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Still let down

27 March 2015
stillletdowncover

This report explores whether renters face the same issues with their letting agents that they did over five years ago in our 2009 report: let down.

Our central finding is renters continue to be subject to poor levels of service and variable, often inexplicably high letting agent fees.  We think that measures to increase transparency of fees will fail to solve the problem because most renters only find out about fees late in the letting process, only 25 per cent of renters in our survey took fees into account when selecting their last property. Based on this, we and are calling for a ban on letting agents charging fees to renters for functions that are part of the routine letting and management process.

The report is based on an online survey of over 1,100 renters and a survey of over 350 letting agents.

The key findings of this research were:

  • Over half (56 per cent) of renters surveyed were dissatisfied with the service provided by their letting agent.
  • Not only do most letting agents (88 per cent) still impose additional charges but charges remain high. The total average fee for a tenancy as reported by letting agents is £337.
  • Fees vary wildly and inexplicably for example renters and agents reporting charges from £6 to £300 for checking references.
  • These charges place a substantial burden on prospective renters, with 89 per cent of renters telling us these charges were a problem.
  • Nearly a fifth of letting agents’ (18 per cent) said they were still not a member of a redress scheme, despite being required to be since October 2014. Meanwhile only 4 per cent of renters knew the name of the scheme of which their agent was a member

Key recommendations:

  • Letting agents should be banned from charging fees to renters for functions that are part of the routine letting and management process.
  • Letting agents should be required to belong to a trade body and trade bodies should operate a shared ‘banned list’ to drive the worst traders out of the industry.
  • To give renters clearer routes to redress we believe a single redress scheme should be appointed.