Landlords and letting agents must beware of changes to advertising guidance relating to non-refundable fees and tenancy charges. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has now published new specifications that have been sent to all relevant trade bodies across the lettings sector about the change. Under the new rules, information relating to non-refundable fees and tenancy charges must be displayed prominently on all marketing and advertising material.
The reforms come after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published a ruling on March 2013 against an agent who had not provided sufficient information about their fees in online ads. A complaint was lodged with the body about online ads that did not make clear an administration fee applied to the quoted prices, nor did it explain how the fee would be calculated. The advertiser in question used different non-optional fees depending on a tenant's circumstances but ASA ruled these must be made clear enough for a consumer to understand how extra charges will be calculated.
"Although the investigation referred only to non-optional admin charges, it also applies to other non-optional charges. A charge doesn't have to apply to everyone to be considered non-optional. As long as it's non-optional for those it applies to, the existence of the charge and information about how it is calculated should be made clear." CAP explained.
Following the case, all residential lettings agents and landlords must make the relevant changes to their websites and adverts placed on property portals and in other media. This must take place by November 1st. In a statement CAP said: "We’ll be closely monitoring ads in all media from November onwards and will consider appropriate follow up action against non-compliant ads from this date."
This comes as CAP publishes new online advice on compulsory costs and charges. It explains that in cases where a tax, duty, fee or charge cannot be calculated in advance because it depends on a tenant's circumstances, this must also be made clear. Advertising material must explain why the information is excluded from the advertised price and how it is calculated.
- Friday 13 September 2013