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Petition wanting ban on letting agency fees passes 245,000 signatures

A petition opposing lettings agents’ fees in England and Wales has now gathered over 245,000 signatures.

Vicky Spratt, features editor on the online youth magazine The Debrief, started the petition after claiming that her latest move - into what she says is her sixth or seventh rented property in nine years - is likely to cost her and her boyfriend over £500 in fees.

In total, throughout her various moves, she believes she has paid over £2,000 in fees. 

“This is money I’ll never get back. It turns out renting is a lucrative business if you’re on the right side of it - which I’m not” she says.

Spratt says letting agency fees in England are “totally unregulated” in contrast to Scotland, where they are banned. 

“Walk down any high street in England and you could go into five different letting agents who would all charge you a different fee. You have to pay for the privilege of dealing with them, to secure a property and even to change the name on a piece of paper? You’re then also charged an inflated fee for a credit check, which actually costs as little as a tenner” she claims.

She cites one fee apparently charged by Foxtons - £210 to change a name on an existing tenancy - and then says that in her various moves she has paid charges varying from £80 to £552. 

“How is it possible that fees can vary so much from agency to agency? It’s a rip off and the agents are getting away with it” she claims, adding that legislation should be introduced to ban fees in England. 

  • Simon shinerock

    We recently did a free tenant fee offer on a block of apartments, we have also offered 50% off the first months rent from time to time where a property sticks. I guess it's supply and demand led, agencies have to compete for the landlords business, their fees reflect the market. The question is whether you believe government intervention on fees will be good for the sector overall. The ultimate form of government intervention is nationalisation and that generally works very badly. Of course tenants want a no fee low rent market but there is no magic wand solution to achieve it, perhaps this enterprising young lady show be campaigning to build more homes, or better still, use her talents to make money rather than save it, perhaps she should become an estate agent, now there's a thought🤑

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    Over the years this lady must have paid many thousands of pounds for food, and depending on where, when and how she shops she'll find that the price she pays for her weekly groceries can vary enormously.

    It's clearly a rip-off. She should start a petition to make supermarkets give their food away free of charge immediately.

  • James Scollard

    From an agents point of view, we operate in a highly competitive environment and look to win business from landlords. In the area I operate, for Tenant Find, we used to charge Landlords £800+Vat and Tenants £30+vat. Today, we charge Landlords £300+vat and charge tenants £300+vat. Overall, its cheaper (this mainly to do with the two industries, Letting Agents & Estate agents merging) so costs have come now.

    To win business, if a Landlord advertises a rental property at £800pcm and if we cant charge tenant fees, we would only be able to win the business by saying to the Landlord, we will advertise your property at £900pcm and therefore pay for ourselves. Due to having hundreds of applicants and more exposure will let at the higher rental. So is it better for tenants? or will they pay a higher rent to cover the fees and certainly long term Tenants will be worse off.

    Be careful what you wish for.

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    Maybe everyone should sign a petition to stop solicitors charging fee's when the sale falls through because they were slack, or maybe protest against restaurants adding service to the bill without asking if you had good service, or as Steve said make shops sell food for no profit !!!! I amazed they only have 250.000 signatures ,, obviously the vast majority of the 6 mil tenants in this country are satisfied ?

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    the name of the game is make fair charges and everyone will be happy, £2000 or £500 obviously isn't

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    Absolutely Philip,
    Making fair charges is a top priority . Otherwise, it could go either way.

     
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    My firm has always made charges to tenants and these reflect the general market and also what is happening locally. By not charging tenants our fees to landlords would need to be higher and this may well inflate rents.

    I have found from my early days (25 years ago) that some reasonable charges to tenants ensures a good deal of buy-in; it's amazing what we can often be expected to do for nothing.

    The mention of fees just to change the name on a tenancy is ill informed. Once a tenancy is set up it is a legally binding agreement. You cannot just add or remove tenants on a whim. The landlord is entitled to proper advice on such matters and if it is the tenant seeking the changes then the tenant should pay. If we go down the route of no charges to tenants, how many landlords will permit such changes to occur?

    Fees are legally transparent so any tenant can choose an agency where they feel charges are reasonable.

    Our landlords are happy with the split of fees (they are all made aware); if they ever felt that fees charged to tenants were jeopardising their property we would review on a case by case basis. In times of recession we have reviewed fees at all levels.

