Letting agents should be banned from charging fees to prevent tenants being ripped-off, a new report from Citizens' Advice has urged.
According to its research, tenants in the private rental market face a raft of fees and hidden charges totalling a whopping £377 on average when trying to find somewhere to live.
It found tenants can be charged anything between £6 to £300 for having their references checked, between £15 to £300 simply renewing their tenancies, while some agents charge as much as £300 to carry out credit checks which are widely available for £25.
Almost half of 353 agents it questioned for it’s Still Let Down report even admitted that they charge people £76 on average in 'check out' fees when moving out of a property too.
Later this year agents will have to publish their fees on their websites and in their offices in order to help renters make a more-informed choice but Citizens' Advice doesn’t believe the measures will have any significant impact on stopping people being ripped-off. It’s report adds that there is no evidence a ban on fees in Scotland introduced in 2012 has led to a rise in rental prices either.
Holding the cards
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Letting agents hold all the cards meaning tenants are open to abuse. Renters are regularly stung by arbitrary fees which can range from modest amounts to hundreds of pounds.
"Our research confirms renters don’t shop around for letting agents, they shop around for properties – so the idea that transparent fees will solve these problems is misguided.
"Landlords can hold agencies to account so it is right that they should shoulder the responsibility of fees. That would end once and for all the situation in which letting agents charge tenants what they like."
Some 90% of renters questioned for the report said extortionate fees caused them financial difficulties, with 42% admitting they had to borrow money from friends and family to cover the costs and 20% stating they went overdrawn in order to pay.