'Out of control' letting agent fees are forcing tenants to go without food, says Shelter
Housing charity discovers agencies were charging renters more than £350 on average to set up a tenancy, on top of deposits and up-front rent
Alex Johnson has been part of The Independent's online team since 2007. He has been writing about microarchitecture on his internationally-acclaimed Shedworking blog since 2006 and is the author of Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution. His latest book is Bookshelf, published by Thames & Hudson.
Wednesday 12 June 2013
Housing charity Shelter has launched a campaign to end letting agency fees which are costing renters hundreds of pounds.
Shelter carried out mystery shopping research with 58 letting agencies across the country and found that all of them charged fees to renters to set up a tenancy, as well as deposits and rent in advance.
Average fees charged were almost £350, but almost a third of agencies charged renters more than £400 to set up a tenancy, and a further seven more than £700. These charges are in spite of the fact that letting agencies typically receive separate fees from landlords to set up a new tenancy on their behalf.
In some of the letting agencies investigated by Shelter, fees charged to renters – sometimes hundreds of pounds - were not refunded even when, through no fault of their own, the deal didn’t go ahead.
Shelter is calling on politicians to end letting agency fees charged to renters to set up a tenancy, including ‘administration’ fees, ‘holding’ fees, credit check fees and ‘check-in’ fees.
Franco Cirillo, Director of Dorrington Residential, one of London’s largest residential landlords and which is backing Shelter’s campaign, said: "It isn’t right that prospective tenants are asked to pay hundreds of pounds in fees, as well as deposit and rent in advance, for a service that landlords commission. We only work with letting agencies who agree not to charge renters any fees at all. It means that we can focus on the rent, and clear up any confusion about who letting agencies are actually working for."
Campbell Robb, Shelter’s Chief Executive said: "This shocking research reveals that letting agency fees are out of control. Anyone who’s tried to find a rented home in the past few years knows that affordable, decent places to live are in short supply, and often snapped up within hours. The high demand for rented homes means that renters can’t shop around, but instead have to deal with the letting agency their landlord has chosen. They have no choice but to swallow their anger and stump up their cash.
"People often forget that the landlord is the real customer of a letting agency, but the fact that renters also pay fees leaves both expecting the agency to act in their interests. This adds up to a confusing situation that leaves landlords in the dark and renters powerless.
"The only way to fix our broken lettings market is for the Government to stop renters being charged for the costs of setting up a tenancy. This would put landlords in a stronger position to negotiate the best deals, restoring healthy competition to the market and releasing renters from the burden of paying out hundreds of pounds in sky-high fees."
Caroline Kenny, Executive at the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) comments: "We are completely against overcharging. UKALA members operate under a strict code of conduct that helps ensure communication, transparency and fairness underpins all dealings, financial or otherwise, between landlords, letting agents and tenants. Unfortunately however, there are unscrupulous agents operating within the industry who are overcharging tenants and damaging the industry with their dishonest practices.
"UKALA believes that agents should ensure that any fees and charges are made clear in advance of entering into any business relationship. Crucially, so long as information about potential costs is provided in an accessible, transparent and understandable manner, consumers can decide on where to place their business based on all the relevant information.
"Matching prospective tenants with suitable properties is resource intensive and can be extremely costly. The bulk of any agency's costs are covered by the fee paid by their landlord client. However, it is not always appropriate for the landlord to meet pre-tenancy costs, particularly when they are associated with proving the suitability of an applicant. It is therefore appropriate for a prospective tenant to contribute towards the administration and referencing process before a tenancy begins. This demonstrates commitment to the prospective tenancy, safeguards against an applicant securing multiple properties simultaneously, to then reject all but one at the last minute, and protects agents and landlords from applicants who provide false information.
"Tenants ultimately benefit from these processes being carried out professionally. Proper process, such as the inventory check-in and check-out, helps to protect the tenant."
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar
Life & Style blogs
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
- 1 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how the internet reacted
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
£24000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: 2nd line IT Support Techn...
£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...
£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...
£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified science t...