Back in September we highlighted how the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had introduced new rules requiring letting agents to come clean about their fees: they must now “ensure they prominently include information about non-optional fees in their ads for rental properties”. The deadline for meeting these new requirements was today – but it looks like they’ve been widely ignored.
For example, a visit to one of the offices of Leonard Leese in south London today showed that there was no information about fees on the ads in their windows. Maybe that’s because they don’t charge tenants fees – like all letting agents in Scotland? Sadly not. On their website the information simply says “Details of our fee structure for rental properties will be shown here shortly”. Going into the office to ask, it transpires that they charge tenants at least £300, or one week’s rent if this is higher. But when asked about the new rules, the first agent appeared to know nothing about it, while the second just made some vague claim about the information coming “soon”.
Just down the road, Davis & Gibbs was pretty much the same story. No information on the ads in their window, and no sign of anything on their website. Stepping inside, the dream of a fee-free move was shattered again: £300 minimum fees, plus “some landlords have different arrangements for inventories and check-in, so there might be extra charges for this”. But this lot were more on the ball on the new rules about publishing the information – sort of. “It’s happening as we speak” claims the agent. “It’s just the IT guys don’t know how to do it”. Not impressed – if your IT team can’t add information to a website at two months notice, it’s probably time they got some extra training…?
We don’t think these are the only ones. If you’ve spotted other letting agents who are breaching the new rules, we’d love to hear about them: please post your stories in the comments below. You can also complain directly to the ASA using their online form.
Of course, it’d be simper if letting agents didn’t charge fees for tenants, who already face outlays often in the thousands when moving into a new home. Legislation in Scotland bans fees for tenants – and instead forces letting agents to compete on the fees they charge to landlords, who are completely free to shop around for the best value offer on finding a new tenant. It’s time the same happened here – and that’s what we’re demanding.