Question: My girlfriend is looking for a one-bedroom flat to rent and saw one in Sheen that she liked. The flat was being offered by a well-known letting agency, which said that the rent would be £1,300 per month.
That was fine, but she would also have to pay £500 for them to take the flat off the market, £300 admin fee, a deposit of six weeks' rent and an inventory fee of £200 to £220 even though the flat is unfurnished.
The £500 would be returned by taking it off the last month's rent. She did not take that flat in view of the high fees, especially keeping the £500 until the last month of her tenancy. Can landlords charge all these fees?
Answer: In addition to the tenancy deposit, letting agents generally charge tenants a holding deposit to reserve the property before the tenancy agreement is signed; an administration fee to cover such things as credit checks and preparing the tenancy agreement, plus a fee for preparing the inventory.
Though it is entirely up to the agents how much to charge for these fees, they must publicise full details of all fees they intend to charge the tenant that are in addition to the rent and the usual tenancy deposit.
A list of the fees should appear on the letting agent's website and in their offices where they meet tenants.
In view of this you can compare their fees and choose which letting agents you wish to use. If an agent publishes misleading information, you can complain to Trading Standards or the Advertising Standards Authority.
Property-listing websites are exempt from the publicising requirements.
Often the holding deposit will be taken off the first month's rent. To hold £500 until the last month of the tenancy does seem unduly harsh and, arguably, this is simply part of the tenant deposit and should either be properly protected under the tenancy agreement or returned.
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a legal director in the private wealth group of Foot Anstey (footanstey.com).