Consumer group Which?, has got heavily involved in the property market of late. They have come into the market mainly on the side of tenants, as with scarcely enough properties to go around, some landlords and other entities have sought to take advantage of the situation.
In one of its latest press releases Which? has slammed letting agents for not being upfront about fees. The group sent mystery shoppers posing as potential tenants to four different London branches of each of Foxtons, Barnard Marcus, Martin & Co and Your Move. Based on this it says that the fees tenants can expect to pay are not disclosed early enough. This means renters face unexpected charges, are unable to properly compare prices and don’t always know what they are signing up to until it is too late.
The research also found:
- None of the letting agents provided information about fees in any property listings on their website, on Rightmove.co.uk or after tenants had registered online.
- Only one tenant (at a Foxtons' branch) was proactively given fee information when they registered in branch or called to arrange a viewing
- No tenant was provided with a written schedule of charges.
- In some cases tenants were either not given fee information even when they asked, or they were not given the complete details.
Which? believes that by failing to disclose fees upfront or during their first contact with a customer, letting agents are breaching consumer law by not providing material information in a manner that is clear and timely. We have written to the companies to share our findings, demand improvements, and remind them of their legal responsibilities under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs).
Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which? said:
"Renting is now the only housing option for millions, and with many households struggling to pay rent and bills, it is vital that letting agents are upfront about expensive fees in advance. People should know all the costs before they invest time and effort in viewings. Drip feeding fees is unfair and a major barrier to people comparing agents and properties.
"Despite its dramatic growth, there is also an alarming lack of consumer protection and redress in the rental sector. Tenants deserve much better."
- Friday 08 March 2013