By Steve Roulstone

Shelter part 3

Agent and Landlord fees.

I think it a good starting place to look at why charges are introduced to Tenants. Letting Agents unlike car rental Companies for example, do not own every house and therefore reap no benefit from the rent. Yes of course, the end result is to provide a service for the Landlord to provide a Tenancy that is acceptable, insurable and above all efficient as far as care of the property and payment of the rent is concerned, but that is not to say that the Tenant does not benefit from the process by ensuring their needs are covered through the process.

We discuss affordability before any fees are taken, to ensure they approach referencing in the right way, the need for guarantors and additional supportive paperwork to get them through the process, which is all treated with confidentiality and respect for their own circumstances. Time is taken to discuss and arrange further visits to the property to cover their requirements and to measure for curtains or furniture as part of the service. If this element is removed, I do not see how this will benefit any Tenant or procedure of renting a home. Rather, by being a fee paying part of the process, they have rights and they need to be respected during the process that they pay towards.

I cannot help but feel that Tenants would be better served by Shelter, if they looked to ensure they received better service for their part of this process, rather than this sledge hammer approach.

So let’s look at what the Landlord is charged for that service.

He also pays a fee up front, which on average should be split down the middle between Tenant and Landlord. If the service commissioned is a ‘Tenant find’ service, then the Landlord will usually pay a substantially higher fee, but the Tenant fee should remain the same.

The Landlord then, in the case of a fully managed property, continues to pay a monthly fee against the rent collected. I can only comment on our office, but in order to provide the best service for our Landlords, which Shelter do recognise is where our legal responsibility lies, charges made to Tenants during Tenancies are wherever possible, reduced to the minimum, reflecting the work being undertaken, or indeed avoided if at all possible. This means we do not insist on new agreements and the evidence is that Tenants like the option of choice this gives them, as in reality, our Tenants appear to stay longer than the average. Shelter believes all Tenants should be given much longer Tenancies. I doubt many would wish to sign for the five years they feel should be available and I say this as a Tenant myself.

The tenant pays to be referenced, which apart from confirming the affordability, also ensures the Landlord can take Insurance against any unpaid rent and to cover legal expenses if action needs to be taken. From the Tenants perspective, the affordability is no different than the assessment made when applying for a mortgage, yet I see no claims that Mortgage companies (the financial beneficiary) should pay for application procedures in the same way.

Tenants also pay for the documentation raised to move them in. This more often than not reflects their individual situation, regarding pets or lifestyle, as well as being enshrined in Law to ensure they are protected.

Therefore, reasonable charges are in my opinion justified and rather than challenge the legitimacy of any such charge, it is the level of charges that should be addressed and this will be the subject of part 4.

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