The Committee of Advertising Practice has published its guidance to letting agents on how they should include tenants’ fees in their property advertisements. In a nutshell, specific fees must be displayed where there is room – for example, in press adverts – but where space is limited, agents may be able simply to refer to the fact that fees are charged on top of rent. The new rules apply to all forms of advertising, including websites and leaflets.
Agents have until November 1 to comply with the new CAP guidelines, meaning that the advertising watchdog will then act on any complaints. This morning, the Advertising Standards Authority confirmed it will be monitoring the situation.
The ASA also warned this morning that letting agents must show fees charged to tenants in their adverts, and should not try to get round the ruling by calling a fee a different name, or hiding fees in the small print. Agents must comply "with both the letter and spirit" of the new rules, it said.
It also said that while the new rules cover fees charged to tenants at the start of a tenancy, they do not cover redundable deposits. However, agents and landlords are encouraged to include a note about the deposit in adverts and how they are calculated.
The advice follows a ruling in March by the ASA that a rental listing on Rightmove, placed by Your Move, broke the rules and was banned.
The ASA told Your Move to ensure that future ads made clear when non-optional fees were excluded from quoted prices, and to provide enough information to allow the consumer to work out how those charges would be calculated.
The ruling affects all letting agents and all non-optional fees that an agent might charge, including admin, referencing, application fees, fees for drawing up agreements, and inventory fees.
The CAP guidelines says that adverts should make clear whether charges are per tenant or per property.
However, it acknowledges that different media have different requirements for space.
If advertisers are not limited for space, for example on their website, in leaflets and press adverts, they should state the fees that apply immediately below or close to the asking rent.
Further information about the fees and how they are calculated can either be provided through a link or via a pop-up.
Alternatively, a prominent statement could be provided at the top of the web page or in a footnote in press adverts or leaflets.
CAP gives some examples as to how agents can refer to fees alongside the headline asking rent.
For example, for non-optional fees that are always the same and apply to each tenant: “£1500pcm + £150 admin fee per tenant”.
If non-optional fees apply to all customers but cannot be calculated in advance, the price statement could be: “£1500pcm + fees”.
If non-optional fees apply to some but not all customers, the price statement could be: “£1500pcm + other fees may apply”.
If agents are extremely limited for space, for example in a tweet, it should be acceptable to state “2 beds from 1200pcm + fees”, as long as the landing page explains in more detail how the fees are calculated.
Commenting on the new CAP guidance, UKALA executive Caroline Kenny said: “This should provide more clarity to letting agents on how to comply with the Advertising Standards Agency’s ruling on the issue in March.
“We have worked closely and consistently with the CAP and other industry colleagues since the ruling to ensure that any subsequent guidance is as clear and unambiguous as possible for letting agents to adhere to.
“It is also encouraging to see that additional in-depth advice regarding compliance will also be available through the CAP copy advice team, if required.
“We encourage all letting agents to review their property listings across all media platforms before the November 1 compliance deadline in order to ensure they fall in line with the CAP’s guidance.”
CAP’s online advice can be seen at the link below.