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Letting agent refuses to speak to campaigners

A LETTING agent accused of charging illegal fees refused to speak to tenants yesterday.

Tenants’ union Living Rent says Glasgow-based Castle Residential routinely charges each occupier of a flat a £55 fee for initial reference checks, and £55 for additional guarantors.

The Star has seen a copy of a property application form issued by Castle which requires prospective tenants to sign up for these charges.

Activists from Living Rent picketed Castle’s offices yesterday and asked for a meeting with the firm’s area manager Matt McCusker.

But after coming to the door, Mr McCusker refused to engage with a tenant who says she was charged the illegal fee.

Kitty Walker, a student at Glasgow University, told the Star that she and her flatmates were charged £110 each when they moved into their flat in 2016.

“We were students, and most of us were from England, where fees weren’t illegal,” she said.

When Living Rent activists spoke to Mr McCusker at the office door, he said: “I’m trying to get on with my work, and you’re interrupting that.”

The tenants’ union said it first encountered Castle Residential in 2017.

Tenant Lauren Lyttle and her partner had been charged £835 per month to live in a “mushroom house” condemned by environmental health firm Rentokil.

The union subsequently confronted the firm over four members who had been charged £440 in illegal fees.

After these tenants got their money back, Ms Walker and her flatmates raised their own case with Living Rent.

A Star reporter asked Mr McCusker to respond to the allegations but he replied that he would not make a comment.

Tenant fees were banned in Scotland in 2012. A ban is due to come into force in England this year.

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