By Jo Eccles
If you’ve ever rented a property, you’re likely to be familiar with the situation where you’ve finally found the property you want and, just as you’re about to put down a holding deposit, the estate agent informs you that there’s a hefty administration charge.
These charges usually cover the agent drawing up the tenancy agreement, and anything else they feel can justify it. You’ll also be charged for references carried out per tenant. The fees can vary, and in some cases, the admin fee can be as high as £480 plus VAT, and the sudden slap of not previously known fees can really dent cash flow.
Renting any property requires a lot of cash being paid in advance, usually: one month’s rent upfront, six weeks’ rent as a security deposit, reference fees, and so on. Previously unknown charges being added on top can squeeze anyone’s finance – and patience! The good news for tenants is that the Advertising Standards Agency has set a deadline for 1st November this year for all estate agents and private landlords to ensure they prominently display information about non-optional fees for their rental properties in their adverts and on websites. These fees include administration costs, charges for inventories and reference checks.
Where the charges can be quantified in advance, the fee amount must be included within the description. If they can’t be calculated in advance, the description must make this clear and provide enough information to enable consumers to easily establish how further charges will be calculated. Or, if the advert has limited space, such as Twitter, a hyperlinked “fees apply” statement must be included, which should link to general information about the range of fees that could apply.
This move will no doubt be welcomed by all tenants, as well as employers who pay their employees’ rent. We work with many such employers and it’s always frustrating for them when they have allocated a budget to an employee, only for it to be exceeded once extra fees have been added on top.
If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet her @joeccles.