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‘Spurious’ Letting Agency Charges

3rd December 2013 Simon Holland

Have you ever been charged what can only be described as ‘spurious’ fees by high street estate and letting agents? Were those charges clearly laid out in any documentation you received from them or were they ‘made up’ on the spot?

Over the years, I have received many complaints from tenants regarding administration fees charged by some letting agents. These fees often relate to credit/employment/current landlord check fees, but often are charged for the privilege of renewing your tenancy.

Most recently, I was told of a small estate agent, who has a small lettings business on the side, trying to charge tenants £50 + Vat for the privilege of getting back their tenancy deposit, lodged safely with the government DPS scheme at the outset of their tenancy. At that time, no mention of this was ever made, and this left tenants feeling very frustrated and let down.

Clearly, these practices are not what the industry supports, and we welcome regulation in the industry to prevent rogue landlords and letting agents trying to basically ‘rip people off’. What are vulnerable tenants, many of whom have had successful tenancies, supposed to do when faced with these situations, especially in the weeks leading up to Christmas?

In these difficult economic times, all fees payable by tenants should be published in advance, to prevent rogue agents levying unfair administration charges to increase their profits. Any fees charged by letting agents in relation to returning deposits, when not previously disclosed, should be reported to the Property Ombudsman service ( http://www.tpos.co.uk ) and they will take the matter very seriously indeed. The deposit money always belongs to the tenant, it is theirs to get back at the end of their tenancy unless there are genuine reasons for an agent to make deductions.

Any disputes can be managed by the government schemes independently and I would encourage anybody who has been a victim of these agents to put their complaint in writing to the ombudsman, and also to the relevant deposit scheme, who will intervene to ensure the matter is resolved fairly.

I look forward to the day when the lettings industry is regulated and rogue agents can no longer get away with levying these spurious charges, and tenants can be better protected.

* for information purposes, Jacob’s Ladder charges a one-off tenancy administration fee of £150.