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In a recent survey conducted by Upad, we uncovered some large discrepancies between what tenant fees private landlords say they charge, and what tenants say they have been charged.

On the back of these findings, we’ve looked at some of the potential reasons for this discrepancy.

Do some tenants and landlords not understand exactly what tenant fees are, or are fees being added elsewhere?

Do landlords know exactly what their tenants pay for and how much they are charged?

If what landlords and tenants have told us about tenant fees is true, where is the money tenants are paying going, if not to their landlords?

What Private Landlords and Tenants Told Us

The two charts below highlight the discrepancy between the answers we received from tenants and private landlords.

Tenants, How Much in Fees Are You Charged?

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Landlords, How Much in Fees Do You Charge?

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The table below offers a useful side by side comparison of the two results. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

How Much?

% of Tenants Paying

% of Landlords Charging

Under £100

12%

51%

£100 - £200

27%

34%

£200 - £300

18%

10%

£300 - £400

18%

3%

Over £400

21%

2%

  • 4% of tenants said they paid no tenant fees at all.

It is easy to see the differences between the two parties. The vast majority of private landlords (85%) indicate that they don’t tend to charge high fees or anything over £200, while only 39% of tenants say they pay fees of £200 or less.

Where is Tenants’ Money Going?

It is clear to us where tenants’ money is going.

We asked the question of tenants in regards to landlord and agent fees, as to most tenants a fee is a fee, and they may not know who actually gets the money in the end (hint: it usually won’t be the landlord!).

The discrepancy between what landlords say they charge and what tenants say they pay is clearly caused by letting agent fees. With such a discrepancy – and involving what will be significant amounts of money for some tenants – it is little wonder that discussions have begun around the banning of tenant fees.

What Can Tenants and Private Landlords Do About This?

Letting agents have been legally obliged since May 2015 to provide details of the fees they charge on their websites. A quick search for ‘letting agents’ online doesn’t take long to uncover agents who are not compliant with this.

The easiest thing for both tenants and private landlords to do if they find a letting agent not displaying their fees, is not to use them. Don’t even call or email them to ask about their fees.

What if you’re a tenant or a landlord who is currently dealing with an agent unclear about the fees they charge?

For tenants this can be a difficult question to address. If you’re in a long-term tenancy and you’re happy with where you live, it might be the case that you live with letting agency fees, at least until there is further clarity around whether tenant fees will be banned. If the time comes when you need to move, then you should look to either rent from a more transparent agent, or find a property with Upad.

Landlords should double check with their letting agent exactly what they’re charging tenants but also ensure they haven’t paid for the same thing themselves, or that their monthly management fee isn’t supposed to be covering these things. It’s easy to find reports of letting agents ‘double dipping,’ and with the time between some stories it is clear lessons weren’t learned, which was no doubt a driving factor behind the current move to ban tenant fees.

2009: Telegraph report on letting agents double charging

2014: Guardian report on the practice continuing

Placing Trust in Online Letting Agents

The best way for both tenants and private landlords to beat the traditional letting agents and avoid being ripped off is to use an online letting agent.

At Upad, tenants only pay a £75 referencing fee – other than in Scotland where tenant fees are already banned – while landlords can advertise their property cheaper and save over £750 per tenancy on average. Both tenants and landlords save money and enjoy transparency, with no need to ask awkward questions around fees, and can enjoy a much better relationship with no ‘middleman’ involved.

Landlords can learn how Upad works here, or register their account to start advertising their property on Upad.

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By Sandra Mpouma
17 Oct 2016

Categories: Lettings

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