The Safeagent Scheme says the most recent call to ban letting agent fees – in a demand made by housing charity Shelter – “is not the answer” to problems in the private rental sector.
“We want a better, fairer, private rented sector for all, but banning letting agent fees in Wales [as requested by Shelter] is not the answer. Access to any form of housing tenure comes with associated costs, and renting in the private sector is no different. Letting agents are running businesses, and should be able to reasonably charge for the work they do in setting up a tenancy” says Isobel Thomson, Safeagent chief executive.
“There are many letting agents across Wales who provide an excellent service, and stick to the rules, but the rogues need to be driven out. Trading standards and local authorities are responsible for enforcing the law on letting agents, and they must come down hard on any agent not displaying their fees” she adds.
The rebuttal of the idea comes after the results of a so-called ‘mystery shopping’ exercise by Shelter across the Principality.
Between late January and early March this year Shelter Cymru mystery-shopped 85 agency officers, reviewing websites and contacting agents by telephone to enquire about fees.
The charity claims more than half of the agents were not following legal requirements to display their fees clearly. “Many agents gave information about fees over the phone that contradicted what was on their websites, while some appeared to be making up fees on the spot” says a statement from the charity.
The biggest fee was 12 times as high as the lowest, claims Shelter.
“In the face of these realities there is only one realistic solution – to ban letting agents from charging fees to tenants to establish a tenancy” it says.
Shelter’s call is the latest in a series of demands by bodies for caps or bans on agents’ fees.