All of us pay them, but how many of us fully understand letting agency fees? Just last week, Labour revealed plans to ban letting agent fees if it wins the general election in 2015, while the government has announced the introduction of a new law in England which will force letting agents to publish all fees on both their websites and in their offices, or face strict fines.
These new plans do not extend into Wales, but Welsh Government housing reforms, including compulsory registration for letting agents, will be in place from next year. To keep you clued up about letting agency fees before then, we have provided some top tips below on how to make sure you do not fall victim to unforeseen renting charges:
Make sure you factor in extra fees
So-called ‘hidden’ letting fees are charges that are additional to your rent. At the moment in Wales, letting agents are legally required to disclose compulsory fees when advertising rent prices. They include charges such as administration fees, charges for inventories, reference checks, exit fees and tenancy extension fees.
But remember – refundable deposits are not included in this group, as well as any ‘optional’ fees. Optional fees can include extra charges for pets and additional occupants. Always check further fees when thinking about moving properties.
Look at the small print
Check whether fees are specific to one tenant or the whole property, as this can vary greatly between properties. No letting agent should ever charge you for registering with them or for showing you a list of properties.
Look for a letting agent that is a member of a professional body
Estate agents are not currently regulated, at least not until the Welsh Government reforms come into play next year. Until then, look for a letting agent that is a member of a professional body such as the National Approved Letting Scheme, Residential Landlords Association, Association of Letting Agents (ARLA) or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
Our Managing Director, Tony Jones, is the Welsh representative of ARLA, and all of these bodies operate a code of conduct that requires members to meet customer service standards, so we recommend choosing a letting agent that belongs to these bodies.
We hope this provides a useful guide to letting agent fees and helps you to be more aware of hidden charges, whether you’re moving into a property in Penarth or a flat in Cardiff Bay!