The Debrief are calling for a ban on letting agent’s fees in a campaign to make renting fair. Instead of saving for a deposit to buy our own house, Generation Rent are not only forking out thousands of pounds on rent but hundreds of pounds on letting agent fees for things ranging from 'set up fees' to name changes and tenancy renewals. There's currently no cap on what a letting agent can charge you for their services and the costs vary widely between different agencies with seemingly no rhyme or reason.
SpareRoom.co.uk ran a poll for us asking their users the question ‘do you think lettings agents' fees charged to tenants should be banned in England like they are in Scotland?
Of the responses they received over the course of a week:
92% of people said yes
**5% said no **
3% said they didn’t know
The people who answered were made up of 81% tenants and lodgers, 10% landlords, 2% letting agents and 7% people who own homes but have lodgers. So, that 92% in favour of banning fees is not only made up by renters. Matt Hutchinson, Communications Director for SpareRoom.com said,
'Deposits used to be the biggest pain point for renters - now it's letting fees. The huge variation in what fees are charged, and the lack of clarity as to what they're for, leave renters feeling helpless. It's no wonder 92% of people we polled thought fees charged to tenants should be banned in England as they already are in Scotland.'
It’s illegal for agencies to charge tenants fees in Scotland, and has been since 2012, and those who are currently involved with renting properties clearly want change but where do politicians in England stand on this?
Last year housing was a key issue for politicians trying to get our attention and, ultimately, our votes in the run up to the general election. Labour, in particular, really went for the younger vote and promised to take steps to make the private renting sector work better for tenants, and specifically do something about letting agents’ fees if they were elected.
Former leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband (remember him), was particularly hot on this issue. He pledged to ban the fees if he became Prime Minister, calling them ‘unfair’. Since then it's all gone rather quiet on the renting front. Before the election SpareRoom.co.uk asked representatives from all of the main political parties where they stand on letting agents’ fees and what they would do about letting agency admin fees if elected. Rather helpfully they filmed the answers, here's what they said:
Andrew Charalambous of UKIP said, clearly ‘no more letting fees if you had a UKIP government.’
Emma Reynolds, then Shadow Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government, said ‘we are going to simply ban letting agents’ fees for tenants because we think that they are often too expensive and unfair. They are often double-charged on landlords. Just because you know you’re getting ripped off doesn’t make it any cheaper.’
Tom Chance of the Greens said ‘we would simply scrap all letting agents’ fees so that they can’t be charged to tenants at all. They should be able to charge landlords for the services that they provide but they shouldn’t be able to charge you.'
Tim Farron, now Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said ‘essential letting fees should be banned and they should be banned because if there are any added costs then they should be added in a very transparent way onto one’s monthly rent…taking out these very immoral, I would say, letting fees, would also remove the incentive for letting agents to keep chopping and churning.’
Bob Neal of the Conservatives, did not speak about banning fees as the Tories are the one party who weren’t in favour of this. However, he said that there would be a review of legislation bought in by his party in 2015 which requires agents to publish their fees publically 'in a year’s time'. That year is up, by the way, but to our knowledge no review has taken place.
All parties, with the exception of the Conservatives, were pro banning agency fees for tenants. There might not be an election looming, meaning politicians are less concerned with winning support but voters don't just matter during election season! Letting agency fees are still very much a real problem, affecting the millions of people who are currently renting property privately in this country.
The Debrief’s campaign, so far, has gained over 57,000 supporters in just over a week. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support and now we’re calling on the main political parties to speak out on Letting Agent’s fees.
You can sign our petition here and share you renting stories with us using the hashtag #MakeRentingFair.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.