Shelter slams letting agent fees across England

Fresh from its success in Scotland, where it has won its campaign to get all tenancy fees charged by both landlords and letting agents comprehensively outlawed, Shelter has turned its sights on all lettings agents in England. The charity is now gathering evidence from both landlords and tenants.

Horror stories in the last few days from Scotland suggest that the fall-out has been spectacular, with some agents saying that they are being physically intimidated by tenants demanding their money back, staff resigning and more agency closures.

One agent described the market as having turned overnight, after the Scottish housing minister announced tightening up the law.

In Scotland, premiums were already illegal but the legislation did not make it clear whether admin fees were also illegal. New wording will be put in place shortly, making it explicitly illegal for any and all tenants to be charged anything by landlords and agents beyond rent and deposits.

Now, Shelter has announced the results of a You Gov survey into letting agents’ fees, which found that 23% – equivalent to 11m people – felt they had been ripped off by letting agents in England.  

The fee that most people said they had been unfairly charged for was for ‘administration’ (14% of people affected), followed by fees charged for credit checks (10%) and renewal fees (8%).
 
The latest survey, said Shelter, forms part of its investigation into ‘the unfair fees charged by letting agents’, suggesting it is not going to let up on its efforts.
 
It said that shocking cases it had uncovered included tenants being charged £150 for repeat annual credit checks, which cost the agent between £8 and £25; tenants being charged £100 per viewing and up to £540 in non-refundable admin fees; and agents double-charging fees for the same service to landlords and tenants.    

Over half (52%) who said they have been unfairly charged by a letting agent felt the fees were unfair because they were out of proportion to the cost or amount of work done.
 
Kay Boycott, director of campaigns, policy and communications at Shelter, said: “It’s scandalous that some letting agents are creaming off huge profits from the boom in private renting by charging both tenants and landlords fees that are totally out of proportion to the service they provide.
 
“With our investigation uncovering unexplained charges of over £500, we need to make sure that letting agent fees are reasonable. With costs like these, on top of the sky-high rents that families already face, it’s no surprise that many dread the day they have to look for a new place to rent.”
 
Shelter is calling on tenants  and landlords to sh
Article courtesy of Landlord Today
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