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Excessive Fees?

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314 views 4 replies latest reply: 02 June 2016
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Tenant

Myself and my girlfriend have agreed with a letting agency to rent accomodation. At £575pcm on a 6 month contract, We were asked to pay a £185 non-refundable administration fee to reserve the property before we get to look over the contract (somewhat reasonable I think). On receiving the contract, there are a number of charges we haven’t had to pay in previous locations, we wondered if they have the right to charge the following:

Book out fee of £60 when leaving the property;

A charge of £30 (inc VAT) to hold the deposit on our behalf, which will be removed from the deposit at the end of tenancy;

A charge of £24 (inc VAT) for each time we forget to cancel the direct debit at end of tenancy;

If we want to remain in the property after 6 months, there is a charge of £60 (inc VAT) to renew the tenancy agreement;

Once a move in date is confirmed, if we wish to change that an admin fee of £12 (inc VAT) is payable.

I don’t expect to put the direct debit cancellation or changed date fees to test but all the rest haven’t come up in my previous tenancy agreements, recently we remained in our property after the date of contract was up and simply paid on a rolling conntract basis with no additional fees.

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Administrator

Hi Jonathan

Personally, I think the £185 non-refundable administration fee is the most problematic – you’d normally simply pay a holding deposit and this would be deducted from your tenancy deposit or first month’s rent when you move in to the property. I wonder how they justify a £185 fee for effectively doing nothing.

The book out fee – is this the inventory fee? If so then I’m pretty sure that’s about standard.

The fee for holding your deposit is really cheeky – it’s the landlord’s legal responsibility to protect the deposit, they have to do it regardless of whether you want them to or not, and that fee is charged to the landlord by the deposit protection scheme that holds the deposit. If it were me, I would challenge that at the end of the tenancy – you can raise a dispute with the tenancy deposit protection scheme that has the deposit (for free) and they decide what is fair for the landlord to charge. I doubt that they would allow that as a fair charge.

If you want to challenge any of the fees then unfortunately there aren’t many effective ways to do it. You have to start with a complaint in writing to the agent and then if they don’t give you the response you want you can go to any of the professional bodies of which the agent is a member. For example, the Property Ombudsman – they can order the agent to pay you compensation if they find something the agent is doing is unfair or unprofessional.

It might also be worth speaking direct to the landlord – usually fees like the check in and check out are shared half each so make sure the agent is not charging both parties for the same fee.

Alex

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Tenant

Hi – many thanks for the reply, it is appreciated. We raised concern about the £30 as I haven’t had to pay this cost at any previous home I have rented. In regards to the £185 charge, the contract states the following:
”1. A property will not be reserved unless the non-refundable administration fee of £185.00 inc VAT has been received by the residential lettings office at …. The completed application form and proof of residency needs to be received within 48 hours.” (have thankfully got an extension on this 48 hour timeframe until tomorrow) Is this somewhat of an extortionate cost? Also is there much we can do as in the contract it states once we have signed it (yet to do so) this is an unrefundable cost?

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Administrator

Hi Jonathan

Yes, I personally think it’s extortionate and I have never paid anything like that. What’s the contract you’re signing? I’m not sure why you’re signing a contract at this stage in the process.

Alex

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Tenant

Hey Jonathan, hey everyone!

 

Those fees are outrageous and should be unlawful (they’re illegal in Scotland). Some letting agents charge up to £700 for admin fees pretending it covers the cost of setting up the tenancy (hum.).

 

Like you said, there’s not much tenants can do to challenge those fees as we need a roof over our head and it costs time and money to claim anything back from a company. However people are fed up and there are petitions spreading for Parliament to address the issue.

 

In the meantime: I work for a legal company called CaseHub and we are building a class action lawsuit (a group lawsuit, Erin Brockovich style) against letting agents for their tenancy fees which make renting in England a nightmare.

 

The goal is to 1) get tenants refunded 2) set a precedent to end tenancy fees in England once and for all.

It’s much more than a petition as if we gather enough people we’re effectively challenging the fees in court 🙂

 

We’re doing it this summer but are already starting campaign building so that when we do launch the lawsuit, we can sign up a lot of people quickly!

I invite you to sign up for updates, bc it this happens, it could be HUGE. Also, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. You can sign up here.

 

Hope that helped and also hope this will work out as a way for people to finally be able to get fair treatment from agencies in the future.

 

cheers

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