The great letting agent scam

September 06, 2012, 12:08 PM GMT+0

Poll: 1 in 4 Britons say have been ripped off by a letting agent; tenants and owners both at risk

Almost 1 in 4 British people have been ripped off by a letting agent, new research for housing charity Shelter reveals today.

  • The poll of 5,379 British adults found that 23% said they had been charged unfair fees by letting agents in England ‒ which Shelter calculates is equivalent to 11 million people*
  • The fee that most people said they’d been unfairly charged for was for ‘administration’ (14% of British people affected) followed by fees charged for credit checks (10%) and fees for renewing a contract (8%)
  • Fees that are out of proportion to the cost or amount of work done was the top reason why those who have been unfairly charged by a letting agent ‒ or know someone who has ‒ felt the charges were unfair (52% said this)
  • 17% said that the problematic fee was unexpected
  • While 10% said that the fee charged did not reflect the level of customer service they received

The survey forms part of an investigation by Shelter into the unfair fees and charged by letting agents, following a noticeable increase in calls on the issue to its helpline.

Added investigation by the charity has uncovered reports of tenants being charged hundreds of pounds in unexplained dues, or being charged significant sums even for the right to view a potential property. Owners renting out property via agencies have not escaped either, with investigations uncovering cases of agencies swindling owners by falsifying tenant references or withholding deposits.

Kay Boycott, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Communications at Shelter, said: "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.

"With our investigation uncovering unexplained charges of over £500, we need to make sure that letting agent fees are reasonable. 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."

Shelter is calling on renters and landlords to share their own experience to join the fight against unfair fees here

*The estimate of 10.9 million adults is based on 2010 population estimates (the latest available) from the Office of National Statistics which indicate that there are 47.8 million adults in Great Britain. Estimates have been rounded.