Letting fee rules are routinely being broken by Stoke Newington letting agents, a mystery shopping investigation on Saturday has revealed.
Letting agents have been legally obligated to prominently display details of all the fees they charge to tenants since the Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into effect on 27 May. The regulations were established to ensure transparency and protect tenants from unscrupulous fees.
But of the seven Stoke Newington estate agents visited, only two displayed the fees they charge tenants in their offices.
“There’s no sign up,” said an Oakwood Estate Agents employee who asked to remain anonymous. “But it’s no secret. You just have to call.”
Two of the letting agents, Hunters and Michael Naik said they did not know the fees they charged. Those that did know said they charged between £150 to £420 per tenant to cover referencing, administration and contracting work.
Hidden fees, surcharges and vague terms such as “administration costs” are also prohibited under the new regulations.
Phillips Estates, the only letting agent visited that said they did not charge letting fees, said they charged tenants £45 for a credit check, a service that can be requested for just £2.
The two agents that did display their fees, Foxtons and Felicity J Lord, charged new tenants a minimum of £420 and £300 respectively.
Felicity J Lord is owned by Spicerhaart Residential Lettings. The company’s operations director Paul Sloan said: “This legislation should discourage bad practice, but only if it’s policed properly.”
Hackney Council said on 5 October that they were investigating the over 270 letting agents and property managers in the borough, who face a fine of up to £5,000 for any breaches.
“We will not hesitate to enforce [legal compliance] where appropriate,” said the council’s cabinet member for housing Philip Glanville.
Hackney Green Party coordinator Charlotte George questioned the council’s investigations, saying that the results of their previous mystery shopping investigations in Hackney Central and Haggerston were similar to those in Stoke Newington.
“They are clearly getting away with it because the council isn’t being vigilant enough,” she said.