Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Time for Agents to get Fired Up over Lettings Fees

We are pleased to republish the following article from Morgans Estate Agents in Leeds.
"With a Which? report stating that tenants are playing ‘renting roulette’ and a recent RICS report suggested that the private rented sector was the ‘Wild West’ of the property market, there is mounting pressure on the Government – especially from homeless charity Shelter – for a total ban on all fees charged by letting agents and Morgan believes that the industry should be working with the Government to formulate a sensible approach to the problem.
What’s happened in Scotland is staggering – to totally ban all letting agent’s fees makes no sense at all – there is a substantial cost associated with running a lettings business and staff can’t carry out viewings, inventories, check references and complete other administration tasks for free. The Scottish media is also claiming that lettings fees charged have been illegal and they are pushing for PPI-style payouts, which is just absurd. These fees have not been ‘mis-sold’ they are simply part of the lettings process.
It’s essential that our Government doesn't panic and feel forced into re-structuring the entire lettings industry because of a media campaign. Any reputable letting agent would agree that a fair and transparent approach to fees charged is required but unfortunately there are unscrupulous operators in this industry and their bad practice is tainting everybody else.
The Government needs to consult with lettings agents and those campaigning for a ban on fees to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. Letting agents have to make a profit in order to employ staff, service landlords and find and manage properties for tenants, and of course those tenants must be given a clear and simple explanation of any fees they are paying.
At the moment all agents can do is voluntarily sign up to RICS or ARLA but as the Which? report has proven, the majority of tenants and landlords don’t even know who these bodies are or what they do. The only way forward is a consultative approach that provides an outcome that will protects tenants, landlords and agents.
We are already in discussion with Leeds MP Hilary Benn, Shelter and one of the UK’s biggest firms of lettings agents – Countrywide – and hope to arrange a forum in which we can all talk openly and honestly to find a solution, and I am keen for any agents who want to be involved to get in touch."