A law firm called CaseHub says it is launching a “once-in-a-generation fight back against extortionate letting agent practices” in the shape of a class action against Foxtons.
“If you have a gripe with your past or current letting agent, this case is a must-watch. As the niceties of the class action are still being sorted, we invite you to sign up to our mailing list beforehand: join us on and be one of the first people in the movement to help the fight back” says an invitation on the firm’s website.
Now in an interview in The Guardian, details have emerged of the action.
CaseHub’s Michael Green is quoted in the story as having obtained legal opinions from senior barristers that Foxtons’ fees such as a £420 adminstration charge, £300 for name changes and £165 for checking out a property, could be illegal under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and its successor the 2015 Consumer Rights Act.
The piece says Green estimates that the real cost for administration and references should be around £55 and a renewal fee should be no more than £10.
“Letting agents are the gatekeepers to properties – especially in London – but are abusing their position. We have ended up with the ridiculous situation whereby tenants are paying hundreds of pounds for a five-minute template contract, or for a credit check which is available on the market for £20” Green tells the newspaper.
“We have chosen Foxtons because its practices are nicely illustrative of the market: if we win a case against Foxtons it opens up liability against most other agents. They won’t like that. Foxtons historically quoted all its prices ex-VAT; has kept fees ambiguous and unclear; and is charging for things such as check-out which is only really for the landlord’s benefit” he alleges.
Foxtons is quoted in the piece as dismissing the claim and as saying its practices are open and transparent; it has in the past consistently expressed the same sentiments to Letting Agent Today and other publications in response to queries about other disputes.
The piece admits that Foxtons says its fees are transparent and quoted including VAT, and adds that its all-in initial administration fee covers multiple costs such as viewings, references and contracts.
A statement from the company is quoted extensively in the story, saying: “Foxtons employs an open and transparent approach when it comes to fees. Our tenancy administration fees are fixed and charged per tenancy (not per individual tenant) and include the cost of chauffeured viewings, negotiating the tenancy, verifying identification, obtaining references and drawing up the tenancy agreement.
“We ensure tenants have full visibility of fees upfront before making any important decisions, by displaying our fees on our website, on print and digital advertising, within branches and on all the pre-tenancy paperwork. Unfortunately this practice is not always replicated by other agents, and we welcome more regulations to improve transparency in the industry.”
Green estimates that tenants in England and Wales pay over £300m a year in fees to letting agents and the newspaper suggests he believes they could potentially claw back £2 billion if the case is successful.