A BBC investigation claims that a letting agent is charging tenants as much as £300 just to view a property.
The Victoria Derbyshire programme spoke to prospective tenants who’d dealt with the agency, and who had been asked to pay a ‘refundable’ deposit in order to a view a property.
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But in addition to the charge, several of the tenants said they had not been able to recover the ‘deposit’ after the viewing had taken place.
Is charging tenants to view a property against the law?
The BBC cites the Competition and Markets Authority guidance on letting agencies, which states that requiring a deposit from a tenant “before they have been given the opportunity to inspect the property or the tenancy agreement” could be unlawful.
Responding to the investigation, the agency said it made clear that the deposits were non-refundable, and stated as much on receipts given to prospective tenants. But the tenants in question say they were never told in advance that the money would not be refunded.
Letting agents should be “properly regulated”
We often hear about how landlords should be more regulated, but it’s rare that experts call for greater regulation among letting agents.
In response to the investigation, MP Melanie Onn said that tenants need more rights, and suggested that the current regulations for letting agents are insufficient.
“Letting agents as well as landlords should be properly regulated,” she told the BBC. “Of the 8,000 letting agents we’ve got around the country, only about half are signed up voluntarily to a code that means they will operate to the highest professional standards. That means that half of them are not.”
Promised tenant fees ban
In 2016, the government pledged to introduce a ban on letting agent fees. Under the proposed new rules, all up-front charges will be outlawed, and a cap will be placed on the deposits that agents and landlords can take.
But the legislation has been delayed several times, and has still not passed. The draft law is now in the House of Lords.