Tenants take fees protest to lettings agent office

Kerstin Brzezek, front, with members of EPTAG outside Albany Lettings. Picture: Jon Savage
Kerstin Brzezek, front, with members of EPTAG outside Albany Lettings. Picture: Jon Savage
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CITY tenants who have been charged “unscrupulous” fees by letting agents have staged a protest demanding the return of their money.

More than 20 members of Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group (EPTAG) picketed the offices of Albany Lettings in Bruntsfield Place yesterday after the company failed to pay money owed to one of its former tenants.

Kerstin Brzezek, a PhD student at Edinburgh University, was charged £65 for an administration fee in addition to one month’s rent and a deposit when she took the lease of an Albany Lettings property in Morningside Road in July 2010.

However, last August Housing Minister Keith Brown clarified that, under the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984, all tenant charges other than rent and a refundable deposit are in fact deemed illegal.

Tenants have since begun claiming fees back from agents with the backing of organisations such as EPTAG, Shelter Scotland and the National Union of Students Scotland.

After Albany Lettings did not respond to numerous letters and correspondence, Ms Brzezek, 30, lodged a successful claim in the small claims court last November and obtained a decree of payment to cover the £65 fee and £15 legal expenses in January.

She has yet to receive the money, though.

She said: “They have ignored my request to return my money all the way along despite phoning and writing to them on numerous occasions.

“The small claims court recognised I was illegally charged. This is my money which Albany wrongfully charged. I just want my money back.”

Albany Lettings chose to close its office during the protest but reopened later in the afternoon as director Neil Johnston claimed to have never received a decree of payment in relation to Kerstin’s claim.

Upon viewing a copy of the document, he said: “I have never received any such document from the small claims court. Of course I will pay it. We no longer charge these referencing fees as it is against the law.”

When asked if he would also consider returning such fees to his other tenants, he said: “For that we would have to take the necessary steps through the courts.”

NUS Scotland president Robin Parker said: “In the past, these fees were often not mentioned to tenants until it came time to sign their lease, or when their tenancy came to an end. We need to see this practice come to an immediate end and these fees refunded.”