I am breaking a resolution, to write again about letting agents. The Scottish government recently confirmed it: all ‘premiums’ charged to tenants are illegal. The courts are currently gridlocked with claims because agents refuse to return the money without a fight. So how, exactly will these parasites skim money from the perfectly workable deal between landlord and tenant, across the UK?
Well, in Scotland, they are (seriously…) still charging admin fees, in the full knowledge they’re illegal. A friend contacted me to say that the agent handling his rental would not letting him read the tenancy agreement until the day he moved in - after charging him a holding fee (that he would presumably lose if, after reading the lengthy legal agreement, he objects to its hidden terms.)
There’s also a massive ‘non-returnable cleaning fee.’ This is mentioned repeatedly, and the redoubtable EPTA (see links) and their amazing protest dressed US Marshalls, won a case declaring that this too is unlawful.
Charging a months rent in advance, six weeks rent upfront as a deposit – all legit and customary then. But also slapping on a charge amounting to a third of the last months rent in advance? The law in Scotland limits the amount charged in advance, and this is a way of circumventing the spirit of the law, while giving the landlord an interest free loan. What if the tenants stays for years?
Also – asking for six months rent upfront.
Demanding a holding fee before a viewing, retained if the tenant turns the property down (so very illegal, that one.) Letting agents are relying in London on scarcity of supply, and elsewhere on fear of contesting claims and lack of knowledge by new, young tenants.
Now, landlords should pay all the costs of renting their own home – actually, they already do. So agents are in effect charging both parties for the same transaction. Make that over charging both parties: £150 for a credit check? Credit checking every year? The tenants credit rating is no concern of the agent, frankly. They pay the rent. So stop unnecessary and intrusive annual checks. Anyway, the reason tenants might be able to afford the rent is simple: rents are usually too high.
Another ploy: during a six month tenancy, agents end the existing agreement, booting out the established tenant. The agent collects a ‘finder’ fees for overcharging another poor soul (and also charges the landlord). Oh, and the rent always increases.
Also – as I wrote about elsewhere, agents seem to have been deducting ‘cleaning fees’ from protected deposits, using estimates passed of as receipts, thereby halving the money returned. Meanwhile, wages, are low, working hours long, and people struggle to feed their children. On top of that, tenants are charged extortionate, random (and in Scotland – illegal) fees.
The good news? Everybody: politicians (well not the condems, but what do you expect) even landlords are in agreement: across the UK, including England, letting agents need regulation. The end is nigh for letting agents – you can’t get away with this anymore. They’re on to you. So run!