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Agents' 'referencing fees'

(24 Posts)
Mendi Thu 27-Jun-13 06:33:36

Are these at all negotiable? An agent who is trying to get me to view some properties has fees of:

£50 referencing (ok with that)
£100 check-in (ok with that)
£375 'admin' (WTF?!)

Now, as a newby to the lettings market, I had naively imagined that the Landlord pays the agent for letting the property. It seems we both have to pay for this. I heard a thing on Radio4 recently about what a rip-off this is, but it seems the norm.

Anyway, I just wondered if you can ever get them down a bit? Obviously they must be discretionary because I see quite often when lots of agents have the same property some advertise it as 'no referencing fees on this property!' to get viewers to go with them.

This particular agent has one house she wants to show me that is on with other agents, and 2 that aren't (which I am more interested in).

Any thoughts?

MushiMushi Thu 27-Jun-13 07:03:13

This makes me so angry! I'm sick to death of agencies holding you hostage with unreasonable admin fees. In my experience it's always the crappiest agencies who do nothing that charge the most as well.

The last agency I was with I had to pay an admin fee (I forget how much it was now), and a referencing fee. I gave somebody I knew as a reference, so I know for a fact they never bothered to check it. I paid a ridiculous fee so they could ignore my phone calls for 6 months while the flat got mouldier and mouldier because of a massive leak in the kitchen every time it rained. I couldn't use the kitchen for a month, and ended up getting environmental health round. The council told me the agency were very well known to them but there was not much they could do about it.

It's not even like you can really go with private landlords anymore, the majority of rental properties are with agencies, so if you like somewhere you're forced to pay the fees. Last time I went flat hunting I found 2 places on Gumtree with private landlords, and when I responded to the ads they turned out to be dodgy scams.

Sorry I know that doesn't help you, it just makes me really really angry that they can get away with ripping people off.

lalalonglegs Thu 27-Jun-13 07:54:04

The fees are outrageous. If it's any comfort, estate agents try to charge similar admin and contract fees to LLs as well - which is why I let my properties privately now. I wouldn't give up on private LLs, more and more people seem to be going that way as paying some under-qualified bullshitter to do it has struck many of us as money for old rope.

xabiuol Thu 27-Jun-13 09:08:35

I think it is negotiable but it depends where you are looking and how sluggish the market is. I am in the SE and we tried to negotiate and they just kept saying no and renting to someone else :/

It's such a rip-off and not allowed in Scotland I believe.

Agency's contract is with the Landlord not the T so it is the LL that should pay any costs relating to the tenancy not the T. Sooner they put a stop to this the better!

Do check you won't have to pay a "check out" fee at the end of the tenancy and also they might try to charge you when your 6 month contract runs out to "renew" your contract. A lot of EA's have started doing this which again is a total scam.

Wallison Thu 27-Jun-13 09:13:18

Oh it's all a rip-off and it shouldn't happen but it's just one other way to shaft tenants. You can't negotiate with them because it's a pretty key way for them to make money - I mean, of course it doesn't cost them £400 to do a £2 credit check or whatever so you blatantly aren't paying that money because you're buying a service - you are paying that money because if they tell you to then you have to.

Someone should take the greasy-faced spivs to task about it but no-one in England gives a damn about tenants.

specialsubject Thu 27-Jun-13 09:46:55

cutting through the usual whining (there are many laws in place to protect tenants, more so than landlords) these fees are outrageous.

credit check and collecting references, yes; the agent is supposed to present the landlord with vetted tenants. The rest, no. As a landlord I used to get really annoyed at having to pay for a renewed lease when the agent had only to change a date and print a few pages. This was on top of a 15% management charge.

usually check-in and check-out fees are split, landlord pays one, tenants pays the other.

tell the agent you will be viewing the property with someone else.

mistlethrush Thu 27-Jun-13 09:50:18

No doubt they will also be billing the landlord too...

mrsspongebob Thu 27-Jun-13 12:10:17

I am assuming you re in England as these fees a illegal in Scotland.

FWIW my sister is moving in a couple of weeks and all she's had to pay is £100 holding deposit (which she'll get back when she signs the contract) and £50 reference fee (which she's over the moon with as the last time she did this the agency charged £300) The difference is that this property is being let via Upad which is an online letting agency where LL have to do some of the legwork rather than a highstreet chain.

Fee's for renting property are ridiculous imo.

Wallison Thu 27-Jun-13 13:08:06

They are ridiculous - it's basically a variation on the old 'key money' scam; now they're not allowed to do that, they just call it a different name but it's a fucking racket.

OP, the best thing you can do is ring up each letting agent and get a list of the so-called 'fees' they charge - as pointed out upthread also ask about contract renewal charges and checking-fees as well. At least that way you'll know what to expect rather than finding your dream home and suddenly being chinned for £100s. Also, the agents around here who let mainly to students don't have half the fees that the others do, because they tend to use the guarantor system instead. So even if you're not in a position to need a guarantor it's cheaper to do with them. Might be an option but of course it's probably different in other areas.

grin at the notion that pointing out tenants get treated like crap in the UK is 'whining'. Yeah, you carry on believing that, love.

WeleaseWodger Thu 27-Jun-13 13:13:50

With upad, you're basically going directly to the LL. it's like gumtree bit they are able to place your property on rightmove and the likes (which only allows agents to advertise).

