A report from Citizens Advice claims to show that a city’s letting agents charge a complex array of fees - with a minority apparently breaking the law on the display of fee information.
The Citizens Advice organisation in Oxford - where some 30 per cent of residents rent private sector landlords - commissioned a survey of letting agents, conducted by law students from Oxford Legal Advice.
The brief was to find out about the up-front fees that letting agents were charging, and also to investigate how clearly this information was being shared with prospective tenants.
Citizens Advice claims that the survey found “a jumble of fees so complex that it was almost impossible to compare the charges between different letting agents.”
For example, there were apparently five ways of calculating a fee for making an inventory, seven ways to work out an administration fee and three methods for calculating a holding deposit.
Where it was possible to make comparisons, the costs could vary dramatically, says the organisation.
“One agent charged a flat fee of £15 for checking a tenant’s references; another charged £360. The cheapest flat fee for administration was £120, and the most expensive flat fee was £360.”
It says that a small number of agents - unnamed by Citizens Advice - were not complying with the Consumer Rights Act 2015 because they did not display information about some of their fees.
Seven agents didn’t display information about their holding deposit fees. Ten agents gave no indication of how they calculated their inventory fees. However, a spokeswoman for the organisation accepts that “most agents in the city are providing information about their fees, and this is to be welcomed.”
The organisation says it is now sending a copy of this report to all letting agents in Oxford, and will urge them to ensure that they are complying in full with legislation on displaying information about the fees they charge to renters.