A compliance expert has taken the Advertising Standards Authority to task over its guidance to letting agents on the advertising of application fees - he says the ASA advice is flawed and is resulting in consumers being misled.
David Beaumont of Compliance Matters has written to the authority’s regulatory policy manager following an ASA statement on November 11 - carried on Letting Agent Today - outlining his concerns and seeking a review of the guidance.
Beaumont has told Letting Agent Today that for the Committee on Advertising Practice to require agents to advertise a one-off application fee, payable before any tenancy begins, and right next to a monthly rental, is misleading consumers. To also have to insert the plus symbol between the two figures compounds the problem, he claims.
“£1,500pcm + £150 admin fee per tenant” is one example within the guidance that Beaumont has taken issue with.
In the letter he agrees that consumers must be made aware of the fees and that the amount should be made clear to consumers before they are in a position to incur expense. But he believes the issue should be handled differently, because consumers will be confused and diligent agents will be at a commercial disadvantage by following the advice.
He makes his point by asking which agent would an applicant contact after reading two separate adverts: one with a rental figure quoted at £1,500pcm + £150 admin fee and one quoting a rental fee of £1,500pcm?
He says that because of the new obligations under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 for letting agents to display fees on websites resolving this should be straightforward - agents simply need to have a link to their online fees list on every page where they advertise properties or have a link to just the application fee information.