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Jul 18, 2016: Pressure ramps up for letting agent fees to be banned

The EDM tabled by LibDem Tom Brake and veteran Tory Peter Bottomley supports a Private Member’s Bill which has had an unopposed second reading in the Lords and seeks to ban fees.

The EDM reads as follows:

“That this House notes that the number of private renters in Britain is growing and now sits at 18% of the population; recognises that the rising demand for rented homes and shortage of genuinely affordable housing is pushing up costs and allowing some landlords and letting agents to take advantage of tenants who have relatively little power to object to high prices or poor conditions; acknowledges that the law needs to change to make renting cheaper, safer and more secure for tenants and that the Renters’ Rights Bill is one opportunity to do this; and calls on the Government to reduce the upfront costs of moving by banning letting agents from charging fees to tenants, to make renting safer through mandatory electrical checks and to allow tenants to have access to the database of rogue landlords and property agents.”

Meanwhile, in Southend, the council is under pressure to name and shame agents who charge tenants “extortionate” fees, and in Oxford a survey by Citizens Advice has found a huge variation in fees, also leading to calls to name and shame.

In a mystery shopping exercise of 42 un-named letting agents in Oxford, Citizens Advice found three agents charging over £350 to check a tenant’s references, with others charging £15 for the same service.

Frank Webster, director of Oxford agency Finders Keepers, said he has lobbied ARLA for a countrywide set of charges.

In Southend, Cllrs Tino Callaghan and Laurence Davies are preparing a report into letting agent fees.

Davies said: “People don’t realise how much it costs to rent. My daughter has rented a property and had to find a month’s rent, a month’s deposit, a £200 administration fee and £300 for a credit check.

“They are charging more and more but these people are struggling. It’s horrendous what they charge and people just can’t afford it.

“One estate agent I called wanted a £360 administration fee, £90 per adult for a credit check on top of the deposit and rent advance which came to about £3,000. In addition you have to pay £125 administration fee to renew the lease every year. This is why we have so much homelessness.

“Laurence and I are hoping we can get some feedback on it. Under Scottish law it’s illegal to charge an administration fee. We need something like that.”

by Rosalind Renshaw 



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