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We need to end rip-off letting agent fees

What exactly are these fees for? In my book they are definitely in rip-off territory and affect the least well off in the city

It’s Saturday morning and you get up to a lazy breakfast. It’s been a good month – rent’s paid, food shopping done and there’s enough money left for a good night out. But in the mail there’s an invoice from the lettings agency for £100 to renew the rental agreement. It’s come out of the blue, throws your budget into disarray, and what for? Because nothing about your lease has changed…

Agencies – 94% of them in Bristol – charge tenants for finding them their new home. They charge the landlord, too. Yet if you buy a house, as a buyer you don’t pay anything to the agency at all.

Labour will ban lettings agencies from charging fees to tenants.

Typically lettings agents charge £100 before the tenant signs the agreement, maybe another £100 for drawing up an inventory, then there’s often another £100 when the agreement is renewed, even if there are no changes. If several people are staying in a house and one leaves, it’s another £100 for changing a name on the lease.

Rachel from Bishopston told me that having paid the fee to take over the flat, she found the bathroom was filthy. The agency had clearly not paid for the flat to be cleaned even though they told her they had charged the previous tenant for leaving the flat in an untidy state.

Although she complained about this, the agency never sorted the cleaning out and she didn’t get her money back – she now lives in another flat. Others have told me about fees charged every time one of the tenants moves out, or every time the contract is renewed, sometimes every six months.

What exactly are these fees for? Often not anything visible, they aren’t transparent, and in my book this makes them definitely in rip-off territory.

The people having to shell out for these unjustified fees are not well off. Renting one room in a shared house is not where the wealthy live and an extra £100 here and there can have a serious impact on their budgets. Unscrupulous agencies are exploiting those who cannot afford to buy, or are saving to do so. This cannot be sensible in the long term for our children who want to get on.

In May, Labour forced a vote in the House of Commons to ban agencies from charging tenants fees. The motion was voted down by Tory and Lib Dem MPs. I was astonished that the Lib Dem MP here in Bristol West voted against a move that would directly help thousands of his constituents.

Labour would go further than banning letting agents from charging tenants any fees, by insisting landlords are licensed, that homes for let are inspected and by legislating for longer, more secure tenancy agreements that will be fair to both landlord and tenants.

With your support we actually get this done next year.

This article was published -in Bristol 24-7 on 18 July 2014: read at the source

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