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Letting / Rental Fees


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Ive never rented through a letting agent before so help would be much appreciated.

Me and my boyfriend have been looking to move in together and we've found a nice place, I phoned today to see what details they needed and they told me they want a £195 'tennant fee' upfront before they speak to the landlord - I spoke to my mom about this and she doesnt think this is right, and on Shelter and Citizens Advice websites it says :

'A letting agency can charge you:

an unlimited fee once you have signed a contract to accept a tenancy

You must have agreed to take the tenancy before the agency can charge you.'

 

So therefore, they cant charge me a non refundable fee before us and the landlord have agreed a deal, or am I wrong?

 

Huge Thanks

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I googled and found a link to a CAB document that included this. The document I found *does also* say that the agent can charge "A non-returnable holding deposit" before a tenancy agreement is signed, and says that the fee should be refunded if the landlord withdraws.

 

The holding deposit may be used by the agent to cover admin expenses and/or may be offset against the rent. It's not a payment for holding the property.

 

I would try to get in writing the terms of the fee from the agent.

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I've had an unpleasant experience with the lettings dept of an estate agency. I had been told--verbally--the previous day on the phone that it would be £230 for one person and £270 for two people 'to secure the property'. I was seriously interested in the property after viewing it, so I searched in vain on the agent's website for the details of what exactly this unusually large deposit was for. I went to the office the next morning and asked for written disclosure of the purposes of the fees. I was handed me a 'good faith' document, which had blanks--for amounts to be filled in by hand--in the place of amounts. I asked again, but where is the written disclosure about what the fees are for? The agent then claimed they didn't have them in writing. Then, the man who called the previous day to set up the viewing said, 'I told you on the phone it would be £270'. I said yes but I have a right to see written evidence of what the fee is for, the breakdown of charges, and the terms. Then the agent said, 'no one else has ever made an issue of this'. I said, yes, that is what people usually say when someone questions their business practices. I should be clear that I was in no way objecting to the *amount* of the deposit, but rather insisting upon my right as a consumer to have disclosure in writing as to its precise purpose and breakdown of costs involved. Or is this not a consumer right in the UK? (I am a foreigner) I had to excuse myself to take a phone call I had told the agent I was waiting for. When I returned, after about 10 minutes, the man who had set up the viewing (and who had resisted disclosing in writing the terms and fees) said to me 'oh, we've spoken to the landlords and they have decided to rent to the other person'. I was in the office prepared to sign an agreement, and the other person had only engaged by telephone, so it wasn't possible that s/he had paid the 'deposit to secure the property'. I was quite distressed as I feel that the agents had sabotaged my tenancy because I challenged them about proper disclosure of their fees.

 

I noticed that Aequitas above says these fees are unjustifiable. Could someone refer me to the Consumer Law and/or other information that would help me determine the lawfulness of this practice? I should mention that I'm in the Midlands and I've never heard of such a high fee and it is customary (as I told the agent) for letting agents to post this written disclosure on their websites. I've never had this problem before and I've viewed lots of properties. This was the first time I had ever dealt with this particular agent and I'm not happy about my experience..

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