I advertised my flat years back - In a week's time, i got 2 replies on upad and about 40 on gumtree.

Mendi Thu 27-Jun-13 16:46:49

Unfortunately upad hasn't got any of the properties I want to view hmm

I asked the agent today what the £375 admin fee was for and she said 'our work in setting up the tenancy, e.g. drafting the contract'. So I replied that I am quite happy to deal with any drafting issues myself (am a solicitor) and was not willing to pay a fee for a service I don't require. Would she still like to show me the properties?

No reply. I probably should have not refused to pay the fee until I was ready to make an offer. But all but one of her properties are on with other agents so I might view with them and then try my luck with this conversation with them.

burberryqueen Thu 27-Jun-13 16:54:19

cutting through the usual whining - oh so it is "whining" to object to being treated like rubbish and ripped off?

Wallison Thu 27-Jun-13 16:57:58

I doubt you will get much joy, Mendi. Sorry to be pessimistic but the fee isn't 'for' anything - it's just what they do because they're spivs. So you can't negotiate about it in a rational way, because there is no justification for it in the first place.

Mendi Fri 28-Jun-13 13:03:45

OK, so, given up on the battle on the admin fees at the start as have found a place I like.

Offer accepted, and I asked the letting agent to send me a copy of the tenancy agreement I would have to sign, for me to check the terms. What he has actually sent is a copy of the letting agent's terms hmm. These include terms that I agree that the following will be deducted from my tenancy deposit at the end of the term:

£50 'admin' fee if the agent has to instruct any workmen to make good any damage

£25 'admin' fee if any of the Landlord's items are not left in the same place they were in at the start of the tenance.

£50 'admin' fee for replacement of any missing items (meaning the agent purchasing any missing items) at the end of the tenancy.

Now, I expect the deposit to be used to make good any damage/replace any missing items (though I am renting unfurnished), but I don't really get why I have to pay the agent's fees for managing this? That's a cost for the landlord!

So, are these terms normal, and is there any point objecting?

mistlethrush Fri 28-Jun-13 13:31:13

Mendi - they'll be charging the landlord for that too....

Wallison Fri 28-Jun-13 13:32:52

I am not a lawyer, but I would suggest that those charges are excessive. Haven't the banks recently been told in court that they can't just charge anything they want by way of 'admin' fees and that they are not allowed to 'fine' customers just for going overdrawn? So I would very much doubt that, if push came to shove eg if there were legal proceedings, anyone would uphold what are clearly punitive charges from some two-bit outfit even if you have signed a contract - unfair terms and all that.

But, like I say, I dunno. If it helps at all, my landlord started trying it on with me. He first sent a letter out to all his tenants saying that he would from now on be charging administration fees. Then about a year after that when I paid my rent late (by a day!) one time, he sent out a reminder letter and tried to stiff me £25 for it. I wrote back to him pointing out the above and saying that if he could prove it cost him £25 to send me a letter then I would invite him to do so and that otherwise I would not be paying it. Never heard back from him.

The trouble is if you object now, you could well not get the place you want, and if you don't object then you are contractually bound by the terms. But, they might not be upheld if there is a dispute. Tough one.

Mendi Fri 28-Jun-13 14:02:28

Good points Wallison. I am a lawyer, hence I am probably getting overly tied up in knots over this, but it seems to me that it's the agreement that they can deduct the charges from the deposit that is the problem. If I just agreed to pay the charges then I could, when/if asked for them, refuse to pay them on basis of UCTA and that would probably be the end of it. But if the agent can just take the monies from my deposit, I would have to sue them on an UCTA claim to get them back, which obviously I'm not going to do.

I am thinking of saying I object to those charges as they are for the landlord's account, but if you insist on them then I say they should not come out of the deposit as the deposit is as between the landlord and me, not for the agent. Might that work?

Wallison Fri 28-Jun-13 14:16:23

Good idea and worth trying. Also, and I see what you mean about the deductions going straight out, but would you have to sue anyway? I thought that deposits were now held by a third party organisation - presumably the agent would have to first convince the third party that the deductions were reasonable and also that even if it was decided they were, you would then have some recourse through putting a case that they were not reasonable to the third party? I am very very hazy on how the deposit scheme works though - would these guys maybe be able to advise?

Or Shelter? They have a free helpline.

Mendi Fri 28-Jun-13 15:16:57

No, the agent can hold the deposit if they are a member of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme

Wallison Fri 28-Jun-13 15:38:36

Really? Gosh, that's a bit of a con, isn't it? What a fudge. Presumably you'd still be able to raise a dispute with the TDS though. Of course, it's better if you don't have to.

Mendi Fri 28-Jun-13 17:21:23

Yes, the agent can hold it as stakeholder but still under the TDS.

He's just emailed me that they are standard terms and 'will not be amended' which I guess satisfies an argument re relative bargaining position of the parties under UCTA.

harbinger Fri 28-Jun-13 20:38:06

This whole business got me rather annoyed when DD2 took her second year house..... What I thought was the deposit was in fact the agent's fees. Then we had to cough up the deposit on top of that smile

Add the agency fees by six............... onto a winner.

harbinger Fri 28-Jun-13 20:39:41

Whoops sad rather

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