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
Loan sharks could cash in following caps on payday lending, according to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
Caps limiting the interest rate and fees instated by so-called payday lenders have been introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority in a bid to protect people struggling with debt.
As of Friday, January 2, companies such as Wonga – who previously had annual interest rates higher than 5,000 per cent – must comply with regulations that will see interest and fees capped at 0.8 per cent per day.
Under the new rules, the total cost of a loan will be limited to 100 per cent of the original sum and default fees will be capped at £15.
While the move has been welcomed by the Darlington Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), the organisation has warned the changes may cause more vulnerable people to fall prey to loan sharks.
Darlington CAB’s Dawn Gill expressed fears that loan sharks could take advantage of those now unable to access as much money as they need.
“Caps are a good thing but clients will still want money from somewhere – they’re being protected from high interest rates but companies may not lend as much.
“They may not be able to get as much as they were expecting or anything at all.
“We haven’t seen it happen yet but the changes are still new and it’s a worry.”
Ms Gill urged payday lenders to work with CABs in order to help their clients manage their finances.
“The ideal situation would be for payday lenders to refer their clients to us before they take out a loan at all and let us help them to maximise and manage their income.
“I’d advise people to come to us and let us help them find ways to manage.
“We can help with benefits, cutting energy bills or working out incomings and outgoings and priorities.
“There are a lot of people prioritising paying back intimidating people who knocked at their door with money rather than paying their rent or council tax but they could end up losing their home.”
To anonymously report a loan shark, contact the Illegal Money Lending Team by emailing email@example.com
or calling 0300-555-2222.
Source – Northern Echo, 20 Jan 2015