Banker bashing is so 2008. Demonise the estate agent? Oh no, we’re in love with them again now that property sales have picked up. This year, it’s time for a lettings agent witch hunt.
The latest attack comes in the shape of a campaign from Shelter, who are lobbying hard to get tenant fees abolished. It’s crazy that a charity normally associated with soup kitchens and cardboard boxes has started to meddle in the private rental sector.
We understand that there is an issue with homelessness, and whether this has been amplified due to the recession is a separate matter. However, the private rental sector is just that – private – and it is in a different hemisphere from people living on the streets.
If people can’t afford a property in the private rental sector, then their needs should be addressed by a housing association or the local authority.
If Shelter fancy a campaign, then why not lobby for more council homes to be built or a programme of re-education for the homeless to get them back on track financially? Shelter’s comment that some tenants are going without food or heating as a result of being left penniless after tenant fees is questionable.
If a tenant fee of about, on average, £300 is leaving people bankrupt, then surely they shouldn’t be moving in the private rental sector anyway?
We think Shelter has chosen an easy target, winning the sympathy of tenants who are now operating in the same financial domain as buyers. But why should tenants escape fees? If you’re buying or selling a home there’s a far greater financial outlay to get a transaction complete.
Referencing, inventories, ID checks and alike all cost money as stand-alone practices without even mentioning the manpower behind the actions. And what about professionalism?
At what price do ARLA exams, conferences and seminars on the latest laws, and the repeat reprint of guidance notes to sit in line with the newest legislative or advertising whims come at?
If agents pass on lost tenant fees to landlords, it’s a given that landlords will pass the price hike on to tenants via the rent.
After all, the lettings industry is a business, not a charity. Shelter could do with being reminded of this.
* Simon Duce is managing director of the ARPM Group which provides national outsourced lettings and property management services