This is the open letter from Emma Reynolds, Shadow Minister for housing to all Letting Agents in England and Wales;
Private renting is now the norm for 9 million people, including 1.3 million families. Many face unstable short-term lets and high letting agent fees every time they move. There is little transparency about what people are charged, with renters paying £350 on average. These charges are unfair on tenants and are for services for landlords that they are also charged for.
That’s why the next Labour government will introduce legislation to ban letting fees for tenants. But a solution is open to us now. I’m asking you to help renters with the cost-of-living crisis: please stop charging tenants these unfair fees now.
Shadow Minister for Housing
Most renters I know, and I’ve known quite a few during my business as a professional ARLA Letting Agent, choose to have a short term let if it suits them. Some are relocating for a short term job for instance, and the six month let provides a solution. Others, such as families, want more stability, as do landlords, and after an initial six month settling in period, they can renew their tenancy for a further one or two years. It’s common practice. The renewal fee is a modest charge to create a new legally binding document (AST). Agents provide a service, so charge for it. It’s business.
“There is little transparency about what people are charged”. I acknowledge that some agents aren’t transparent about their fees, but we show prospective tenants all our fees before they choose to take on a property. They are informed well in advance, before any money has even changed hands, and they sign Terms of Business to acknowledge this.
Tenant application fees in Hinckley aren’t high compared to the surrounding cities, and that’s due to a highly competitive local market.
If the fees are free - applicants could change their minds and pull out of the deal. What if they lie on the application form and fail referencing? If an applicant has to part with money, they generally think twice about applying in the first instance if they know they are going to fail.
It’s a contentious issue but banning fees for tenants will eventually raise rents because agents will charge landlords instead - and what will they do? Raise the rent.
They have to - to stay in business.