by Mark Johnston
In todays economic and financial climate rents have soared to new highs over the last year amid strong demand from tenants who have found themselves trapped in the rental sector.
Many would be home buyers have struggled and continue to struggle get on the property ladder, especially as lenders have toughened their borrowing criteria amid the weak economy and the number of low deposit mortgages available has shrunk back.
New research conducted by Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, has found that almost one in four British people have been ripped off by a letting agent.
It is therefore unbelievable that as the growing housing crisis and double dip recession put the one million families in the private rented sector under pressure, the last thing they need is to be ripped-off by unscrupulous letting agents.
In a YouGov poll of 5379 adults commissioned by the housing charity, 23 per cent which is equivalent to 11 million people said they had been charged unfair fees by letting agents inEngland.
The most common unfair fee was for ‘administration’ (14 per cent) followed by fees charged for credit checks (10 per cent) and then for renewing a contract (8 per cent).
It seem then that many renters have been charged over £150 for repeat credit checks every year, when the actual cost for this is between £8 and £25.
People can be charged £100 each time they view a property and renters are charged up to £540 for non-refundable ‘administration’ fees
Kay Boycott, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Communications at Shelter, suggests that “It’s scandalous that some letting agents are creaming off huge profits from the boom in private renting by charging both tenants and landlords fees that are totally out of proportion to the service they provide.”
Many experts feel that Tenants are being let down by an unreglauted market and that this ‘out of touch’ Government stands by and does nothing.
Jack Dromey MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, states “these shocking new findings show why Labour is calling for action to tackle unscrupulous lettings agents who rip-off tenants by charging them fees they didn’t know they would face, and who exploit landlords and tenants alike by failing to protect the money they hold for them”.
Vidhya Alakeson, director of research at Resolution Foundation, an independent think tank, said “given that an increasing number of families have no option other than to rent long term, we need to question why letting agents are not regulated to the same degree as estate agents.”
Jane Ingram, president of the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA), said: “Standards in the lettings industry do need to be raised. That is why we have long-called on the Government to act swiftly and introduce a robust licensing system designed to protect consumers.
In conclusion, with costs like these, on top of the sky-high rents that families already face, it’s no surprise that many dread the day they have to look for a new place to rent.
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