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SAFEagent backs call for debate on letting agent fees

SAFEagent, the kitemark scheme for agents offering Client Money Protection, has backed the National Approved Lettings Scheme's (NALS) call for a debate on letting agents' fees.

Yesterday, NALS said a cap on tenant fees would represent an appropriate way of limiting excessive charges, rather than a blanket ban. 

John Midgley, chair of the SAFEagent Steering Group, has praised NALS for opening the debate on letting agent fees, describing the organisation's suggestion of a cap as 'sensible'.

"SAFEagent exists to help protect and support the consumer, and anything that helps make renting fairer can only be a positive thing," says Midgley.

"We'll be getting involved with discussions on capping fees, and we urge others to do the same."

NALS chief executive Isobel Thomson has urged the industry to speak with one voice and offer the government a solution to the problem instead of sleepwalking into a blanket ban on fees.

Earlier this week, Citizens Advice reported that it advised on 6,500 problems with letting agents between July 2015 and June this year, up 14% from the 5,700 problems reported two years ago. 

The charity said it had seen a sharp rise in problems among the 17-24 age group.

It went on to add to its support for calls to ban letting agency fees charged to tenants, suggesting that landlords should be charged as they are in a better position to 'shop around' and choose which firm they want to work with. 

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    "Cap" fees, "Cap" charges, "Cap" profit, Cut the services, Cut here and there, Cut the pay rolls. Who is the winner? NALS, CAB, or SAFEagent? The properties and the agents are just like the restaurants in the street, like the grocery in Waitrose and M&S, there are plenty of choices. Do you know there are agents do not charge agents fee? Do you know what group of tenants you are representing for? There are tenants do not feel happy to Cap fees, to them, it means to cut services and quality. I do not think this proposal is well prepared or presented.

  • jeremy clarke

    We need to do something but this headlong rush into banning fees is wrong. When you see all the protesters on their marches most look like tree hugging hippies and as we saw with the recent Gatwick protests many were over-privileged hired hands making a load noise as they have nothing better to do. I have been running an agency for 15 years and have never had a tenant object to paying a fee nor lost a tenancy because of tenants' fees which makes me think that the "noise" is being made by the few rather than the majority.
    What these groups seem to focus on is that they can get free credit checks done or at least at a minimal cost; that is of course only part of the whole picture when it comes to referencing, we deal with past landlords, employers council tax register et al. Moving the charges to the landlord is all well and good but where do you draw the line, tenants must accept some responsibility for their actions? As an example last week we showed 3 couples around a flat, they all (at the viewing) "wanted it" as there was little to choose between any of them and we always discuss with our landlords we advised all viewers that we would come back to them later in the day after speaking with the landlord. 1 1/2 hours later having spoken with the landlord we phoned his preferred choice - message left on a mobile, before close of play we feared the worst having not heard back and therefore went to option 2 who had "changed their minds" onto option 3 who had "changed their minds" leaving us with NOTHING and a disappointed landlord (incidentally 9 days later and the first couple haven't even had the courtesy to call us back!) Had we taken a fee on the day I'm certain the outcome would have been different.
    Capping is all well and good but at what level, I would suggest that we start to put some figures out there to see what the "affected" feel is a reasonable fee level - even though we already publish fees so everyone knows what is what!

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    Anyone would think we were not a profit making business, we all have to pay our rents, rates etc. and then of course who pays for our wasted time through prospective tenants who cannot be bothered to call and cancel an appointment or the time wasters who are just looking. They say the landlord should pay well that just shows that they have no brain cells as of course the tenant will pay with much higher rent as not all of them have loads of money

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