Living Rent claim victory over Edinburgh letting firm in ‘unfair’ deposit fee dispute


As DRM Residential drops its demand for a ‘Post-Tenancy Works Fee’ from a Living Rent member, the tenants’ union vows to see the clause eliminated from all leases

THE LIVING RENT CAMPAIGN have today (12 November) claimed victory in a dispute with letting firm DRM Residential, announcing that the Edinburgh letting agency had dropped a controversial deposit fee charged to one of its members.

As CommonSpace reported in October of this year, DRM Residential has been accused by Living Rent of including a ‘Post-Tenancy Works Fee’ clause in their leases, which charge tenants £60 over and above any other deductions to their deposit once the tenant moves out.

Living Rent first became aware of the practice when one of their members approached the campaign for aid and advice in disputing some of the deductions to her deposit made by DRM.

READ MORE: Living Rent demand Edinburgh letting agency drop ‘outrageous’ £60 fee on all deposit claims

Speaking to CommonSpace in October, Eilidh McIvor, a member of Living Rent Edinburgh, said: “It seems to be only DRM that use it; it’s a built-in clause to all their leases. So basically what it says is, if at the end of your tenancy, the flat or house requires any sort of cleaning, anything standard at the end of tenancy, they’ll either charge you £60 – £50, plus VAT – or ten per cent of the total costs of the works, whichever figure is higher.”

Living Rent today revealed that DRM have offered to drop the charge to one of their members, following the dispute process. However, the campaign highlighted that it remains unclear whether the clause has been dropped from all DRM leases, or just in this instance.

Speaking today, McIvor commented: “This is great news, but we aren’t going to stop until DRM drop the clause from all over their leases, effective immediately.

“Let this send a message to every tenant in Scotland that we don’t have to put up with rip-offs and bad treatment anymore.” Living Rent Edinburgh member Eilidh McIvor

“Let this send a message to every tenant in Scotland that we don’t have to put up with rip-offs and bad treatment anymore. But let it also send a message to dodgy landlords and letting agents that the days when they could get away with this sort of behaviour are over.”

Following increased scrutiny, the legality of the Post Tenancy Works Fee remains unclear, and is disputed by Living Rent, who interpret the charge to CommonSpace as a “premium fee”, i.e. a fee other than rent or a refundable deposit, which is illegal under Scots law.

However, since the Scottish Government’s strengthening of Scotland’s rent laws, Shelter Scotland – which launched the ‘Reclaim Your Fees’ campaign in 2012 – have warned that they believe many letting agents have continued to charge such illegal fees.

READ MORE: VIDEO: What does a tenants union do?

In October this year, Living Rent released its report on the scale of illegal fees in Scotland, which showed that up to £1.5m is illegally being charged per year to private sector tenants by Scottish letting agencies.

The data driving the report, collected over several months, reached the £1.5m estimate by extrapolating from a conservative estimate of just 5 per cent of tenancies. According to Living Rent, 93 per cent of respondents reported that they had been charged an illegal fee.

A Living Rent spokesperson said “The housing crisis is being exploited by unscrupulous Letting agents and the exploited are the hard pressed tenants of Scotland.

“Let’s be clear those letting agents doing this havn’t just started recently – some have been breaking the law since it came in to force in 2012. The accumulative cost over the last 6 years is likely to be over £10 million.”

DRM Residential did not respond to CommonSpace’s requests for comment for clarification on Living Rent’s claims at the time of publication.

Picture courtesy of Living Rent