When you are renting you may feel confused about what your letting agents and landlords are charging you for. Let’s have a look at the legals – make sure you understand them and that you know where to go if you think your landlord is breaching these regulations.
“As of 27th May 2015, letting agents must publish full details of their fees and charges on their websites and prominently display them in all their offices where they deal face to face with customers.”
This means; lettings agents must publish any fees they charge on top of the rent and tenancy deposit. Some agents may mark up the maintenance jobs that they carry out on behalf of the landlord. Lettings agents must also publish a clear description of each additional fee and its calculation. These publish fees must include VAT. If there are fees that can’t be calculated, then lettings agents must publish how they calculate such fees. If you feel that your lettings agent is charging unfair fees or failing to comply, then you can complain to your local council’s trading standards department. The fine for lettings agents who fail to comply is up to £5,000. The Advertising Standards Authority can also aid you here. Agents must not mislead consumers.
There are two groups who are exempt from this new duty:
• Property listing websites.
• Local councils.
HOW TO FIGHT UNFAIR FEES – by housing charity Shelter
As with any legal contract, whether you are a landlord or tenant, ask for as much information as possible before signing an agreement with a letting agent. Make sure you understand all of the information you have been given and don’t be afraid to ask if you do not understand. Don’t feel rushed into signing anything you don’t understand or agree with.
Things to ask include:
• A full list of fees that your landlord will charge and in what situations will the fee be applied
• What professional associations your lettings agent belongs to. This is a really important one as these associations may be able to assist you should communications break down between you and your lettings agent should something go wrong.
Lettings Agents must not charge you for:
• Registering with them
• Showing you their list of properties
It would be a criminal offence if a letting agent were to charge you for either of these services. You also should not be charged for any routine inspections during your tenancy.
What can the Lettings Agent charge you for?
• A holding deposit. This would reserve the property for you until you have signed the tenancy agreement.
• The creation of tenancy agreements and property inventories.
• Credit Checks
• Employment references. They may also require references from your bank or previous landlord(s) and they can charge for these.
• Costs accrued while arranging your tenancy. These include phone calls and postage costs.
It is common practice for your lettings agent to require you to pay 4-6 weeks of rent in advance, which will then be held until the end of your tenancy. This provides your landlord with a degree of protection if you do not pay your rent and also can be paid to your landlord if you have caused any damage to the property during your tenancy.
EXTRA CHARGES TO WATCH OUT FOR