Letting agents will be required to publish full details of the fees they charge under plans announced by government ministers. The move aims to ensure a fair deal for landlords and tenants, closing off the opportunity for rogue agents to impose unreasonable, hidden charges.
Currently, the Advertising Standards Authority only requires letting agents to list compulsory charges to the tenant upfront in the process.
The new move means that all letting agents must publish a full tariff of their fees, both on their websites and prominently in their offices. Anyone who does not comply with these new rules will face a fine.
Housing Minister, Kris Hopkins, said: "The vast majority of letting agents provide a good service to tenants and landlords. But we are determined to tackle the minority of rogue agents who offer a poor service. Ensuring full transparency and banning hidden fees is the best approach, giving consumers the information they want and supporting good letting agents.
"Short-term gimmicks like trying to ban any fee to tenants means higher rents by the back door. Excessive state regulation and waging war on the private rented sector would also destroy investment in new housing, push up prices and make it far harder for people to find a flat or house to rent."
However a spokesman for Shelter said it was disappointing that MPs voted down a separate amendment on letting fees. The housing charity is campaigning to stop letting agencies charge renters fees. It estimates that one in four people in England and Wales have been charged unfair fees, with one in seven charged more than £700.
Emma Reynolds MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, said: "Homebuyers rightly don’t have to pay the estate agent who is working on behalf of the seller of the property. However, in contrast, renters have to pay to get the keys to their rental property. The average upfront fees are £350 but in high demand areas, these fees can be much more expensive.
"Generation rent needs proper protection against being ripped off. A Labour government will ban letting agent fees on tenants."
But Ian Potter, Managing Director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, commented: "Labour’s amendment was ill thought through and its failure to pass illustrates this. I'm glad that the majority of MPs recognise that a ban on letting agent fees will only lead to an increase in rents, as landlords and agents seek to achieve returns. Fees are not arbitrary or unnecessary, they represent a business cost that those tabling the amendment failed to recognise. ARLA’s call, as ever, is for wholesale regulation of the market to ensure fair and transparent practices for all consumers, landlords and agents alike."