The lettings industry is in turmoil as the likelihood of tighter regulation is looming after allegations of unfair charges.
A landmark ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority means thousands of agents – even big name high street brands – are breaking the advertising code by failing to disclose charges to would-be renters in their property listings.
Consumer group Which? has accused letting agents of unfairly treating renters by failing to disclose charges.
And a select committee of MPs is hearing evidence about the lettings industry with a view to recommending the government legislates to protect landlords and renters.
The ASA upheld a complaint against Your Move, one of Britain’s largest letting chains, and stipulated that future adverts for buy to let homes must include details of any agents’ charges.
Your Move argued their advertising followed industry guidelines suggested by the Association of Residential Letting Agents and The Property Ombudsman.
The ASA decided the guidelines fell short of standards laid down in the code and ordered Your Move to include information about charges in future advertising.
Although the ruling only affects Your Move, every other letting agent who fails to include details of charges is also likely to break the code.
Meanwhile, consumer champion Which? has accused Your Move, Foxtons, Barnard Marcus, and Martin & Co are not disclosing their fees to renters.
This, claims Which?, leaves renters facing unexpected bills and problems comparing costs between properties and agents.
Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, said: ‘Renting is now the only housing option for millions, and with many households struggling to pay rent and bills, it is vital that letting agents are upfront about expensive fees in advance.’
The result of the research included:
• No agents gave details of fees in any property listings on their website, on Rightmove.co.uk or after tenants had registered online
• Only one renter was given fee information when they registered in branch or called to arrange a viewing.
• No renters were given a written schedule of charges.
• Often, renters were not given fee information when they asked, or were incomplete details.
Which? sent undercover shoppers posing as renters to several letting agent branches in London to gather the information.