The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has given private landlords and letting agents until 1 November 2013 to be upfront about letting fees.
Under new rules, non-optional fees, such as admin fees, charges for inventories or references will need to be included in the quoted rental price. Residential lettings agents must make these clear on their websites and in other media.
Earlier this year, we challenged letting agents who we thought were breaking the law and demanded they were more transparent about the fees that accompany the cost of renting.
Letting agents acting unlawfully
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd welcomed the news: ‘Our investigation this year exposed letting agents acting unlawfully by not disclosing fees upfront, so we are pleased to see the ASA announcing new rules.’
Renting is now the only housing option for millions so we’ll be watching carefully to ensure all agents and websites are fully transparent about their fees.’
Not fair to hide extra charges
ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker said: ‘Renting is a big financial commitment and it’s simply not fair to hide extra charges. This practice hits tenants in the pocket at a time when they need every penny they’ve got.’
He added: ‘It will also benefit letting agents and private landlords because their customers will trust them more when they’re up-front about non-optional fees.’
Which? research showed letting agents were sometimes failing to disclose fees upfront and were unable to provide comprehensive information on fees in writing.
Disclosing letting agent fees
Our mystery shoppers, posing as potential tenants, visited branches of Foxtons, Barnard Marcus, Martin & Co and Your Move across London. In only one instance did a letting agent (Foxtons) disclose fee information during a branch visit without being asked.
On several occasions staff were unable to provide accurate fee information and none of the agents displayed information about fees on their websites or in online property listings.
Our research found that the average cost for mandatory administration and referencing fees across all agents was £310, and the highest was £420. Some tenants could also face check-in and check-out fees, bringing the total closer to £600.