There’s a debate going on in England just now about letting agency fees, prompted by the Communities and Local Government Committee reporting on the subject. I listened to the housing special of Radio 4 Moneybox a few weeks ago and got quite irritated by the tone. Agencies were basically saying that it was perfectly fine to charge fees to tenants and if they didn’t the landlord would increase rent levels to cover their costs.
In Scotland we do not charge fees to tenants at all. It wasn’t terribly successful to start with, as some agencies continued to charge fees to tenants who didn’t know their rights. Last year Shelter Scotland ran a highly successful campaign to reclaim fees. Tenants have got money back, but more importantly it has meant more tenants know their rights and few agencies are still charging illegal fees.
To date I don’t see evidence that the rented sector is suffering now that landlords are bearing the costs. Rents haven’t jumped up perceptibly; rent has increased along the market lines as it usually would. It strikes me that there were some very fat margins that are now merely overweight.
So I am supportive of the committee. I really believe that the costs associated with renting out a property are the landlord’s costs. Landlords obviously want to reduce and manage their costs. But my opinion is that landlords should use market forces to put pressure on agencies to trim back and be more efficient.
My agency, Silverclear, is taking a strong stance on this and ensuring that landlords get a good deal at the start of a tenancy in terms of the fees they need to pay out. We don’t add unnecessary admin fees and charges into the mix, and instead we are confident that we will retain the landlord and the tenant for a long term, mutually beneficial and profitable contract.