What’s the problem?

High rents – research conducted by Shelter found that, of landlords who had increased their rents, one in five had done so because their letting agent encouraged them to. By contrast, only 4% of landlords had increased the rent because they were facing increased costs.

Extortionate, bogus fees – letting agents provide a service to landlords, and charge them for doing so. Yet recently letting agents have started charging bogus fees to tenants as well, often in the region of £300-400 per person just for “admin”, “reference checks” or even “renewing a tenancy”. In Scotland, it is illegal for letting agents to charge tenants any fees.

Discrimination – many lettings agents refuse to let to any tenants in receipt of housing benefit. A recent ‘mystery shopping’ exercise by Crisis found that less than 2% of shared rental properties are available to young single people on benefits. We’ve also come across stories of renters being discriminated against by letting agents because of their gender or race, while Trailblazers, a network of young campaigners with disabilities, have highlighted the poor service their members have received from letting agents.

Unregulated – an amendment to a parliamentary bill on 16 April 2013 means that letting agents will now have to sign up to an ombudsman scheme, and the Office of Fair Trading will have the power to ban those who act improperly. However, it’s still possible for anyone to set up a lettings agency, without any qualifications, need to conform to any code of conduct or provide safeguards.

Profiting from insecurity – letting agents make money from people moving, rather than remaining secure in their homes and putting down roots in a community. According to the English Housing Survey, over a third (35%) of private renters have been in their home for less than a year, compared to 3% of home owners and 8% of social renters.

Our demands:

  • Action to bring down rents and keep them under control
  • Longer secure tenancies
  • An end to fees for tenants, as in Scotland
  • Proper regulation of letting agents
  • No discrimination against housing benefit claimants

11 thoughts on “What’s the problem?

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  3. I agree with the need for regulation. I have just relocated from Ireland and the cost and complication of renting in the UK is horrendous. It has cost my husband and I over £600 just to rent the property. A 2 bed bungalow in need of updating and tidying. The deposit was increased by two weeks because of the dog, for which I have good behavior references from two previous landlords and agents in Ireland. I had to use a grantor (for a ridiculous reason) who was able to prove he had enough in his account to pay the rent for a good few years and is still being hounded after we have moved in. I feel very insecure and have a list of problems of which the landlord says he wont fix. My house in Ireland was twice as big the landlords were lovely and the property was in better condition when we left. I still am in communication with the new tenants, land lord and previous agents who are now friends. But my favorite bit out of all this that in the contract it says that the interest from the deposit (1800 sterling) will go to the agent for admin fees (on top of the 600 already paid). I have been trying to find out what that rate is (no luck so far) to see what the over all cost of renting is beyond the rent and deposit. I have been an agent and understand one should get paid but this is beyond!

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  5. A few points just to keep your readers informed:

    1 A) Actually the amendment to the bill has not come into affect yet. This is a step in the right direction and more needs to be done but you have to be careful. Too much regulation will mean no on will build to rent (as there would be no profit in it) and thus supply would continue to lag behind the demand and rents would not decrease. This is what happened in the past with rent controls.
    1 B) Another issue is that there is a serious lack of education in regards to renters rights and what they should expect. People go in blindly and feel forced to pay fees due to a fear of asking questions. More needs to be done to educate so that renters know who the good agents are (those who are members of schemes such as safeagent, ARLA, TPOS etc)
    2. The reason those in receipt of housing benefits are not wanted is because the money is now paid to them and not to the landlord and in pilot schemes it found that arrears increased as the DSS people were spending their housing money on other items. Granted it’s not all of them but, just as you are doing to letting agents, everyone can be tarred with the same brush.

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  9. TO Whom It May Concern,
    Can you please let me know a contact number that I can call, because I have a urgent query about a problem I have with the agent not carrying out important repairs in the flat, that I am currently renting from them .

    I have been to Citizen Advice and other organisations but I am not getting very far after four months now.

    I look forward to an early reply.

    Yours faithfully

    Miss U M Lewiss.

  10. Pingback: Join our lettings agents campaign! | Tower Hamlets Renters

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