​Agent fees can be more elastic than granny's knickers

Tenants get a raw deal on admin charges from some letting agents. If politicians won't act, then landlords must.
Disappointed I may be but I am not surprised that MPs voted against banning letting agents from charging tenants fees. Letting agents, on the other hand, are probably still sniggering into their Prosecco.

I don't think it is fair that letting agents should be allowed to charge tenants for admin. It's the landlord who hires the letting agent and the letting agent works for the landlord, not the tenant. Landlords can choose their letting agent - tenants can't. And while landlords can negotiate the agent's fees at the outset, tenants often aren't told how much they will have to pay until they have already found a property.

Some letting agents don't reveal their fees because they are more elastic than my grandma's knickers. One big high street agent told me that his firm charges according to a tenant's financial status - the worse off the tenant, the higher the fees.

How is that fair? He argued that it took him much longer to reference a poor tenant than a rich one. What rot.

At least now the Government has promised to introduce legislation that will force agents to be upfront about their fees and list them on their websites and in their shops, so in the future the costs should be fixed, not flexible.

It's bunkum to suggest this will encourage tenants to shop around for the lowest fees because they are forced to use the agency advertising the property that they want. But you know, we landlords can shop around, can't we? I say let's boycott those agencies that charge tenants the most. There are so many letting agents out there clamouring for our business that we are beating them off with a stick, so I am sure we can all find good ones whose fees are the right side of reasonable.

I understand that agents want to be financially compensated for the time they spend showing tenants around properties, and someone has to pay for their branded smart cars, but that's why landlords pay them commission.

I understand that agents want to be paid for the oh-so-very-difficult task of printing out a tenancy agreement and handing it to the tenant to sign, but to charge both the landlord and the tenant - as some do - for the same contract is greedy.

One agent even had the barefaced cheek to charge my tenant for a tenancy agreement that I had supplied. I also get that agents want to recover their expenses, such as the cost of referencing tenants, but the fees some of them charge are so high they must be making a 1,000 per cent profit.

I can get a full credit check and reference for a tenant for less than £20 and I am sure that agents, with their greater buying power, pay a lot less, so they shouldn't charge any more than this if they are already earning commission from the landlord.

When my partner and I rented a property in London a few years ago, a letting agent charged us each an additional £20 for the reference because she had to email our previous landlord in France. There was no justification for charging £40 to send one email, but we were forced to pay.

These ridiculous fees have to stop. When tenants were asked in a recent survey by the online letting agent Upad what was the one thing they would change about the lettings process, 19 per cent said the cost of renting - but 29 per cent cited letting agents' admin fees.

So I say let's do what the Government won't and force agents to reduce or even eliminate these charges by boycotting the worst offenders.

Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock. Find many more homes to rent at www.homesandproperty.co.uk/lettings.

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