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Extortionate Tenancy Agreement Fees - not what was initially agreed at time of viewing.


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Hello everyone,

 

I am new to this forum; thank you for all the information and input.

 

I went to view a property to rent this past week and at the viewing, I expressed interest in renting it. The estate agent informed me to call the office to "stake my claim" to the property and that there would be an admin fee of £250 to draw up the tenancy agreement and to carry out credit checks. She also stated that they, as the estate agents, are actually only in charge of finding a tenant and that once the agreement was signed, our property would be managed by the prestigious estate that actually owns the property. She said that there would be a further admin fee of £150 charged by the estate, but that this amount would be deducted from the first months rent.

 

I already thought that the initial £250 admin fee was a bit excessive as I had expected about £100 for 2 people's credit checks. However, I was so anxious to "stake my claim" as she said, as she put the pressure on and said that this property would be snatched up straight away and it was really ideal for us, so we paid the £250 over the phone and the agent said that this would take the property off the market. However, the property is still being advertised on their website.

 

I thought the addition of another £150 admin fee from a different estate that they let for was especially insulting, but I guess I was mollified by the fact that this would be deducted from the first months rent, as I was told by the estate agent at the time of viewing.

 

However, when I went to the estate agent's office to collect the application forms so that they can carry out their credit checks, the agent in the office handed me the "Advance Payment Form" which detailed the security deposit of £995, the first months rent due on the day of move in £795, the tenancy agreement fee of £250 ( this has already been debited from our bank account) and a further £150 admin fee for the other estate charge for a grand total of £2190 pounds due at the time of move in. However, they did remove the initial £250 from their grand total as this has already been debited, for a total of £1940 due at the time of move in.

 

As I was told that the £150 other admin fee would be debited from the first months rent, I questioned this with the agent. She blithely replied that it would not be DEBITED from the first months rent, rather that it is ADDED to the first months rent. I said that I was given the wrong information and that this would have influenced my decision to rent this property, as the admin fees alone are equal to half a months rent, and we wouldn't be able to claim this money back like a deposit. I asked to see the rental agreement but she removed it from the packet stating that I would have to complete the credit check applications before I could see the rental agreement that I was applying for! I them calmly stated that I felt I was given the wrong information at the time that I paid the initial £250 "admin fee" as I was told that the additional £150 fee would be deducted from the first months rent. I then said I felt I had a right to read the rental agreement to a property I am applying to live at and have already paid the £250 admin fee for. She then pressured me to sign the advance payment form, advising me that I didnt need to consult my husband to pay this upfront and that I didnt need to see the rental agreement. I didnt sign it but asked to take it away with me to review with my husband. She hesitantly made a copy of our "advance payment form" and remarked that the £250 pound paid admin fee was non-refundable, even if they gave us the wrong information, and that I wouldnt be getting my money back whatever happened. She also made a snarky comment about how we still have to do credit checks yet to be deemed as acceptable tenants, as if we didnt earn enough money to live there, which I'm sure we make more than enough of.

 

I know that in Scotland very recently, laws have been passed that have made it illegal to charge tenants fees to be able to rent a property, but sadly similar laws have not yet been passed in the UK yet. I think I would have understood if there was a reasonable charge to move in, such as £100. However, as if the £250 wasn't bad enough, they have now added a £150 further admin fee that they said would be refunded in the form of being deducted out of our first months rent, which they have now added to the first months rent instead.

 

What rights do I have in terms of being given the wrong information at the time of viewing? Also, do I have the right to ask them to itemise just what exactly the £250 pound admin fee and further £150 estate fee is for? What could they possibly need £400 pounds for to check us out as tenants? I just feel that the cost is so extortionate to rent this place, and also that they have deliberately told me wrong information saying that I would be refunded the further £150 estate fee, while instead adding it on.

 

I'm not trying to give them a hard time, and I certainly don't want to back down from renting the property because it is just so ideal for us, but I feel that what they've done borders on illegal, and I feel like I definitely have a right to see our rental/tenancy agreement papers if they are making me fill out our credit checks and have already debited £250 pounds from us. Is it worth sticking my foot down and telling them that they told me the wrong information at the viewing when I dont have any written proof that they said that? Also, I know it might be too late as they have already debited the £250 pound admin fee from us, but I have read on other forums that there is usually a fair amount of negotiating or haggling when it comes to these admin fees that I so naiively didnt know about - is there such thing as after-negotiation? :(

 

Thank you all in advance for any advice; I really appreciate it. :wave:

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Let's split this up.

So far you have paid a non-refundable £250 application admin fee which includes credit & other ref checks?

Was any part of this referred to as a reservation or holding fee?

Did you get a receipt detailing this payment?

£250 T application fee is fairly standard for many LAs across UK and could represent 50% of first month rent.

All the other fees are not payable until AST signed & agreed T move in date.

Having taken your £250 for admin & credit ref checking, they are obliged to do these and arrive at a decision. If they decline your application you MAY be able to recover some of the £250

Even if they accept you, you can still decline their offer of the T, without further loss.

 

Ts may earn enough to pay the rent easily, yet fail credit & other checks. eg prev LL ref, CCJs, history of missed contractual payments etc. A big red flag is not appearing on electoral roll for previous address.

 

Any contract negotiations should be completed before signing Contract ie sight of basic AST T&Cs before signing AST. It may contain a No Pets clause, a keen prosp T with a pet could get this rescinded before signing AST but not at LA application stage, as often the AST is only a working draft.

