Letting agent fees in England: what you can and can't be charged for
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The charging of supplementary letting agent fees was made illegal in Scotland in 2012, but the practice is still commonplace in England.
The Tenant Fees Bill - intended to ban letting fees for tenants in England - was drafted by the government in November 2017, but has still not been made law.
There is currently no timetable in place to set this law in motion.
While letting agents and landlords are currently permitted to charge fees, there are some regulations around what renters can and cannot be charged for.
Letting agents must be transparent
Letting agents are obliged to display their fees and charges on their websites and in their offices.
This information must include the cost of each fee including VAT, and an explanation of what each fee covers.
What you can be charged for
Letting agencies can help you to find and rent a home. Most letting agent fees cover credit checks, references and administration expenses.
According to housing charity, Shelter, typical charges before moving into a property include:
• Drawing up the contract• Doing an inventory of the property• Doing credit checks to see if you've had problems paying bills in the past• Getting references from your employer, bank or previous landlord• Admin costs for things like phone calls and postage• Right to rent immigration checks
You may also be asked to pay a holding deposit to 'reserve' the property before you sign a tenancy agreement.
What you can't be charged for
It is a criminal offence if a letting agent charges you to register with them, to show you a list of available properties, or simply to view a property.
After you move into a property, you cannot be charged for routine inspections during your tenancy or anything that the letting agent has also charged the landlord for.
Charges at the end of your tenancy
When your tenancy comes to an end, you may be asked to pay to renew your contract.
If you are moving out, an inspection of the property may also come with a charge, but this is only legal if the letting agency told you about it when you moved in.
Depending on your tenancy or deposit agreement, you may also have to to pay for professional cleaning costs.
How to complain
To complain about letting agency fees being hidden or misleading, you must contact the specific agency directly.
If the problem goes unresolved and the company is a member of a letting agent redress scheme, you can complain there.
If you believe you have been charged illegal fees, or the agency does not belong to a redress scheme, you can complain to your local council's trading standards department through Citizens Advice.