Letting Agents Told To Show Fees When Advertising Online
Great news for landlords and tenants as the new ruling on 1st November by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) means that Letting Agents and private landlords must display their non-optional fees in their property adverts for properties to let.
This means that tenants will now be able to see instantly how much it will be to use that letting agent (or private landlord) including any:
- Registartion fee
- Credit Check fee
- Admin fee
- Resigning fee
- Referencing fee
- Basically any FEE that is incurred from start to finish of the tenancy.
Amanda Whaley from Private Landlord Directory says ” this is a much needed and massive step forward to bringing more clarity, honesty and openness into the private rented sector PRS). I have heard so many reports from tenants who claim never to have been told the FULL SCALE of charges when first applying for a rented property, especially re-signing fees and fees to give tenant references.”
You will see that many of the online letting agents have already changed their listings and it makes interesting reading in the list of fees and the comparison from South to North. Some letting agents have put up a disclaimer whilst others are putting up a list of fees but no prices. (examples below)
Administration fees may apply when renting a property in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. For more details, please contact the agent.
From Friday 1st November 2013, Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) will consider appropriate follow-up action against advertisers who aren’t sticking to the rules of advertising their fees. If you feel you are being mislead or the fees are not available along with the property details you can contact CAP directly at http://www.cap.org.uk
If you would like to see the guidelines that have been issued by CAP then please follow Guidelines for displaying fees
Whilst this ruling stands out as though it applies only to letting agents this is not the case, it also applies to private landlords that are advertising online. Being up-front about charges not only gives tenants a fair deal it also has the knock on effect of being good for business and the reputation of the sector as a whole.
Letting agent asking me sign a new tenancy and pay fee.
- I am being forced into signing a new 6 months AST and being asked to pay the re-signing fee,when nothing has changed.
- I don’t want to sign another 6 months AST.
- Do I have to sign another tenancy agreement?
Are these some of the scenarios that you have come across? We all here the horror stories about tenants being made/forced/pressured into signing a new 6/12 months AST and sometimes (more in the case of letting agents) asked to pay a re-signing fee.
Amanda Whaley the founder of Private Landlord Directory asked the Tenant and Landlord Law specialist Gareth Archer from Bury & Walkers LLP Solicitors the questions:
“Can you clarify if a letting agent or landlord can make the tenant re-sign a 6 months AST before the current one comes to the end of it’s term?”
“The tenant can’t be forced into signing a new AST and so it would continue of a periodic basis until notice is given and the property vacated. Clearly the tenant would not have the “security” of a further 6 months and may well find that they receive a possession notice although I suspect that the landlord may be happy to continue if their tenant is paying the rent and behaving themselves.”
“So why are some letting agents forcing people to resign and some charging them to do so?”
“I guess this goes to the recent consultations and reports issued by the OFT and Government, as well as the previous issues as to letting agent fees to seek a more level playing field for tenants to be forearmed with knowledge and to regulate to actions of agents.
I can understand why agents seek further costs and why the landlord may want a further 6 months in writing. Equally, the tenant may also want a further 6 months guaranteed (provided they don’t breach the tenancy and face a section 8 notice before the end of the fixed term).”
“For clarity, at the end of the term of the initial term of the tenancy does the landlord or tenant still have to give notice to end it, otherwise how do you know it will just continue onto a periodic and the landlord or letting agent isn’t just going to show up demanding the keys?”
The Housing Act 1988 states that a landlord has the legal right to repossess their property at the end of the tenancy. In order for a landlord legally do this they must follow the correct legal procedure which is to serve the correct legal notice (section 21 or in cases of arrears or no compliance with the T&C’s in the AST section to the tenant.
A tenant is required by law to be given 2 months notice if the landlord wishes for them to vacate and repossess the property. Specifying the “end-date” in a tenancy agreement alone is not a valid repossession notice.
“In order to end the tenancy a Court Order is required unless the tenant voluntarily vacates after giving the legal required amount of notice. If the landlord turns up demanding the keys, the tenant can tell them where to go and call the police if no possession order is there to enforce.”
So there is the answer to the question, ‘Can I refuse to sign a new AST if there are NO changes in circumstances?’
Don’t you just appreciate a straight talking solicitor?
There are 2 other related articles to this topic that you may wish to read:
Do you want to be a Property Investor or a Landlord?
Are you considering investing in a BTL (buy to let) property ? If you are then the first question you should ask yourself is this…
Do you want to be a landlord or a property investor?
Do you want to invest in property and not have anything to do with it? Do you want to hand over the money, sit back and let a professional build your property portfolio, deal with your tenants and you receive income each month?
Or are you someone who wants to be hands-on? Do you want to choose the property? Find the best BTL rates, choose the tenants, manage the tenancy and potentially make more money from the investment as you are not paying professional fees?
Amanda Whaley who is a private landlord says “I have many conversations with people who say that they would love to be in property or are thinking about getting into the BTL property market. I tell them that the first thing that they need to do is decide if they want to be a landlord or a property investor as this will change the path that they take.”
