End ‘extortionate’ fees to renters says council

The action comes as part of Hackney Councils #BetterRenting campaign Pic: Hackney Council

Estate agents in Hackney are coming under increasing pressure to stop charging unfair fees on private rentals. 143 letting agents have been urged by the council to scrap the extortionate fees many charge for tenancy renewals and reference checking. Already one Stoke Newington agent is backing the scheme.

In a letter sent to agencies across the borough the town hall called on estate agents to get rid of admin fees “to create a fairer and more transparent private renting system in Hackney”.

Letting agents for Hackney’s 32,000 private rented households currently charge hundreds of pounds to check references or guarantors, renew tenancies for the same property, or to change a name on a contract. Recent research revealed that renters pay an average of £400 in letting fees per tenancy.

The government announced in April that it plans to ban exorbitant letting fees and hidden charges but provide a timeframe for when these rules would be implemented. Plans such as eliminating charges for signing new tenancy agreements were included in the Draft Tenants’ Fees Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech in June, but without a clear legislative timetable.

Councillor Sem Moema, Mayoral Advisor for Private Renting and Housing Affordability, said:

“We’re encouraging all lettings agents in Hackney to sign up to scrap the fees. Not only will this help local businesses get ahead of the competition in advance of any full ban by Government – we want to demonstrate that Hackney is a progressive, forward-thinking borough.”

Moema also posted a copy of the letter on her Twitter feed.

The scheme is so far backed by Julian Reid Estate Agents

“We want to be open and transparent about what a tenant will pay at the start of the tenancy and we don’t think the fact that we don’t charge fees puts us at a disadvantage against our competitors,” said Julian Reid, owner of the offices in Church Street.

The council has also called on the government to provide a clear timescale for its proposal to ban the letting agent fees in a letter this week.

Moema, along with Housing Minister Alok Sharma and Mayor Philip Glanville, have requested full details on when the ban will come in to effect and assurances that the proposal will not be watered down. The council said the government has been “dragging its feet” in securing fairer tenancies for private renters.

“We have long called on the Government to take action to stop this extortionate financial burden placed on private renters. But, in the absence of any real change on the ground, we’re taking matters into our own hands and are working directly with local letting agents to create a fairer system,” the council added in a statement this week.

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