Almost one-in-four British people have been ripped off by a letting agent, new research from Shelter reveals today.
In a YouGov poll of 5,379 adults commissioned by the housing charity, 23 per cent – equivalent to 11 million people – said they had been charged unfair fees by letting agents in England.
The fee that most people said they’d been unfairly charged for was for ‘administration’ (14 per cent of British people affected) followed by fees charged for credit checks (10 per cent) and fees for renewing a contract (8 per cent).
The survey forms part of an investigation by Shelter into the unfair fees charged by letting agents.
Some of the shocking cases uncovered by the charity include:
- Renters charged over £150 for repeat credit checks every year. Shelter research suggests that credit checks cost letting agents between £8 and £25 to run.
- People charged £100 each time they view a property
- Ex-letting agent staff who admit to fabricating fees to increase their profits
- Renters charged up to £540 for non-refundable ‘administration’ fees
- Letting agents double-charging fees for the same service to landlords and tenants.
The top reason why those who have been unfairly charged by a letting agent felt the fees were unfair was that they were out of proportion to the cost or amount of work done by the letting agent (50 per cent).
Shelter’s investigations have also found landlords hit by bad practice from letting agents. One London landlord lost £9,000 to a letting agent who was supposed to be renting out his home. The letting agent falsified tenants’ references, withheld the rent and deposit from the landlord, before dissolving the agency.
The landlord said, “This is the only property I own and I’ll never rent it out again. This has been a living nightmare for me and my family.”
Alan Ward, RLA chairman, said, “Sadly, the results of this survey come as no surprise, and it supports the RLA’s view that letting agents should be regulated. The examples of poor practice highlighted by Shelter give the private rented sector a bad name, and undermine the excellent work of good agents and landlords.
“In the absence of a compulsory regulatory system, I would urge all landlords and prospective tenants to only use agents that are members of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), and who carry the SAFEagent logo. Such agents will provide prospective tenants with a client money protection scheme and a customer complaints procedure offering independent redress.”
Kay Boycott, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Communications at Shelter, said: “It’s scandalous that some letting agents are creaming off huge profits from the boom in private renting by charging both tenants and landlords fees that are totally out of proportion to the service they provide.
“With our investigation uncovering unexplained charges of over £500, we need to make sure that letting agent fees are reasonable. With costs like these, on top of the sky-high rents that families already face, it’s no surprise that many dread the day they have to look for a new place to rent.”