Letting agents and landlords have a few weeks to come clean in their buy to let advertising about upfront fees tenants are expected to pay before moving in.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled shared house and buy to let aadvertising must carry a notification of the fees so tenants can compare the costs of letting homes and avoid unforeseen expenses.
The ruling comes six months after the ASA decided letting adverts only quoting monthly rents were not adequate to help tenants budget when looking for a home to rent.
The new buy to let advertising rules apply from November 1, 2013.
During the intervening time, the ASA has conferred with the Office of Fair Trading, the Property Ombudsman and industry organisations and letting firms about the best way to present transparent pricing to tenants.
“Non-optional fees, such as administration fees, charges for inventories and reference checks, can add a significant amount to the cost of moving into a property,” said the ASA. “It’s unfair if these costs are not clearly stated up-front. Residential lettings agents that aren’t already doing so must now make changes to ensure non-optional fees are clear on their websites, and in other media.“
The ASA explained this entails adding fees that can be worked out in advance should be added to the monthly rental.
In effect, the ASA wants letting agents and landlords to display a ‘move in’ price as well as the monthly rental. For example, if a fixed admin fee of £150 a tenant is charged, ads should state “£1500pcm + £150 admin fee per tenant” or similar.
If fees are unclear in advance and are excluded from quoted prices, the ad must give enough information to allow prospective tenants work out extra charges.
If buy to let advertising space is limited, such as in a tweet or a sponsored search, letting agents and landlords must give fee information in a prominent statement on a website, link or pop-up.
Online property portals must refer to additional fees via a hyperlinked “fees apply” statement, linked to general information about letting fees that could apply.