Rip-off agent fees: when will it end?

For renters, the cost of moving home can be substantial.  Not only are deposits of 6 weeks’ rent commonplace – on top of this, tenants are usually charged fees by letting agents to cover referencing, contract signing and other “admin”. Earlier this year consumer magazine Which? found that the average fee charged to tenants was £310 each, and the highest was £420. Since these fees aren’t usually disclosed until a tenant has already seen a property, and sometimes not until they’ve put down a deposit on a property they like, it’s not hard to see why many consider them unfair.

But since the start of the year there have been a few encouraging signs that the days of the rip-off agent fee may be numbered. First, the issue has received a high profile in the media thanks to campaigns by Which? and housing charity Shelter, drawing attention to the fact that fees often bear no relation to the costs or work they are meant to cover and are simply profiteering by letting agents. In several cases, Shelter found that landlords and tenants had both been charged for the same reference checks – and at several times the market rate. Then there were protests: already tenant action groups like London Renters have co-ordinated events in Islington and Haringey with the Telegraph reporting that more are planned over the summer.

Perhaps heeding public pressure, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled in March 2013 against estate agent Your Move for an advert that appeared online; the first formal recognition that agents are breaking advertising rules by not making it clear that non-optional fees are due.  And a last minute change to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act means it looks set to include a requirement that tenants at least have access to an impartial ombudsman if they feel aggrieved.

Online letting agent OpenRent has a different approach: their online platform helps landlords to find tenants and handle all the usual admin using technology to make the process secure, quick and above all, low cost. Admin fees are banned, with tenants only being charged £20 each for referencing if it’s required.  Co-founder Adam Hyslop said “Admin fees are often outrageously high and deliberately hidden from tenants until the last minute. We think charging tenants for referencing is the right model as it encourages genuine applications, but as a team of landlords and tenants ourselves we are proud to take the lead on making all our charges as low and as transparent as possible.”

About OpenRent

OpenRent turns renting a property into a streamlined, online process offering drastically lower costs.

100% of the properties on our site are guaranteed available and agent/admin fees are banned.

We help landlords find tenants via all the major portals and handle the usual admin (referencing, contracts, deposits, etc) online to create a low cost, high quality experience for everyone.

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