How lettings agents are ripping off tenants

Nearly  a quarter of renters in Britain have been overcharged by a letting agent, new research suggests

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The Independent Online

In the poll of more than 5,000 people by housing charity Shelter, 23% said they had been charged unfair fees by letting agents.

The most common unfair fee was for ‘administration’ (14%) followed by fees charged for credit checks (10%) and then for renewing a contract (8%). Among the cases the charity highights are:

* Renters charged over £150 for repeat credit checks every year

* People charged £100 each time they view a property

* Ex-letting agent staff who admit to fabricating fees to increase their profits

* Renters charged up to £540 for non-refundable ‘administration’ fees

* Letting agents double-charging fees for the same service to landlords and tenants

“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," said Kay Boycott, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Communications at Shelter.

“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.”

Jane Ingram, president of the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA), said: “Standards in the lettings industry do need to be raised. That’s why we have long-called on the Government to act swiftly and introduce a robust licensing system designed to protect consumers.

“ARLA has already taken steps to help inform and protect consumers by setting up our own member licensing system to guard against bad practice, and all of our members are required be clear and transparent with tenants of any charges that they will incur.

“It is important to bear in mind that a professional lettings service cannot be provided to either a landlord or a tenant for no cost, however both parties should be aware of their costs and feel that they have had a professional service, and should have somewhere to seek redress if they feel otherwise."