Following Which? lobbying, the government has announced measures to crack down on the lettings market that will help give millions of tenants a better deal. Have you even been caught out by letting agent fees?
You may recall our mystery shop of letting agents earlier this year, where we found many not being upfront about their fees. In fact, we found that many were acting unlawfully. And back in 2012 we found wide-scale poor practice in the lettings market and a lack of consumer protection.
With renting the only option for many, 4.7 million people now rent privately, we’ve been working hard to improve protection in the lettings market. Most recently we provided evidence to a Select Committee Inquiry into the private rented sector in March this year. The government responded to this Inquiry by announcing rules that will be welcome news to millions.
Complain about your letting agent
The government’s Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 will give all tenants and landlords (who rent through an agent) access to a complaints scheme.
This means that by Spring next year, the 40% of agents who currently aren’t signed up to a redress scheme will have to become members of an ombudsman. This will ensure that you can complain about hidden fees and poor service, and you can also be sure that this will be investigated independently.
Landlords will also be pleased – we heard from landlords who had lost hundreds of pounds after being at the mercy of an unscrupulous agent.
Having access to a redress scheme would help a tenant like L Hurd, who commented on our renting Conversation earlier this year:
‘I recently completed a credit application for a rental property and was successful, unfortunately after waiting almost four months the property became unavailable. The agency refunded my deposit and told me the credit check fee of £238 would not be refunded as the credit checks had been carried out.’
No more hidden letting agent fees
A new tenants charter also states that agents should tell you about all their fees before you’ve committed to anything – even before you’ve visited a property. This will make it easier for you to shop around when you’re looking to rent, without the risk of being hit by any hidden fees.
This is a big step forward to clearing up this market. We’ll be keeping a close watch to ensure that the redress scheme is brought into force as soon as possible and that tough action is taken against any agent that breaches it.
Have you ever been hit by hidden letting agent fees? Are you pleased to see these new rules coming into force?