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Citizens Advice renews attack on letting agents' fees

Citizens Advice has spoken out about soon-to-be-banned letting agent fees charged to tenants.

The organisation's 'A State of Disrepair' report says that agency fees are contributing towards stifling tenants' ambitions to become home owners.

Its survey of 2,000 tenants - carried out by YouGov - found that of households earning £50,000 or more, 69% paid fees to their agents with 9% paying more than £1,000.

Some 19% paid between £500 and £999 and 20% paid between £250 and £499.

Citizens Advice says it estimates that tenants in England spend in excess of £13 million on letting agent fees each month.

It also reiterates its backing of the letting agent fee ban - confirmed in last month's Housing White Paper - which is likely to be introduced in 2018.

"Now that people are staying in the private rented sector for longer the government’s commitment to ban letting agents’ fees could help them to save thousands of pounds towards a deposit," says Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

The organisation is now calling on the government to drive up the quality of private rented homes.

Its survey found that 51% of tenants with a household income of £50,000 or more have experienced damp or mould in their current property. 

Meanwhile, a fifth said they have had a rodent or other animal infestation. 

The report recommends introducing maximum timescales for landlords and letting agents to carry out repairs and banning those who repeatedly fail to do so from letting out properties in the future. 

“The government needs to look at how it can do more to help private tenants at the mercy of landlords and letting agents who are slow to carry out repairs, or rent out homes that fail to meet basic standards,” says Guy.

The 'A State of Disrepair' report can be viewed in full here.

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    These stats will be skewed as many tenants class paying a deposit as tenant fees. The government needs to focus more on educating tenants and address the root of the problem of rogue agents rather than aligning themselves with Shelter, Generation Rent etc. which will make matters worse for tenants as rents will now rapidly increase.

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    Surely a better option is to regulate agents and allow only those that are regulated to charge an administration fee that is capped nationwide.

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    How is Gillian Guy even in a position to comment when she provides absolutely no balance to the debate. I rent and I am a letting agent. A lettings fee ban means tenants can save for a deposit...she makes it sound like we don't do any work for the money we charge...come and have a sit down with me for a day Gillian. Also, what have letting fees got to do with landlords and agents being slow to do repairs?...surely that falls under agents and landlords being regulated more. Complete political scapegoating from someone who doesn't understand the industry and the effects this will inevitably have on rents.

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    "agency fees are contributing towards stifling tenants' ambitions to become home owners".

    I wonder what will happen when Citizens Advice learn that to become home owners you have to pay Stamp duty.

  • Julian Bishop

    So Landlords pay more SDLT
    They pay more due to new tax regs
    They pay more if/when the tenant fee ban takes place
    Please Gillian tell me how on earth do you then expect Landlords to be able to afford to 'drive up the quality of private rented homes'

    FYI - there is legislation in place for timescales to carry out repairs, it's called the Deregulation Act 2015 and as you can expect LHA's are failing to regulate that all over the UK. Try doing a bit of research before you 'report'.

    Finally, out of the 1/5 tenants who reported animal infestation, how many were asked what the cause was? EG unhygienic tenant cleaning habits properties or a burst sewer in the street outside or an infestation next door or or or.... The least likely reason is the Landlord or letting agent

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    @JB indeed, and how often do you walk into a rented home to find mould around uPVC D/G windows that are left permanently closed ... especially bedrooms? No wonder there is mould. Or rooms which have damp clothes hung off every radiator even in homes that have a washing line? Its remarkable how many tenants behave like this in a rented home whereas usually an identical home occupied by a responsible owner there is no such problem

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    I totally agree with Michael and Julien above most but not all of the problems are caused by the tenants themselves not taking care of the envionment in which they live.

    And statistics can say anything "1/5 reported rodent infestation but 4/5's did not" ?

    you do the math

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    The Housing Minister should be seriously worried about stamping on the private landlord sector any more than he already has...unless of course he is confident that Build to Rent subsidized by the tax payer is far enough down the line to start replacing private landlords.

    Politicians, economists, pressure groups....beware trying to over engineer a market or economy is only for the brave or very foolish.

    For example on a smaller micro market look at the student accommodation market about to implode in many cities due to over supply, caused by Local Authorities trying to engineer the city housing stock by over regulation, planning breaks etc.....the figures all seemed to stack up until Brexit came along...woops student numbers falling, now we are left with developers going bust and empty buildings left again...failed investments...landlords pulling out of the market.

    Just think what politicians can do to the the larger property market...rely on fat cat, inefficient, profit driven private organisations to run our private rented sector .....
    Do you remember the track records of Councils and Housing Associations in keeping up housing standards...don't worry Shelter are going to very busy investigating the performance of this new Build to Rent world which will just drain public money away into their coffers.

    Learn from history ...don't listen to the gleaming shining faces of the Shelter utopia...how many have worked in the public housing sector...how many are over 50 years old...how many of them have a real experience and understanding of the the rented sector as a whole.


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    I suppose they could make a start by NOT banning fees. If the CAB is correct and the industry takes in £13million a month, thats £156million per annum. Assuming we are obeying the law, £31 million of that is VAT, give or take, which clearly the government think they can do without.

    Instead of losing it by banning fees, why not divert some of that to increasing the TSO staff levels to enable them to do their job?

    I know, logic is rarely used in Government decisions but this seems like a no brainer

  • Kathy Taylor

    This is such a joke. Mandatory regulation and a cap on fees is the answer. Shelters solution could potentially put some agents out of business leaving staff unemployed. If costs are passed on to Landlords rents are likely to rise, or some Landlords may exit the market completely which will also result in rents rising due to supply and demand. Why, why, why do Shelter seem to have this view that all tenants are vunerable, disadvantaged citizens as in my experience that just isn't the case!!

  • Craig  W

    Banning letting agents fees as a reason that tenants cannot get on the housing ladder is absolutely ridiculous! Is a £200, £500 or even a extortionate £1000 fee really going to make the difference between buying or not?

    Take a look at the bigger picture!

    How about banning bank survey fees? Bank application fees? Further reduction in interest rates for first time buyers!

    How about banning mortgage companies from charging fee's? Often these are extortionate - (between £500 to £1000)

    How about Put CAPS on energy bills for first time buyers, council tax exceptions for first time buyers? These are all on going costs which will make a huge difference!

    The list is endless! Why such an attack on letting agents?

    I agree that many have overcharged and not helped with this situation, but as a letting agent who only charges for work completed and a fairly modest amount at that, the total ban is unfair and will put so many small businesses in jeopardy!

    What other industry is expected to work free of charge?

    Letting a house is nothing to do with buying a home and affordability in buying and on-going costs, so why not take a look at the real issue rather than trying to make out banning letting agents fee's will make a difference!

    The ban is nothing but a crowd pleaser which will not make one bit of difference towards increasing number of first time buyers!

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    With a background in regulated financial advice I have live through the abolition of commission driven sales and an FSA/FCA drive for better informed clients agreeing to explicit fees for the work done. In the Alice in Wonderland world of housing we have Jane Ellison programming that the abolition of letting agent's fees would mean no surprise charges, well perhasp no as all costs would be buried in rent charges which would result in the unfair cross subsidy that the personal finance sector has had to abolish.

    Could anyone please explain why a foreign prospective tenant a) who wants a short let with a break clause with two guarantors , conditional right to rent checks etc etc pay the same as tenant b) who wants a bog standard 12 month AST paid up fronT?

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