Liberal Youth Scotland Campaigns for Honest Lets
Brace yourself — you’re about the hear the SNP getting some praise.
Are you sitting down? Good.
Over the summer, the SNP announced something that student groups like the NUS and groups such as Shelter and the CAB had been calling for a long time. They announced that they would issue a clarification on the illegality of any fees that tenants were being charged by landlords, other than a security deposit and their rent. See here.
The Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 says that “Any person who, as a condition of the grant, renewal or continuance of a protected tenancy, requires, in addition to the rent, the payment of any premium or the making of any loan (whether secured or unsecured) shall be guilty of an offence.” However, this section is ignored by a large number of landlords, and tenants can be charged anything between £50 and several hundred pounds per person. Letting agencies cited “confusion” over the 1984 Act’s meaning as their reason for charging.
Consequently, Housing Minister Keith Brown announced that they would issue a clarification of this section in the most uncertain terms — everything that isn’t rent or a security deposit IS a premium.
However, Liberal Youth Scotland would like the SNP to go a couple of steps further.
Our Honest Lets campaign calls on the SNP to legislate on this issue, to swiftly and decisively stamp out this illegal practice. It is highly unlikely that a clarification itself will have the effect desired, when competition for housing is so high.
Liberal Youth Scotland are therefore calling for the following measures to be put in place:
- ‘Mystery shopper’ style checks, to identify those landlords breaking the law
- A process for swift and easy removal of Accredited Landlord status from those found to be guilty.
- A quick and simple process for tenants to reclaim fees that have been charged illegally, backdated to any tenancy started within the last ten years.
- An education campaign making tenants more aware of their rights, and empowering them to refuse illegal fees.
There will be ongoing debate on this in Scottish politics, and hopefully the Scottish Parliament, so to that end LYS have passed a motion at Scottish Lib Dem Conference in Dunfermline time calling for this to be the party’s position in the coming debate. We believe this motion crucially gives our parliamentarians the tools they need to negotiate and debate in the Scottish Parliament on this issue, and bring about a package of measures which make this a historic moment for Scottish housing law.
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Callum Leslie is a 3rd year Economics Student at the University of Edinburgh and is a former Scottish Parliamentary Candidate, former Vice-President of Liberal Youth Scotland and current Ordinary Executive Member.
This blog is reporting a campaign by Liberal Youth Scotland. It is not necessarily the policy of other Liberal Youth affiliates, the Liberal Democrat party, or the editorship of the Libertine.