Letting agencies

Letting agencies are private companies that can help you find private rented accommodation that suits you. Most agencies also manage the day-to-day running of the tenancy.

What do letting agencies do?

Letting agencies act as 'go betweens' between tenants and landlords. They can:

  • help you find suitable property to rent
  • collect your rent on behalf of the landlord
  • arrange for any repairs to be done.

Why use a letting agency?

There are several advantages to using a letting agency:

  • the rent you'll be paying will usually be fair for the area
  • all legal requirements, for example fire safety measures, are more likely to be met
  • if something goes wrong, a letting agent is more likely to sort it out for you promptly.

Will I have to pay any fees?

It's illegal for letting agencies to charge you for certain things before you agree to rent a property. For example:

  • they can't charge you for registering with them or for providing you with a list of properties
  • they can't ask for a deposit before they have found you anywhere.

Once the agency has found you a property, they are entitled to ask you to pay a deposit, but they have no legal right to ask you to pay any other charges. They may ask you to pay fees for credit checking, references, administrative work or anything else, these charges are premiums and are unlawful; you should challenge letting agents if they ask you to pay any extra fees.

If you've already paid a premium, you should write to the letting agency or landlord to ask for the money back. If they don't return the money then you can take them to the small claims court to claim the fees back. There may also be extra costs involved in going to court and you will have to decide if you're willing to pay these and take the risk of going to court.

Use our online toolkit to download everything you'll need to claim back any unlawful tenancy fees you've been charged.

How do I find a letting agency?

Don't go with the first letting agency you find: shop around. Make sure any agency you choose is a member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or accredited by the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) or Landlord Accreditation Scotland or the Council of Letting Agents and also that it is registered with the council.

You can find letting agencies listed in the Yellow Pages and on the NALS website. You can find letting agencies in your area on the Citylets, s1homes or Zoopla websites.

Legal liability

Although the letting agency may be responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of your tenancy, such as rent and repairs, your contract is with your landlord. For that reason, your landlord's name and address must appear on your tenancy agreement.

Any legal action arising from your tenancy would be raised against your landlord, not the letting agency. In particular, your landlord is legally responsible for ensuring that all safety regulations concerning furniture, gas and electrical installations and appliances and smoke alarms are met. Landlords can be prosecuted if they don't comply with safety regulations.

The important points

  • Letting agents work for the landlord of the property you rent, finding tenants and managing repairs.
  • It is unlawful for letting agents to ask you to pay premiums for registering with them, or credit checks for example. You can challenge them or ask for the fees back afterwards.
  • A good way to find a letting agent is to choose a member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or the National Approved Letting Scheme, or one who is accredited by Landlord Accreditation Scotland.

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

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