Consumer watchdogs have published new guidelines over landlord and letting agent fees warning that they must not break the law when advertising homes for rent.
Letting agents fees have faced much criticism from consumer groups in recent months over misleading property statements and the lack of upfront information about fees they charge landlords and tenants.
The issue was highlighted by a complaint upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority ordering letting agents to make fees charged to prospective tenants clearer in all online and offline advertising.
Now, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has laid out what consumers should expect to be told by landlords and letting agents from when a buy to let home is first advertised to rent through to moving out at the end of a tenancy agreement.
The OFT also warns that if landlords and letting agents break the law, they will face fines.
The guidance comes on the back of official figures that show buy to let renting has almost doubled in the since 1999.
Then, around 10% of homes were private lets. In 2012, this had risen to 17% and buy to let has overtaken social housing as the main provider of rented homes in the UK.
Cavendish Elithorn, executive director at the OFT, said: ‘The private rented sector is vitally important to millions of people, whether they are students, young professionals or families. Rental contracts can be the largest financial commitment some people have and letting agent fees can be hundreds of pounds.
‘Our earlier report into the lettings market found that both tenants and landlords were concerned about the clarity of communication from agents including about fees and charges and poor service.
‘Traders should always provide full disclosure of relevant information upfront, including a clear statement of the costs that will be incurred over the course of the rental. This guidance should ensure that businesses enable people to make decisions based on full information about the property and the agreement they are entering into, when they are looking to rent.’
The draft letting agent fee guidance consultation will close on December 10, 2013.
Download a copy