Both sides to a contract have ability to prior negotiation and to accept any proposed changes or walk away

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Is it worth sticking my foot down and telling them that they told me the wrong information at the viewing when I dont have any written proof that they said that? Also, I know it might be too late as they have already debited the £250 pound admin fee from us, but I have read on other forums that there is usually a fair amount of negotiating or haggling when it comes to these admin fees that I so naiively didnt know about - is there such thing as after-negotiation?

 

It is always difficult to negotiate these charges when you need to get a property in a fixed timescale, and agent puts you under pressure with one fee, then another fee, then another fee. You may, for example, find that the tenancy contract includes further fees for when you eventually leave the property.

 

One option is to go through with the deal then demand your 150 back on the basis that it was part of your rent. If they say you agreed to it you can say a) you didn't and b) you'd already paid 250 when they demanded the 150 so you were, in a sense, forced to pay up or risk losing both tenancy and original 250.

 

You may find that the agent is a member of a scheme that allows you to complain about agent. You could also go to trading standards.

 

All these options require a bit of gumption and determination.

 

If they decline to offer you a tenancy, then I think that you would reasonably be entitled to your full 250 back given that they did not give you adequate information when you paid the money over. But you'd probably have to fight for your money.

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Was any part of this referred to as a reservation or holding fee?

Did you get a receipt detailing this payment?

£250 T application fee is fairly standard for many LAs across UK and could represent 50% of first month rent.

All the other fees are not payable until AST signed & agreed T move in date.

 

Mariner51, thank you so much for all your helpful advice. To answer your questions, the estate agent referred to the £250 pounds as an "admin fee" which covered credit checks, etc, but that this would also take the property off the market so that it "stakes our claim" to it. However, she referred to it as an "admin fee" and on the advance payment form that she so keenly wanted me to sign without the council of my husband, it is referred to as £250 "tenancy agreement fee and credit checks".

 

We did not get a printed card machine receipt for this transaction, but she wrote on the advance payment form that the £250 pound fee had been received as of the 13th of October, and I have checked that this has been debited from our bank account.

 

We were actually fine with the £250 admin fee because we just thought it was one of those things we had to accept as the time pressure is on and we need to be able to move into this place for the end of November. However, it just didnt seem fair or right that they told us there was a further fee of £150 for yet another estate agent fee, but that this would be deducted from the first months rent but in actuality added to. It is just upsetting because this kind of practice is actually outlawed in Scotland and I feel like we have been taken advantage of. :(

 

Thank you again for all your help.

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Steve_M - thank you so much for your reply.

 

I'm in a bind because I don't want to cause any uproar or trouble and I'm really in love with the property and want to have a good relationship with my realtor and estate agent while I live there. I haven't ever had any trouble in the past, and if I could be so bold I think I am a very good tenant. I am always clean and respectful to the property, always pay my bills on time, no CCJ's or missed payments and have always properly responded to the electoral roll.

 

I was thinking that the best path to go down was the one you suggested as in - sign the tenancy agreement, pay the fee and then ask for it back. My only question is, if they say I agreed to it, surely they can just back that up with the fact that I signed the agreement and paid for it? They might then ask me what right I have to ask for it back? Does saying I was coerced into paying for it really stand as an argument to get it back?

 

I also wonder if the prestigious estate that they are marketing for are aware that they are double charging as it seems to me, we are paying 2 separate admin fees for 1 move in totalling £400 pounds in admin fees alone, and the estate agent will no doubt be charging them as the landlords for these admin fees as well.

 

I don't feel as though I can trust them because they are refusing to let me see the actual details of the rental agreement while they keep calling me to make sure I understand little tidbits of the contract. Why don't they just let me see the contract?

 

Also, I asked them what would happen at the end of the 12 month agreement, and I was initially told that it would then move to a month to month payment basis without renewal. However, when I asked today, she said that there would definitely be a renewal fee but that they wouldnt have anything to do with it because they are only in charge of finding the tenant, and that the rest would be handled by the estate that owns the house. When I asked if I could contact them for further information with regards to the contract and renewal fees and exit fees at the end of the tenancy, she said they wont give me their contact details until I sign the rental agreement and advance payment form.

 

It is making me feel extremely uneasy because I feel like they are being secretive, manipulative and giving me incorrect information, all the while withholding information and the contract terms while putting the pressure on for me to sign these papers. Should I ask to speak to a manager or someone else at the estate agents?

 

I feel so lost and dont know what to do.

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You can't agree to a contract if you don't know the terms! I have also experienced situations like this in the past and it is so frustrating.

 

As they actually stated that the "admin fee" was specifically for the tenancy agreement and credit checks then how can they not let you have sight of the Agreement before you have to sign it? As Mariner51 rightly points out, both parties to a contract should be able to negotiate the terms and if they are not agreeable then both parties should be able to walk away. When I was asked to see the Tenancy Agreement before renting a property not too long ago, the Agent actually told me they were unable to let me have sight of it because they'd be contravening the Data Protection Act!!! One of the very few times in my life when I was actually speechless!!!

 

I'd also bet they didn't produce or ask you to sign a "contract" with them for the "non-refundable admin fee" - i.e. what was the fee for, were there any circumstances that could arise where it might be refundable - for instance, if the landlord decided not to let it to you for reasons other than a poor credit report, etc.

 

I would tell them that you are not willing to sign the Tenancy Agreement until you have all the facts. If they are still being uncooperative then I think you will have to demand your £250 back and threaten to report to them to Trading Standards (reporting them to ARLA or any of the other organisations these agents align with is, in my opinion, and through my own experience, a complete waste of time). Even though this may mean losing the property you want, it's better to be clear about what you are committing yourself to now rather than when they start asking you for more money and making unreasonable demands further down the line.

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