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Shelter invites anonymous claims about letting agents' fee displays

The charity Shelter has renewed its campaign to expose letting agencies which allegedly do not reveal their fees in line with consumer legislation.

On its website Shelter now has a reference stating:

“For too many people renting is unstable, unaffordable and unsafe. That’s why it is important that letting agents are open and honest with renters.


“By law letting agents are required to display a full list of their fees online and in branch, in a place that's likely to be seen by customers. We want you to tell us of any agents failing to do this.

“We also want to hear about any letting agents advertising properties as ‘no DSS’, or refusing to let properties to anyone on housing benefit. Currently this isn't illegal, but we feel it is unfairly locking people out of private renting.

“Renting needs fixing. You can help us by reporting any letting agents carrying out the above practices.”

With the request, Shelter includes an online form asking for details of the alleged breach, including the agency’s name, address, postcode and URL, as well as whether the display - or lack of display - is in the branch office or online or both. “All complaints will remain anonymous” promises the charity.

Earlier this week Shelter's claims and statistics regarding first time buyers were roundly criticised by housing expert Kate Faulkner, who cited various omissions or inaccuracies in the charity's statements on the subject; however, on the subject of fees, concerns similar to Shelter's have been raised by some inside the lettings industry.

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    Agents don't refuse to let properties to people on Housing benefits.

    It's the landlord who gives the agent his instructions who does that.

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    Shelter need to speak to local government about the procedures surrounding housing benefit applicants. Rental paid direct to tenants, any requests to be paid to landlord will result in a complaint being declined, rentals paid four weeks in arrears, rental paid to the tenants every two weeks not four, claw back from agents and landlords not tenants. With the demand for property these days and more than likely 3 -4 applicants wishing to rent the same property someone in receipt of housing benefit with the restrictions above is not the best tenant for the client.

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    *claim not complaint.

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    Well said. It is the landlords and not the letting agents who refuse to let properties to tenants on housing benefit. The agents merely follow their instructions. Understandably many landlords are uncomfortable with housing benefit due to the lack of support they receive from local authorities. Maybe if Shelter concentrated less on their vendatta against landlords and agents, and instead worked with us, they could do more to help the people who they are supposed to be there to help, the homeless. There is a major problem with homelessness in this country, but unfortunatley Shelter appears to be more interested in behaving as a political organisation. Is it time to remove their charity status?

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    Shelter are criticising rental stock for being "unstable and unaffordable" yet are also criticising agents for the vetting process which seeks to deliver stable tenants who can demonstrably afford the rent, which is surely in both the landlord and tenants' best interest.

    Landlords who are happy to accept unvetted tenants, will often not use agents.

    Shelter also need to understand that agents act in accordance with their landlords instructions. If a client instructs us not to grant a tenancy on someone on housing benefit it may be an individuals preference but it may also be to avoid breach of a headlease, mortgage conditions or insurance conditions.

    Fundamentally, there is a shortage of property. It doesn't matter if its bought, let, shared or anything else, there is still a shortage. I would very much support Shelter in tackling this root of the problem.

  • Craig D

    Agents do not refuse to deal with housing benefit tenants, but often it's the housing benefit offices themselves that are the issue, often having to chase payment, but all of that is disregarded by the agent if the landlord instructs the agent not to accept housing benefit tenants in the first instance!

    If the housing benefit office had easier procedures for obtaining rent in the first pace without having to sit on hold on the telephone and/or fill out copious forms then this could go some way to convincing agents or landlords otherwise!


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