13
Aug
2019

Letting agents are still charging tenants illegal fees

A number of letting agents are still breaking the law in Northern Ireland by charging tenants illegal fees for renting a home.  A Belfast court ruled making such charges to tenants was illegal in 2017.

The law breaking came to light when researchers from the BBC asked more than 50 Belfast letting agents about the cost of setting up a tenancy for a private rented home.

Two out of three admitted they impose a non-refundable charge of between £15 and £60 as an administration fee on each private tenant, with the charge going towards credit checks and taking up references.

The court ruling means tenants can ask for a refund of any tenancy set-up fees they paid to letting agents, who should instead pass the costs to landlords. Scotland led the way with a ban in 1984, followed by England in June 2019. A fee ban is scheduled to start in Wales from September.

Samuel Dickey, a spokesman for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Northern Ireland, told the BBC: “It is not to say that the letting agent can't recover the fees but they have to charge them to the landlord and not the tenant.

"There is a lack of enforcement and a lack of policing. Who is going to take letting agents to task? We need regulation in the industry."

He explained a review of the private rented sector was started by the Stormont government, but has stalled due to the political vacuum.

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