Darlington CAB calls for ‘rip off’ letting agents fees to be scrapped

Darlington Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is warning that ‘rip-off’ letting agent’s fees are causing renters financial problems in the borough.

New evidence uncovered by the charity reveals tenants are frequently charged fees often hidden by letting agents – to the tune of £337 on average nationally.

These charges come on top of advertised rent prices and deposits and in some cases can force people into debt, the charity says.

Nationally in the last year, Citizens Advice has seen around 14,500 cases of client problems with private rented rents and other charges

Most agents charge for checking references, but costs nationally range from as little as £6 to £300, according to the study.

Renters can also be hit by charges ranging from between £15 to £300 for simply renewing their tenancies.

Some agents charged £300 for credit checks that are widely available for £25.

The Still Let Down report advises that letting agents’ fees should be banned to protect tenants in the private rental sector.

Neeraj Sharma, CEO of Darlington Citizens Advice said:

“Some renters in Darlington area are being let down by agencies.

“People are being hit with fees for inventories, credit checks, and tenancy renewals.

“Adding expensive agency fees on top of rents can stretch people’s finances to breaking point.

“If you’re struggling because of letting agent’s fees, then come to Citizens Advice for help as soon as you know there’s a problem.”

Despite an Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) requirement being introduced in 2013 that agents should give clear information about fees, this study found that only a third provided full written details.

The requirement will become law later this year which will mean agents have to publish fees on their websites and in their offices.

But Darlington CAB is concerned this will have little impact.

The charity says it does not call for a fees ban in England ‘lightly’, but said alternative measures have not worked.

It adds that if charges are to be made, they should fall on landlords as they are in a better position to shop around and pick the best agency.

A fees ban was introduced in Scotland in 2012 and there is no clear evidence to suggest it has led to an increase in rental prices, the report adds.

Darlington CAB is running a Settled and safe: a renter’s right campaign, calling for better protections for private renters and anybody needing advice can visit the office at Bennett House on Horsemarket.

Source – Northern Echo, 06 Apr 2015

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