A new service has been launched to charge prospective tenants £30 - potentially even more - just to view a property to let.
However some agents say this may contravene the Tenant Fees Act.
The online service, called ViewRabbit, is being tested “by a limited number of leading agents, who use it for properties with very high enquiries” according to a statement on its website.
“The pay-to-view process automatically sorts serious movers from nosey neighbours, holidaymakers, wannabees and tyre kickers who rob serious movers of precious viewing slots” the service claims.
When its launch was covered by our sister publication Estate Agent Today over the weekend, agents expressed concerns over its legality and effect on the industry’s image.
One agent’s comment was: “Anyone who uses this in my opinion is a fool as I see it doing nothing but damage to your brand. Beyond that if you are using this for lettings I look forward to you being the test case as I would be extremely shocked if this doesn’t fall foul of the tenant fee ban.”
Another agent commented that it would be grist to the mill for existing critics of lettings agents, saying “Shelter would have a field day.”
Some properties listed on ViewRabbit can be viewed for free but these viewings can be cancelled, for example if the property is sold or let before people arrive.
ViewRabbit says successful tenants securing the property would have their guaranteed viewing charge reimbursed - but all the unsuccessful tenants would not. And for properties in particularly high demand, the £30 guaranteed viewing charge could be increased.
Service founder Michael Riley says: “ViewRabbit is a UK company that has developed the world's first pay-to-view property platform. Allowing agents to create income, from the market's demand side, without creating a conflict of interest with their fee-paying client.
“Reducing ‘no show’ appointments and giving the most committed buyers and tenants priority access without fear of their viewing being cancelled.
“We started ViewRabbit because we believe the economics of the estate agency model are outdated, malfunctioning and misunderstood.
“There are around 60 million viewings carried out in the UK each year and millions more cancelled when an agent agrees on a sale or let.
“We believe the experience of booking viewings can be reimagined for the benefit of all owners, viewers, and agents."
You can see the new website here.