Swindon Housing Action Campaign has begun investigating letting agencies in Swindon.
Since May 2015 agencies have had a legal obligation to operate complete transparency of fees charged to tenants and landlords. They are supposed to display them in their offices and on their websites. SHAC has visited 15 of them.
- Only 2 of the agencies we visited had tenant and landlord fees on their website and on view in their office.
- Only 4 of the 15 had their fees on display in their offices.
- 4 agencies had no information on fees either on their website or displayed in their office.
- 11 had no landlord fees on their website
- 5 had no tenant fees
- One of them even told us they don’t put landlord fees on their website which is a clear breach of the law.
The introduction of legal obligations on ‘transparency of fees’ was supposed to enable tenants and landlords to compare the fees and service of the different agencies. This is impossible to do if these organisations do not comply with the law.
Swindon Council’s Trading Standards department is responsible for enforcing the law on agency fees. SHAC has met with one of their officers and drawn these breaches to their attention as well as the Council Leader and the Lead Member responsible for the private rented sector.
Martin Wicks said: “The law on transparency of fees is supposed to enable tenants and landlords to compare fees and service provided by different agencies and make an informed choice. They can’t do that unless the agencies comply with the law. It’s now nearly a year since the law was introduced and some of them appear to have simply ignored it.
“SHAC is writing to local agencies calling on them not only to comply with the law, if they are in breach, but to make the necessary information more easily viewable by showing links to it on the home page of their websites.
“The information that is available is very patchy. Tenants and landlords should be able to easily see the full costs which each agency charges for their service. They should be able to the see the full up-front costs which have to be paid before you can rent a property. Tenants and landlords should be able to see what each are charged to be sure that there is no ‘double charging’.”