You read that right: before the ban on letting fees has even come into force (this Saturday, folks), letting agents are already flouting existing laws on fees. Since 2015 agents have been supposed to display details of the fees they charge tenants online, but we've found 21 that are not.
Local councils could be collecting £5000 in fines for these offences, so the fact that agents are still getting away with it does not fill us with confidence that the fees ban will be enforced effectively.
The ban on letting fees is a huge victory for renters in England - fees are already banned in Scotland, and face the chop in Wales from this autumn. Without fees to pay to start a new tenancy, renew a contract, or move out, renters will find it easier to move home, and that gives them more negotiating power with landlords who want to raise the rent or refuse to fix things.
But in our experience there are too many agents who will try anything to squeeze money out of tenants, so we are keeping our eyes peeled for new scams that emerge once fees are banned. Our Report an Agent page lets anyone share details of dodgy practices and our crack team of Letting Fees Detectives will investigate and expose them.
Our first piece of work has been covered in the i newspaper this morning. The 21 agents we found to be failing to display fees include these 11, where we've taken screenshots to show just how brazen their bad behaviour is:
Mike Rogerson, Northumberland - Another fees page telling tenants to ask individual offices
Here's what Section 83 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 has to say:
To councils' credit, our previous research found 131 agents were failing to display fees and most of those are now compliant. But if a £5000 fine isn't enough to encourage councils to root out bad practice then the worst agents could continue to push their luck after 1 June.
As the i reports today, letting agents have been pressuring tenants to renew tenancies before the 1 June cut-off just so that they can write further fees into the new contract, which will still be valid until 1 June 2020. And one agent, Leaders is encouraging tenants to sign up to a "Residency membership" which adds a 4% monthly fee to the rent, so that they don't have to pay a deposit. But this scheme is not regulated (as traditional deposit schemes are) and already tenants have faced end-of-tenancy charges which cost £100 to challenge.
Get up to speed with the letting fees ban here. We will be keeping a close eye on how the ban takes effect, and we want to hear if you are asked for any payment that is not rent or a deposit, or to sign an unusual agreement - head over to our Report a Dodgy Agent page.