You Gov research shows Tenants feel ‘ripped-off’ by Letting Agents
October 19, 2012 |
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In a YouGov survey, the results of which have been revealed by Shelter, 23% of the 5,000 people questioned believed that they had been charged unfairly high fees for aspects of renting in England, such as renewing contracts, administration, and credit checks, although it was the administration fees that grated the greatest proportion of renters (14%). 52% of those who felt they had been ripped off, or knew someone who had, said that it was because they felt that the fees were “out of proportion” to the true cost of the work done.
The study questioned people about their experiences of renting over their lives, and thus includes a cross-section of the population, not only people who are currently tenants.
Shelter said that it had found cases of renters who had been charged more than £250 for repeat credit checks every year, for which they claim the actual cost lies somewhere between £8 and £25 to carry out. They found that some people were being charged as much as £100 just to view a property, while some unfortunate renters were being charged up to £540 in non-refundable administration fees.
But it’s not just the tenants who are getting stiffed, according to Shelter. They also believe that some landlords are being unfairly charged by letting agents. They claim to have found cases of letting agents double-charging tenants and landlords for the same services. London landlord Abdul Motin said, “A letting agent who was supposed to be renting out my home has ripped me off for £9,000, and we’re now struggling to meet the mortgage. The letting agents falsified the tenants’ references, withheld the rent and deposit from me, and have now dissolved their company. This is the only property I own and I’ll never rent it out again. This has been a living nightmare for me and my family.”
People living in London, where the average rent is higher than anywhere else, were the most likely to feel the victims of outrageous charges, with 29% feeling charged over the odds. People in the North-East were the least likely to feel ripped off, as only 16% said they were. Yorkshire and the Humber came second from last, with 22%.
Kay Boycott, director of campaigns, policy and communications at Shelter, commented on the findings, saying, “It’s scandalous that some letting agents are creaming off huge profits from the boom in private renting by charging both tenants and landlords fees that are totally out of proportion to the service they provide.
“With our investigation uncovering unexplained charges of over £500, we need to make sure that letting agent fees are reasonable.
“With costs like these, on top of the sky-high rents that families already face, it’s no surprise that many dread the day they have to look for a new place to rent.”
Jane Ingram, president of ARLA, responded to the findings by saying, “Standards in the lettings industry do need to be raised; that’s why we have long-called on the Government to act swiftly and introduce a robust licensing system designed to protect consumers.
“ARLA has already taken steps to help inform and protect consumers by setting up our own member licensing system to guard against bad practice, and all of our members are required to be clear and transparent with tenants on any charges that they will incur.
“It is important to bear in mind that a professional lettings service cannot be provided to either a landlord or a tenant for no cost. However, both parties should be aware of their costs and feel that they have had a professional service, and should have somewhere to seek redress if they feel otherwise.
“We want our members’ clients to have a rewarding experience in the private rented sector, and that is why we set the standards and requirements of members that we do.”
Although the study doesn’t reflect well upon the lettings industry, the fact is that this is a business, and both tenants and landlords have many options; some measure of responsibility must lie with them in the choices they make. The customers have the power to kill the rip off merchants by rejecting them in favour of the honest letting agents, which means that they must do their research and choose wisely rather than going with the first one they come across. Surely that is more logical than the blanket ban on all fees that Shelter desires, the consequences of which could be disastrous, as seen in Scotland.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” comes to mind.