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Patrick Harvie hits out at rogue landlord fees

Many tenants are being hit with 'unfair fees and charges' by landlords trying to avoid the law, said Mr Harvie. Picture: TSPL

Many tenants are being hit with 'unfair fees and charges' by landlords trying to avoid the law, said Mr Harvie. Picture: TSPL

  • by ANDREW WHITAKER
 

ROGUE landlords are passing on the cost of a landmark scheme that was set-up to protect the deposits of tenants in Scotland, an MSP has claimed.

Green co-leader leader Patrick Harvie said many tenants “are being landed with unfair fees and charges” by landlords trying to avoid the law and get around the tenancy deposits scheme (TDS).

The initiative was launched by the Scottish Government with the aim of preventing disputes between tenants and landlords over withheld deposits.

Scotland’s housing minister Margaret Burgess originally said in an answer to a parliamentary question that the government did not know how many deposits had been transferred into the scheme.

Mr Harvie accused ministers of failing to get on “top of the situation” and of not properly enforcing the law, which requires landlords and letting agents to place tenant deposits with an approved third-party scheme.

But last night the Scottish Government issued a statement that said 207,400 deposits with a total value of £137 million had been lodged in the scheme.

Mr Harvie, a Glasgow MSP, said constituents had complained to him about property owners introducing new charges, such as fees for preparing the paperwork connected to a tenancy agreement.

He said: “It’s disappointing that several months on from the warnings that were given, it appears the Scottish Government is not on top of the situation.

“Ministers should be able to gauge the level of compliance if they’re serious about protecting private-sector tenants from rogue landlords and dodgy letting agents.

“I’ve heard from many people who are being landed with unfair fees and charges – just deposits which have been renamed to get around the law.”

The Green MSP went on to call on ministers to strengthen the law deposits to prevent landlords from passing the cost of the scheme onto tenants.

Scottish tenants are losing up to £3.6m a year in unfairly withheld deposits, the Letting Protection Service Scotland estimated in figures published in 2013.

Just two-thirds of tenants in Scotland know about the TDS, according to research published last year.

But John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said: “I don’t know how landlords would be able to impose additional charges as there’s nothing else you can call these things other than a

deposit.”

Mr Blackwood went on to claim that some landlords had stopped charging deposits altogether since the TDS was

introduced.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The schemes are free to use and include an independent adjudication process where disputes arise over the return of deposits.

“By the end of November 2013, over 207,400 deposits with a total value of £137m had been lodged.

“It is a landlord’s responsibility to ensure that a deposit is lodged in one of the three

approved schemes.”

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