ASA clamps down on hidden letting agent fees
6 March 2013
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today ruled against an estate agent for not being upfront about admin fees. We want to make sure that all quoted prices are transparent to ensure that consumers get a fair deal.
The advertiser did not make clear that administration fees were excluded from the rental price on the property, and an insufficient amount of information was provided for the consumer to establish how further charges would be calculated.
In future we expect all letting agents to make clear what compulsory fees are charged when letting a property, and they should do this from the start. For example a property advertised at £1,500 per-calendar-month (pcm) which requires each tenant to pay a £150 administration fee should be advertised as £1,500 pcm + £150 admin fee per tenant.
Our ruling makes clear that advertisers must include all compulsory fees and charges upfront in the price quoted. If the fee cannot be calculated in advance because of, for example, an individual’s circumstances, then the advertisers must make clear that compulsory fees and charges are excluded and provide adequate information for consumers to establish how additional fees are calculated. This means that potential tenants will have all the information they need in the first instance to help them make an informed choice and to avoid being drawn into contracts they haven’t budgeted for.
Our priority now is to make sure our rulings are followed by the sector as a whole. We want to ensure that all quoted prices are transparent so that consumers are not misled or treated unfairly.
An investigation carried out by Which? found that the vast majority of agents have been failing to display fees upfront, in written format, and in some cases even when the information was asked for. In order to improve standards within the sector they have written to the companies to share their findings, demand improvements, and remind them of their legal responsibilities under consumer law.
Our ruling, and that of Which? will mean that potential tenants have all the information they need to compare prices and shop around, so that they can be confident when choosing a property.
Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, said:
“Hidden fees are not only unfair, they hit those who are struggling hardest. Our ruling today makes clear that Letting Agents need to get their houses in order and treat potential tenants fairly.
Renting a property is a significant commitment. And for those who are new to the rental market, like students, navigating it can be particularly difficult. That’s why the ASA is clamping down on Letting Agents who hide fees. Today’s ruling makes clear that agents must include all compulsory fees and charges in their quoted prices. If the fees cannot be calculated in advance then the agent must make clear that fees have been excluded, and provide enough information for consumers to establish how fees are calculated. It’s now our priority to make sure agents across the sector bring their advertising into line.”
Read the ruling
Your Move ruling
Which? research on letting agent fees