Before moving into their new home, renters often get hit with spurious fees supposedly covering administration, inventory, references, guarantors, deposit protection, maintenance charges and credit checks. Then letting agents find other excuses to charge more fees, for example when someone moves in or out of a shared house or at the end of a tenancy.
Not only are the fees extortionate but our ComRes poll in March 2014 found that 30% of renters had been charged unexpected "surprise" fees by a landlord or letting agent.
The coalition government failed to amend the Consumer Rights Bill to ban letting agent fees to tenants, though it did create a requirement for letting agents to publish fees in full. This won't stop desperate tenants being overcharged so the government needs to go further and ban them completely.
Do also check out Shelter's excellent campaign on this and their great video.
Update, June 2016: Baroness Grender has introduced a Renters' Rights Bill which would ban letting fees to tenants. It is due to be examined in a Lords Committee later in the year. You can ask your MP to support it here.
Update, November 2016: Days after the Lords Committee debated letting fees, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced that the government will ban them! This is a huge victory for us - but is not a done deal. The government will consult on its plans and will face a lot of opposition from the property industry. We will continue our campaign until the ban is in force.
Update, May 2018: The government has published the Tenant Fees Bill which will ban fees charged by landlords and letting agents to tenants. Unfortunately there are exemptions for what are known as "default fees", which have the potential to be abused by dodgy operators and see tenants continue to be ripped off. MPs debate this for the first time on Monday 21 May - write to yours here.