    Without income my firm cannot make a profit. Without profit we cannot pay good staff. Without profit we would nto exist.

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    There's a strong possibility that Miss Spratt would have paid significantly more than £2,000 in mortgage arrangement fees if she were a homeowner.

    My average rent is £500pcm with a fee. I'm happy to forego the fee, but the rent would become £600pcm. It's exactly the same when trying to access the best rates lenders have to offer.

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    I think that's a slight exaggeration given it would be the equivalent of a £1,200 admin fee, but regardless rolling fees into the rent is actually a significantly better system than what we presently have. It's more transparent (you know exactly what you're obliged to pay as a tenant) and it's more honest (we don't have to go through the charade of pretending it costs £300 to print off a standard tenancy agreement or £80 to renew a tenancy for another six months, as is currently the case).

    If we had that system I suspect we'd have far fewer people complaining about letting agents/landlords, even if the cost remained identical.

     
  • Barry X

    I seem to remember there was once an advert for something or other, with the strapline or slogan "a million American women can't be wrong" , but it turned out that they were and the product was seriously harmful! (I tried googling it just now but was disappointed not to be able to find it - perhaps someone with a better memory can help?).....

    ....anyhow, if a million American women can be wrong (and often are) then it's even easier to see how a mere ¼ million English tenants can be living in a dream-world cocoon where a benign, loving and trustworthy government (or 'BLTG' for short) has the power, foresight and skill to make naughty, greedy Lettings Agents (hisss, booo) continue to invest in their businesses, buying or renting offices, keeping up to date with all the latest legislation (which this fantasy 'BLTG' churns out in even vaster quantities than does our real-life, fairly useless, self-interested and incompetent government) and best of all the 'BLTG' makes all those horrid agents WORK FOR FREE as some sort of big favour to Tenants everywhere (and presumably it's ok, because the agents are all living on welfare payouts from the 'BLTG' and chose to work for free as agents just for the love and fun of it, instead of going fishing or staying at home watching tv to pass the time or perhaps playing computer games)..... yes, Utopia at its best (for those that can't think very far)..... and #of course it would work, and the tenants would never pay extra'....

    ....and her next petition? Obviously to bring in legislation to force landlords to provide accommodation for free, but obviously still pay the same tax they would have done IF they had been allowed to make a profit, or better still make them pay more (and pretend its to ensure "fairness and transparency" or something)!!!!!

    Yeah, sure, more pointless legislation, yawn.... when does the next landlord/agent-express leave for another country?

  • Simon shinerock

    In other news, 100 athletes asked if they would like to run faster all said yes.

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    I've been both tenant and landlord several times and in several countries over the years, and I have to say the correspondents here are not recognising the lack of control over charges which gives rise to the tenants' discontent. We have a situation where agents compete for Landlords' business by jacking up fees for tenants, who have no say over the agent at all. In fact it's worse; the agent has an interest in refusing tenants after taking their 'non-refundable' fees and then just going out there and getting another tenant to rip off. I'm just coming back to England from Scotland where fees charge to tenants are illegal, and I am dismayed at how things have gone here while I've been away. Let us bring accountability back to where the decisions are - the Landlord. Yes; the fees are passed to the tenant, but the tenant has a contractual arrangement with the Landlord and expects to pay his expenses.

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    The response whenever anyone complains about agent fees is usually to say that banning them will simply result in rent being put up to compensate. But that would actually be a substantial improvement on the current situation as far as tenants are concerned. The cost would presumably be the same as it is now to tenants, but there would be a clear choice available as to where you choose to rent.

    At present what we have is a situation where the majority of rental properties all have large agent fees so there is no choice available. You generally just have to take it on the chin and pay the fee regardless. If the fees get rolled up into the rent, however, then tenants can simply pick whichever property matches their budget. In essence we'd have genuine market forces at play - some properties being more expensive than others, tenants choosing to go to the ones that are best value - rather than the status quo, which is essentially an arbitrary tax on renters that exists almost independently of the nature of the property.

    There's also a degree of insincerity about the way agents have to operate in this context which tends to annoy people (hence why you end up with petitions like this). We know agent fees are there to cover overall costs, yet they're obliged to write a list of tasks that are supposedly being directly paid for by the fees - as if it really does cost hundreds of pounds to print off a standard tenancy agreement. If it's rolled into the rent then it might not change the overall cost for tenants on average, but it would take most of the heat out of this issue (which isn't going to go away any time soon).

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