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Could portals have done more to stop fees ban being considered?

Lettings guru David Lawrenson has given an unusual perspective on the government’s commitment to ban letting agents’ fees on tenants in England - he believes action by Rightmove and Zoopla could have averted the measure.

“We…said it was ridiculous that the previous [consumer] law did not require property portals such as Righmove, Zoopla etc. to display tenant fees in their property listings. Correcting this would have given greater clarity to tenants” writes Lawrenson on his latest LettingFocus newsletter, dispatched at the time of the Chancellor’s announcement yesterday.

Earlier this year Lawrenson said previous legal attempts to make fees more transparent, including the 2015 Consumer Rights Act obliging agencies to publicise their charges openly, missed an open goal by not including portals. 

At the time he said: “Basically, the law is not working because it was designed badly, in that it fails to take account of the way that most tenants now search for rented accommodation – which is by using the portals. The rules on displaying fees only applies to adverts on letting and managing agents’ websites.

“They won’t visit the letting agents’ own websites and they won’t go into a branch, until they are about to sign the tenancy contract” he says.

His solution is that the legal responsibility for showing fees should have been placed on anyone connected with letting private rented accommodation to display fees - and that this would include the portals.

  • Don Holmes

    Great observation if not a little late. We will all be kicking and screaming for a while, as the chancellor and Shelter will expect and be prepared for. We in the industry cant say we didn't see it coming given the Scottish decision and the relentless pressure and attacks on the PRS, Letting agents and private Landlords.
    What we need to do now is in my opinion is two things. 1) Find a solution. and 2) Leave the NLA, ARLA, NAEA and RICS and join Shelter who have once again proven to much more effective than all the others put together!

    Rob  Davies

    Whatever you think of them, Shelter are very, very effective when it comes to PR and getting their name in the press at every available opportunity. They are also very good when it comes to placing considerable pressure on the government and various institutions. Like you say, the industry bodies could learn a thing of two from Campbell Robb and his cohorts.

     
  • Rob  Davies

    "Could portals have done more to stop fees ban being considered?"

    No. Next question.

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    Page 52, section 5.22 - https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/319820/Lettings_guidance_CMA31.PDF

    Portals do have to show the fees information that agents provide. This dates from before the legislation about agents' own websites was beefed up.

    The portals did their bit, as all over them you can see Fees Apply links next to prices. Yet again, it's agents who have let the side down.

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    We don't think having a tiny "fees apply" box really cuts it.
    The technology is there for portals to show the fees in full, as they do already for the more reputable agents.
    The portals should have been made to insist letting agents told them what their fees were (full menu), and refuse to deal with those that did not comply.
    As I said in my piece, it is a shame for the honest letting agents, of which I know there are many, and many who charge fair and transparent fees to landlord and tenants, but the industry as a whole has itself to blame on this matter.

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