Thursday, 15 May 2014

Government to order letting agents to publish details on fees

Letting agents will be required to publish full details of the fees they charge, under plans announced by the government today.

Ministers have said that the move will ensure a fair deal for landlords and tenants, and will prevent a "small minority" of rogue agents from imposing unreasonable, hidden charges.

Currently, the Advertising Standards Authority only requires letting agents to list compulsory charges to the tenant upfront in the process.

Agents found to have imposed hidden charges face little more than being 'named and shamed' on the ASA’s website.

However, the government wants to make it a requirement that all letting agents publish a full tariff of their fees – both on their websites and prominently in their offices.

Anyone who does not comply with the new rules will face a fine.

The plans will be covered in an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill.

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said: “The vast majority of letting agents provide a good service to tenants and landlords. But we are determined to tackle the minority of rogue agents who offer a poor service. Ensuring full transparency and banning hidden fees is the best approach, giving consumers the information they want and supporting good letting agents.

“Short-term gimmicks like trying to ban any fee to tenants means higher rents by the back door. Excessive state regulation and waging war on the private rented sector would also destroy investment in new housing, push up prices and make it far harder for people to find a flat or house to rent.”

The move has been welcomed by the Residential Landlords Association. RLA policy director Richard Jones said: “The RLA has been calling for greater transparency of the kind announced today and we welcome the government’s decision to amend legislation accordingly.

“Labour’s plans would have only served to increase tenant rents as many landlords would in all likelihood have passed the extra costs of having to shoulder all charges levied by letting agents onto tenants.

“Today’s announcement will prove good for tenants and landlords alike and we look forward to working constructively to see its full and successful implementation.”

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