others routinely break the law, so why should letting agents get away with it?
Tim Macdonald and his wife Rebekah contacted their letting agent to ask for a refund for the £150 administration fee which the couple paid at the beginning of their tenancy three years ago.
Tim, who is training to be a lawyer, outlined the legal case for a refund but the letting agent still refused to acknowledge that the fee is unlawful. Tim raised an action in the Sheriff Court under the Small Claims procedure and got his money back in full, plus interest, without having to attend court.
Tim said: “Although I’m training to be a lawyer I had no idea admin fees were unlawful until I saw Shelter Scotland’s research into letting agent practices. I read the legislation and was shocked to find that what is now standard practice has been unlawful since the month I was born.
“I wrote to my former letting agent to ask for a refund. I got a patronising reply saying that the term “premium” wasn’t clearly defined in the legislation – even though it’s very clear. They said that the law was about to change, which is irrelevant, as the fee we were charged was illegal when we paid it and is still illegal now. They told me that they intended to keep charging admin fees until the Scottish Government told them not to, showing brazen disregard for the law.
“I decided to raise a Small Claim in the Sheriff Court to stand up for what’s right. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this – we wouldn’t stand by and let others routinely break the law, so why should letting agents get away with it?”
Tim added: “I claimed for a refund of the fee and demanded an 8% interest rate from when I paid it, almost three years ago. They wrote back saying they’d sought advice from the Association of Residential Letting Agents and had been advised not to defend the claim. They enclosed a cheque for the fee plus three years’ interest.
“I could probably have got my £15 court fee back too, but decided not to bother. Despite their arrogant bluster, letting agents quickly change their tune when a court summons arrives. I had to work out how to do all this myself, but now that www.reclaimyourfees.com is up and running, you don’t have to be a law student to get your money back – Shelter Scotland gives excellent advice that anyone can follow.”
To anyone considering it, I’d say just go for it. You have nothing to lose – they already have your money. I hope that the Reclaim Your Fees campaign helps many more people to get their money back.
Kuku Scott Wilson pursued his letting agency, through the small claims court in order to get the company to return the £320 deposit he paid them for a flat he was never allowed to rent. Earlier this year, with the help of Shelter Scotland, Scott was successful in his action against the letting agent and got his money back in full.
He said: “It was daunting at first. All the paperwork and legal terms put me off, but now I see that it was nothing to worry about. My advice to anyone who has paid a deposit, fee for admin or credit checks to a letting agent, even if you’ve signed a document agreeing to pay it, is to claim a refund because it’s illegal.
“At the time I was desperate to secure a flat and that’s why I paid the withholding deposit as I’m sure many people do in that situation, but now I realise that it’s just a money making rip-off. As anyone who has rented privately will know, finding and moving in to a flat is very expensive. First you have to pay a deposit and the first month’s rent. To then have to pay for credit checks, admin fees, reference checks and all the other fees some letting agents charge on top of that – it’s just not right.”
Scott started the process of reclaiming his deposit by contacting his letting agent, who did not take his request for a refund seriously. After numerous attempts to contact them and no response, Scott informed the letting agency he would take court action against them – they responded and offered to repay £200 and charged £120 as admin fees, which Scott declined.
Scott Kuku said: “I told them that out of principle I would not accept £200 and that I wanted my money back in full. After that I started the small claims process and with the help of Shelter Scotland the letting agent was ordered in court to refund my money.
“Towards the end of the process it wasn’t even about the money. It was about right and wrong. I hope that my case shows people out there that it’s possible to get your money back with a little time, patience and determination."
"To anyone considering it, I’d say just go for it. You have nothing to lose – they already have your money. I hope that the Reclaim Your Fees campaign helps many more people to get their money back and prove that tenants won’t stand for this rip-off."
If you have had to pay unlawful fees to your letting agency,
use our online toolkit to claim them back.