Seven students have approached the SRC Advice Centre to ask for help in recovering their money. The SRC are currently preparing court action against the agency to reclaim the amount of £2000 for the students.
One student has, since the summer, tried to reclaim as much as £285, despite never having committed to renting a property through the agency. Another student did sign a lease and pay a deposit of £580, but chose to back out after a month; whilst still liable for one month’s rent, this student is still waiting for the return of his deposit.
In other cases, students have placed deposits upon viewing properties, with the promise that the lease and other paperwork would be drawn up later. This paperwork has failed to materialize, and students have been unsuccessful in reclaiming their deposits. The company is currently being investigated by the police, and is facing court action through the Small Claims Court at Glasgow Sheriff Court.
However, a representative from Royal Lettings Services has told the Guardian that the company is trying to avoid any action reaching courts, and attempting to repay all the money they owe by the end of October. "There were one or two complaints, which we are paying back,” the representative said. “It will not go to court as we do not want to get a bad name, we just want to make sure everyone is happy and everything is correctly done. [We] have spoken to the SRC and told them when they are getting the payments."
The representative went on to apologise for the problems, and stated that the underlying cause of the issue is a recent change in the ownership of the agency. She highlighted that the problems occurred prior to the new management taking over, and further stated that the missing money "is not really our fault [and] that's the reason we are refunding the money paid." Students are encouraged to contact the agency if they are having similar issues.
According to President of the SRC, Jess McGrellis, "Royal Letting Services are a sophisticated and convincing scam, and they have a few different ways of getting money out of students. It is unusual for the SRC to single out a particular letting agent, which highlights the severity of this case. If any student is unsure about the contents of a housing contract, or unsure about whether to put down a deposit, there are some general guidelines you can follow on the SRC website, or you can pop by the SRC Advice Centre for advice and clarification on any housing issues."
These recent difficulties with Royal Letting Services are the latest in a long line of scams by letting services targeted at students, who may be uncertain of their rights as tenants. Last year, Merchant Lettings were heavily criticised for their practises when it came to light that they were failing to make standard repairs to properties, and attempting to retain deposits after tenants had moved out.
A recent change in law means that deposits on rented accommodation now must be placed in the control of a third party, under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. This is meant to ensure that landlords and agencies do not withhold the amount without good cause.