Private tenants such as students looking for new digs ahead of the autumn semester are being warned not to get caught out by costly rental fees which have now been banned.
The warning, from the Heart of the Southwest Trading Standards Service,which covers Devon, Plymouth, Somerset, and Torbay, follows a recent audit carried out by the Service, of 81 lettings agents across the service area.
The Service worked in partnership with The Property Ombudsman and found that 70 per cent of the letting agents checked failed the audit because of a range of issues relating to tenant fees, property redress and client money protection.
Some agents failed to meet all requirements of the audit, whereas some required minimal advice to ensure they were meeting the requirements.
All the audited agents were provided with tailored advice and further guidance relative to their needs, including other areas of Trading Standards legislation. In total 57 local agents have received free tailored advice from Trading Standards to bring them into compliance.
As of last summer, tenants can no longer be asked to pay extra for things like professional cleaning, having pets, obtaining references, and undergoing credit checks.
The only charges tenants can be charged for are:
- A refundable tenancy deposit and a refundable holding deposit of no more than one week's rent.
- A reasonable payment in the event of the tenant’s default (such as a lost key or a failure to pay rent on time).
- Payments to change the tenancy (capped at £50 or the reasonable costs of the landlord or letting agent if they are higher).
- Payments on termination of a tenancy.
- Payments relating to council tax, utilities, TV licence and bills such as telephone, internet, cable TV and satellite TV.
If renters are asked to pay, or have paid, fees which are not included within the above categories they should refer to the Trading Standards website for guidance.
Ben Newell, Trading Standards Manager for Heart of the Southwest Trading Standards Service, said: “We found that the majority of the letting agents were very receptive to our advice, were thankful for the time we spent advising them, and were keen to make the necessary amendments in order to comply.
“However, given that so people rent homes in the South West, and students are on the lookout for accommodation ahead of the September term, it’s really important to be aware of your rights. Renting can be expensive, so you don’t want to get caught out by any additional, and potentially high, fees that are no longer allowed.
“If you’re renting in the South West, we want you to be aware of these changes, and in particular, what charges are no longer allowed, and how you can report any concerns.”