By Steve Roulstone

Shelter part 4

High fees.

As a Letting Agent of some fourteen years, I am happy to confirm that my Wife and I now make a good living from the Business that we run. It has taken many years of hard work and long hours but this very statement is subjective and as two people who started their working life in a two up two down terraced house, I know that our description of a good living is well below the expectations of most when using these words to describe their lifestyle.

This is the point, what some call excessive, others call standard. Add this to how you differentiate between differing more expensive to live areas of the Country and the question of ‘what is acceptable’ becomes difficult to answer! You can then add to this, the level of service provided and the reflective charges made for higher quality services. They do exist and should not be ignored.

What however cannot be ignored and where I am totally in agreement with Shelter, is where charges levied are beyond what is reasonable and where the service delivered does not justify such charges. I would add, especially where Tenants are charged in order to advertise reduced prices for Landlords.

There is no doubt this is seen as a marketing strategy and an acceptable way in gaining those all important new Landlords. Locally to me, we have vehicles carrying Company logo’s proudly stating how low there charges are. I am not aware of what they charge their Tenants, so would not point the finger, but as the market becomes more and more competitive, more and more Agents respond by cutting prices. The fact remains, the opportunity to reduce charges to Landlords whilst increasing Tenants fees exists with no restraints.

I would associate this practise to how rouge agents who do not deal with Tenants deposits correctly are dealt with. Does that mean all Agents should be tarred with the same brush?

I think not and believe that a fair charge can easily be configured, even with the option for Tenants who wish to sign up for higher level services, which we should not remove from the market place. Let’s look to application fees again for Mortgages. They operate well from an industry that is well regulated, yet the choice is out there and we all know that fees need to be considered. Is it really outside the realms of possibility that a similar situation could not be delivered for Letting Agents?

If they are transparent, capped in law and understood what the minimum available for the fee that is charged is, then surely we have a framework for Agencies to be included in a professional industry, through which, licenses are offered for compliance.

Get it wrong, the license is revoked. Service levels need not be affected; proper fee paying diligence would be a consideration for both sides and recourse still available for the Tenants. I call that a win win!

Finally, a look at the Professional Industry view will be the focus of Part 5.

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