/ Home & Energy, Money

Why are letting agent fees so high?

Moving house can be expensive. And for those of us who rent, one of the most significant and annoying costs can be the fees charged by letting agents. It’s even more annoying when it’s hard to find what these are.

I’d love to buy my own place. Sadly I have nowhere near the kind of money needed for a mortgage deposit – especially as I live in what the media loves to describe as ‘house-price-crazy’ London.  So, as I need a roof over my head, I rent.

Which is fine. Except that for many of us it’s hard enough to come up with the deposit to rent a flat – usually six weeks’ rent – let alone cover the admin fees letting agents charge.

We found in 2013 that the average admin and referencing fees (banned in Scotland) you’d have to pay was £310. We also found some tenants could be saddled with check-in and check-out fees, bringing the total closer to an eye watering £600.

A group called Waltham Forest Renters – based in the London borough I’m lucky enough to call home – recently carried out research that found a huge variation in fees. For a two-bedroom flat rented by two people with a guarantor, fees started at £150 and went up to a dizzying £792.

Letting agent fees must now be shown upfront

At least letting agents must now clearly publicise a full tariff of their fees both on their websites and prominently in their offices. But there’s no protection in law for tenants covering what agents can charge.

Since October 2014 letting agents have also been legally required to be a member of one of the three government-approved redress schemes – which have codes of practice agents must follow and act as mediation services. We worked hard to help win this legal change, so we hope tenants (and landlords) will exercise their right to complain about poor service including misleading and unexplained fees.

Any agent who doesn’t display their fees can be fined up to £5,000. The Waltham Forest group’s report claimed that 21 agents in the borough weren’t listing their full fees at the time their research was carried out. They say they’ve passed details of their claims onto the council for further investigation.

But, are the fees reasonable?

This week, the National Housing Federation found that rents in the UK are the highest in Europe and take up the biggest portion of people’s salaries.

And bearing in mind the cost of fees as well, is it any wonder my generation will spend many more years forking out our hard-earned cash in rent rather than saving for a deposit and paying off a mortgage?

Do you think the fees are reasonable? Could fees be levied at landlords as they’re the ones benefitting from the screening of tenants? Or should they be banned like they are in Scotland?

Comments
suzie says:
5 August 2019

Hi, I am a landlord and have had to go to court to get an eviction for my tenant. I only rented my house out as I couldn’t sell it, and I need to sell it now, 10 years later. I did not use a scheme for the deposit. She hasn’t paid her rent this month. If I give her full deposit back even though she owes me for rent, can she still take me to court for the 3 x the deposit fine? Thanks.

Suzie – Your position might be compromised by the absence of a deposit protection scheme so I suggest you take professional legal advice as soon as possible. Both you and your tenant would probably benefit from a negotiated settlement.

Estate agents that undertake lettings management are usually well-versed in the intricacies of evictions and will often offer free informal advice even if you are not a client.

LPTracey Jellali says:
27 August 2019

Does the landlord or agency. Lettings have to deposit my bond with a bind schemes

I presume you are referring to a deposit taken by your landlord as a security against (a) breach of the tenancy agreement, (b) damage to the property, and (c) non-payment of rent and bills.

Your landlord must put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) if you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007. There are three approved TDP’s.

For more information see –
https://www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection

Karen says:
16 October 2019

Whilst living in a property we were burgled . We paid for locks to be changed but one key to a balcony is missing. Letting agents have also lost spare key as landlord moved from one agent to another . On check out it wasnt mentioned but nearly a month after hes started about it .

Karen-if you gave the new keys to the landlord and the letting agency contracted to act on his behalf lost the spare I don’t see how you can be held liable .
As well as that if the keys were handed in when you left and no word was said at the time about verification the liability falls on the receiver of the keys not you, they failed in their contracted obligation to verify the full set was there leaving you under the impression there wasn’t a problem . “Failure of Duty of protection ” and liability to act as an agent of the landlord which they were in law.
Again I cant see how you can be held liable even if he wants to go to court over the price of a key as a locksmith could supply one for him.

.jones says:
19 October 2019

My daughter’s landlord is withholding her deposit as she claims we left the kitchen dirty the book of instructions to boiler was missing and the window lock keys were missing
The kitchen wasn’t dirty the oven was past its best we couldn’t clean the doors from day one the instructor book was in the cupboard and there was never any keys to lock the Windows
We are going to contest this i think she is out to make a quick sum of money and this isn’t right what is the best way to go about this

Jones-although this is aimed at Shelter they do provide help in your case-

https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/tenancy_deposits/how_to_get_your_tenancy_deposit_back

Landlords must provide receipts for making a case in withholding your deposit and they must be reasonable , you aren’t a means of getting a free redecoration.
When you were moving in did the landlord have an inventory of items in the house or were you shown them ?

Tenant says:
28 October 2019

It’s been 30+ days since I moved out and my landlord hasn’t returned my deposit OR told me about any deductions. They are not responding to me either so I am not sure what to do.

I checked the site that they said they were holding my deposit but the site doesn’t have any record. Is it time to sue them?

I think you should get legal advice. You could start with Citizens Advice.

If you took the tenancy via a letting or estate agent you should contact them.

Sandra says:
1 November 2019

no matter how you turn it, they seem to be able to keep the money just like that!. I paid deposit and had to move due to my accident (car drove over my foot) Because I can’t walk a half hour to bus stop, getting to work I had to find another house nearby quickly. You cannot tell the new agency ohh please wait a Month before I move in as they give it to someone else instead. so, a week before moving I told them, I didn’t wanted but had to go.I had some doubts and told them but was asked to let them know soon as possible, which I did by calling. paid for one more Month rent on the 27th Sept “moving day”. had to ask several times when inspection would be, then got email it was already arranged the following week. Now I got link to login and request my deposit back, got written on the confirmation the landlord keeps it because I was late with notice!?? If you damage something it is understandable you pay for repair. In most cases they hide weak points from the house like a bad wall by placing board and painting it. Who inspects them?? to protect the tenant. you are sometimes told to pay three times the rent amount, in privet rentals. so you know ahead they simply do anything to make you pay, now by the “Confirmation of deposit protection” ??? I thought what is this. What a great system they developed.. not for us!!!

Sandra says:
1 November 2019

They write ask your landlord the deposit back but I don’t have the address. don’t think the agency’s give that?