Charity calls for UK-wide ban on letting fees for tenants
Citizens Advice is calling for the rest of the UK to follow Scotland’s lead and ban letting agents from charging fees to tenants.
Lettings agency fees to tenants are banned in Scotland but the national charity said all UK letting agency fees should be paid by landlords who can shop around, rather than tenants.
According to Citizens Advice, renters in much of the UK face rising fees as they have no choice over the agent they dealt with after finding a house or flat, while landlords are able to choose between agencies to act for them when renting out their property.
A study by the charity found that the number of people aged 17-24 seeking help with problems with letting agents has more than doubled over the last two years.
Citizens Advice received 6,500 calls about the sector in the year to the end of June, up from 6,200 the previous year, and 5,700 the year before that. Calls from 17 to 24-year-olds were increasing particularly fast, it said.
Previous research highlighted problems with letting agents’ ongoing management of properties, with delays in getting basic repairs completed or in fixing properties that were so damp or cold they could pose a health risk.
In other cases tenants sought help when they felt the fees they paid for administration were much more than the cost of renewing their tenancy agreement.
According to the charity, the price of letting agents’ fees have risen considerably in recent years, going up by as much as 60 per cent over the last five years. Official figures from a survey of tenants suggests the average (median) letting agent fee has risen from £125 in 2009-10 to £200 in 2014-15. In some cases fees were as high as £700, it added.
Citizens Advice said there should just be one charge which is paid for by landlords, who are in a better position to shop around and pick the best agency.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Letting agents are hiking up their fees for a service that’s often not up to scratch.
“With fees rising year on year for letting agents, many tenants will rightly be wondering why they are paying hundreds of pounds for a simple contract renewal or for management services that leave them waiting months for essential repairs.
“It is concerning that younger renters are among the most likely to report problems with a letting agent, when many will end up using letting agents to find somewhere to live at university.
“Private renters shop around for properties, not for letting agents. Landlords are better able to choose agencies based on performance and cost and it should therefore be landlords paying letting agent fees, not tenants picking up these rising costs.”