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Bidding Wars - letting agents mostly to blame, says campaigner

A ban on so-called bidding wars, which Labour now proposes, would have to include letting agents as well as landlords a campaigner claims.

Tom Darling, the campaign manager of the Renters Reform Coalition, used his personal X account to tweet that: “I think this specific issue on bidding wars is mainly the fault of estate agents (and in order to work this [ban] will need to cover them). Having experienced myself in London the way they pit desperate renters against one another is truly disgraceful.”

Darling - who in the past has described himself on social media as an occasional contributor to a “fast-growing network of Labour supporters working in the communications, public affairs and media industry” - is a spokesperson for the Coalition, which is a loose collection of some 20 student and tenant unions and campaign groups such as Generation Rent and Acorn.


The coalition’s comments in the past appear to have been influential with Labour politicians who have used the group’s claims and suggestions for policy changes.

A bidding war ban was advocated by Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner late last week when she produced further details to flesh out the broad rental reform agenda outlined some weeks ago in the party manifesto.

The issue was also mentioned in a brief reference by party leader Sir Kier Starmer on a BBC One leaders debate late last week. 

Starmer told a studio audience: “…When you go to get a rented property the landlord just does a bidding war who will pay more … until people are paying through the roof. We have to end that.”

When questioned about how that could be done when tenants are selected by private landlords, Starmer continued: “You can pass legislation to say you can’t do it because it is driving rents through the roof and it’s not fair on people - it’s taking advantage. They say, one person offers X pounds a week, someone else will give you X plus £10, £20, £30. They go back to the first person and say I’ve already had a better off for X plus this. Will you?”

It was after that televised debate that the Renters Reform Coalition campaigns manager that such a ban “will need to cover them” - referring to agents.

The next day Darling was quoted on BBC Online as saying: "In order to be effective [the ban] will need to be coupled with more regulation of estate agents, who often initiate bidding wars, pitting renter against renter, preying on our desperation for a safe, secure home in order to try to squeeze every last bit of profit they can.”

Meanwhile agents body Propertymark has called for further clarification and disclosure from the Labour Party on how its proposed reforms of the private rented sector, should it win next week’s General Election. 

Labour’s aims include a 2030 deadline for private landlords to ensure their properties are energy efficient, ending Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, extending Awaab’s Law so that private renters can be shielded from damp, cold, and mould, allow tenants to question rent increases, and to build 1.5m more homes. 

On the energy efficiency issue, a Propertymark report from August 2023 showed an overwhelming majority of agency members calling for support for landlords to cover the costs of retrofit enhancements, as well as loans and grants to pay for energy efficiency upgrades. Propertymark says it is “ready to fully engage with the Labour Party should they gain power next month.” 

Tim Thomas, policy and campaigns officer at Propertymark, says: “Propertymark will work with the next government to improve the private rented sector for landlords, agents, and tenants, and we share any ambition to improve standards over the next parliamentary term. 

“However, while on the one hand, the private rented sector should contribute towards decarbonisation, the sector needs clear clarity on what financial and practical support will be provided to landlords at the first opportunity.” 

  • Roger  Mellie

    Here's that shadowy boogie man again who's legend only exists alongside the Lochness Monster and the Sasquatch.

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    I don’t believe Darling or Sir Kneel. Most professional landlords and agents want the best tenants, not the ones with the biggest mouth/wallet.😠

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    I think these idiots needs to ask themselves - do they want the private rental sector? If not, build your own homes! Good luck with that. If you do, then accept its a business. This country is meant to be founded financially on capitalism. The very process you describe is how capitalism works in a seller's market. But when there's 1 tenant and 5 properties to choose from, what way do you think the bidding would go? So Labour are basically saying they're anti-capitalist. There's another name for that, broadly speaking, that's called communism. Is that what you want?

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    This is rent caps by the back door, in the real world its just another unworkable anti landlord policy, the only solution is to build more and reverse immigration, something none of the main parties will face up to.

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    Firstly, I take the same view for rentals as I do for sale by private treaty. It's PRIVATE. What a tenant offers for the property is between them, me and the Landlord. And may not guarantee getting the property...
    Secondly, ok, so we can't ask for a higher rent, which I don't know of anyone personally who does that, but if an applicant comes to us and says "I want to offer rent plus £50 a month", are we not allowed to report that to our client? surely that is a breach of our care of duty to the landlord?

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    • S S
    • 24 June 2024 13:39 PM

    As a letting agent we set the rent . It should be a market rent based on the local area, the type of property and the condition of the property. We then choose the best applicant for the property and there can be factors other than simply price that goes into choosing the best applicant. We would not encourage a "bidding" war as the person who offers the "most" may not be the best applicant.
    People in desperation for properties may offer a rent that they can not afford. It is better to have a long term tenant at the correct rent than a succession of void periods because people offer more than they can afford and then leave after 6 months/or owing rent.
    As a RICS regulated agent we are in the minority and only wish that there was regulation that would stop any "Tom, Dick or Harry" opening an agency with little experience or knowledge. It is hard when the media constantly berate good, hard working property professionals. We are NOT all the same.


    Fully agree, much better put than mine! Even when it comes to viewings and applications, I make it clear that we do not operate on first-come-first-served, as the fastest tenant may not be the best.


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