Agents not yet complying with advertising ruling on displaying fees

Virtually no letting agents appear to be complying with the Advertising Standards ruling that they must show tenancy charges in their adverts as well as the rent. They seem to be awaiting advice from their own lawyers as well as guidance from industry bodies.

A trawl of individual agents’ own websites, plus Rightmove and Zoopla, by Letting Agent Today at the weekend threw up very few examples where specific fees were shown.

Our exercise does not pretend to be scientific or to be more than a tiny sample, and some agents may have changed or updated their listings since we looked. We also only looked at one or two rental properties listed per agent – where possible, the most recently added.

Nevertheless, we could find only few examples where more than the rent was quoted, and these generally quoted deposits rather than fees. We could only find a handful of instances where there were references to fees, and fewer showing actual fees. Pennington Properties, in Huntingdon, is one of the few to be showing actual fees on its listings. www.penprops.co.uk

Easily the most prominent reference to fees, not surprisingly, was Your Move.

Your Move, which was the specific subject of the Advertising Standards Authority upholding a complaint against it, shows both the rent and the deposit required on each listing on its own website.

On Zoopla, Your Move states prominently: “When you apply for a tenancy, there will be an administration fee to pay – ask our branch staff for further details of this fee and other fees which may become payable during the lifetime of your tenancy.”

Your Move was singled out in the ASA ruling, but was also one of four letting agents highlighted in a Which? report published only the day before. This accused Your Move, Barnard Marcus, Foxtons and Martin & Co of potentially breaking the law because they did not reveal tenants’ fees upfront.

We could not find any mention of tenant fees on Foxtons’ own site or its Rightmove listings; on Barnard Marcus we found a reference to a ‘discounted admin fee’, but the fee was not spelled out. On Martin & Co’s own site and on Rightmove, the deposit is shown along with the rent, but not the fees.

Other letting agent sites that we looked at included Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, Romans, Belvoir, Hunters, Dacre Son & Hartley, Hamptons, Knight Frank, Winkworth, Haart, Marsh & Parsons and Centrick.

We looked, too, at Upad, an online lettings business that makes much of being cheaper than conventional agents and is currently making a lot of noise about letting agent fees (see separate story).

It does, however, if its landlords request it, charge for referencing. We could not see this mentioned anywhere, but a spokesman for Upad said that it is currently updating all of its listings with wording that may take a few days to filter through. The wording says: “No admin fees. Referencing may be charged £60 per tenant/guarantor.”

We also looked at rental properties on Countrywide’s own portal, Propertywide, and could not find reference to anything beyond rent.

We did find that Mundy’s, in Lincoln, details both deposit and rent. It also refers on its own site to “competitive application fees”.

Meanwhile, the industry is still trying to get to grips with the ASA ruling.

Zoopla, as of this week, is adding this wording to all lettings listings: “Note: Tenant fees may apply. Details available on request from agent.”

However, it said that the wording is being added “for the time being”, and a Zoopla spokesman said: “It remains unclear what the precise implication of this ruling is on letting agents.

“As a portal business, we display advertisements supplied by our member agents who are responsible to ensure that these comply with whatever rules and/or legislation exists.

“We also allow agents to add whatever information is relevant to the house hunter within the free text of the property advertisement, and if agents wish to (or are compelled to) specify their fees within their advertisements, then we are happy for them to do so here.”

Meanwhile, the Property Ombudsman has revealed it is in discussions with the ASA.

Article courtesy of Letting Agent Today

RentPro property management software allows you to specify within the particulars of a property any fees that may apply.

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