Publication from Siân Berry: Unfair letting agent fees must be scrapped
My response to the Government’s consultation on a letting fee ban
I am a private renter myself and have rented in London for 20 years.
More and more people are finding themselves privately renting for the long term, not just as a temporary option while they are young. Families, couples and older people are an increasing proportion of the 2.3 million people privately renting in London today and many of them are very unhappy with their situation.
Last year, I conducted a survey of more than 1,500 private renters in London asking about the problems they have experienced. As part of this I asked them to rate the experience they had had with their most recent letting agent. Most reported an average or indifferent experience but significantly more reported a bad experience (30 per cent) than a good experience (21 per cent).
Common themes from written comments on letting agents were:
- Agents being hard to get hold of
- Poor information and unexpected costs
- Unreasonable pressure to sign up in haste
Many also told me shocking stories of large and unexpected fees being demanded when they were at their most vulnerable, in the middle of the process of securing a home. More than a third said they had been hit by unexpected fees from agents despite new rules on displaying letting fees (and membership of deposit and redress schemes) being introduced in May 2015.
In my March 2017 report, Letting them get away with it, I reported on how well councils are able to monitor and enforce current rules on transparency for letting fees.
The results showed that less than one third of complaints made to local authorities in London have been acted upon. It is clear that the current regulation is not improving the situation for many renters.
Overwhelmingly, Londoners have told me that they feel they are being treated unfairly by the current system of charging them letting agent fees when they move home.
I believe that, rather than the current rules that only seek to enforce transparency, a simpler scheme where letting fees to renters are simply banned would do a great deal to reduce the burden on councils and help London’s tenants manage the cost of moving home.
I also asked the Mayor if he responded to the Government consultation – you can read the letter from the Deputy Mayor for Housing below.