The consumer interests campaigner sent mystery shoppers posing as potential tenants to four different London branches of leading letting agents.
They found that none provided information about fees in any property listings on their website. Only one prospective 'tenant' was proactively given fee information when they registered in branch or called to arrange a viewing and no 'tenant' was provided with a written schedule of charges. In some cases, Which? says that 'tenants' were either not given fee information even when they asked, or they were not given the complete details.
“Renting is now the only housing option for millions, and with many households struggling to pay rent and bills, it is vital that letting agents are upfront about expensive fees in advance," said Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which? "People should know all the costs before they invest time and effort in viewings. Drip feeding fees is unfair and a major barrier to people comparing agents and properties.
“Despite its dramatic growth, there is also an alarming lack of consumer protection and redress in the rental sector. Tenants deserve much better.”
Which? is calling for up-front information about the fees tenants can expect to pay, as well as increased consumer protection with letting agents to be covered by the same legislation as estate agents.
Its research found that the average cost for mandatory administration and referencing fees across all agents was £310, and the highest was £420. Some tenants also face check-in and check-out fees, bringing the total closer to £600.