Deciding how involved you want to be from the outset is crucial. Do you want to get involved with looking for the property, marketing and deciding who is going to rent it and then manage the tenancy (be a private landlord) ? You may wish to buy the BTL property and then hand it over to a letting agent to deal with the management of it. If this is the case then you would be classing yourself as a landlord or even a private landlord (if you managed the property/tenancy yourself).
There is a growing trend of property investors buying property at reduced value, (below market value) making good any repairs that need doing in order to let the property to a local authority scheme or social housing scheme as a long term let (3-5yrs). The property is usually let below LHA (local housing allowance) rates but has a guarantee that the rent is paid for the term of the agreement regardless if the property is occupied.
Other articles that may be of interest are:
Private Landlords Renting In London
Looking to rent a property in London from a Private Landlord?
The new online property portal for private landlords allows private landlords and tenants to connect and deal direct.
Private landlords can upload their properties for FREE, interested parties then view the properties online and connect directly with the landlord. There is a small cost of £1 to get the direct contact number of the landlord so that the applicant can deal direct.
The website has many other services for private landlords and tenants including:
- Free Property Advertising including social media
- Free downloadable Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST)
- Free guide on how to reference check applicants
- Free guide on what to expect from your landlord
- Experian credit checks (£8 24hr guaranteed turnaround) no contracts involved – PAYG
- Blog/information/updates in letting laws & legislation
Private Landlord Directory believes in being upfront with fees. With that in mind all properties listed include:
- Rent Payable
- Bond Payable
- Tenant referencing fees cost
- Allows LHA (Local housing allowance / Housing benefit / DHSS
- Allow Pets
- EPC rating (Energy Performance Certificate)
- Number bedroom/bathrooms
The terms and conditions of using this new online private landlord letting portal is that the landlords have to be a PRIVATE LANDLORDS and applicants need to be TENANTS. These T&C’s were set up to stop letting agents and other online portals from abusing the website and mining information to contact users and try to sell their products/services.
So if you are a Private Landlord or Tenant looking to rent property in London then have a look at Private Landlord Directory, the property portal for private landlords and tenants looking to connect and deal direct.
JUST LAUNCHED new website that connects Private Landlords and Tenants directly.
Not only is the cost of renting on the increase, the price of securing a rental property is also a cost that tenants need to cover. With the average deposit now being 6 weeks rent, the cost of the application fees (varies from region to region but can run into hundred’s £) and the cost of the actual move, tenants are having to find a substantial amount of money upfront in order to rent.
The new Private Landlord Directory enables Private Landlords an unlimited amount of advertising not only on the site site itself but also with Zoopla and it’s affiliates. Tenants and Private Landlords can register and browse the site for free and when the tenants see a property that they like the look of, they can get the direct contact details of the landlord via email, text or calling the office.
Amanda Whaley from Private Landlord Directory.com is a private landlord herself and has developed the website with the view to making renting from for the private sector more affordable both for the landlord and the tenant.
Tenants and Private Landlords can use the credit checking facilities, Local Housing Allowance rate checker and get help and advice from property professionals.
The website has just been launched this weekend and is therefore still early days but with the whole ethos of the website geared up to help Private Landlords and Tenants to connect and work directly together, it is certainly one to bookmark.
The Office of Fair Trading gave clearance for the proposed merger between Digital Property Group Ltd and Zoopla Ltd to go ahead.
This merger is expected to be completed within the next few weeks and will create a credible alternative to current market-leader Rightmove, delivering enhanced value to both property marketing agents and those looking to purchase and rent property.
Evidence received during the investigation by the Office of Fair Trading found that the merger would not result in reduced competition and therefore did not warrant reference to the Competition Commission for further investigation.
Once completed, the merger is set to be a great win for both consumers and advertisers, with far greater coverage of property listings and an unrivalled consumer audience across the UK. The combined business will be in a position to offer an enhanced product to its users and superior value to its members.
The merger brings together a complementary set of brands including Findaproperty.com, Zoopla.co.uk and Primelocation.com and will result in the creation of a world-class property search platform with a team that continues to lead innovation in the online property market.
Alex Chesterman Founder and CEO of Zoopla has said “We have always been firmly of the view that this transaction is pro-competitive and is good news for both our users and customers. We are glad to be in a position now to be able to get on with the business of making the proposed benefits a reality. We have much work to do to integrate our businesses and are looking forward to the opportunities ahead.”
Mark Milner, CEO of the Digital Property Group says “This is an important day for the industry, given the long-awaited balance in the market that this deal will deliver. It has been a long time coming and the enhanced value that the combined business will provide will make this deal a clear win for UK estate agents, letting agents and housebuilders.”
Martin Morgan, Chief Executive of DMGT said “We are delighted that the merger has been approved. We now have the opportunity to challenge the market leader in the online property sector, to the benefit of both consumers and clients”.
Private Landlord Directory already advertises with Zoopla so sees this merger as a very positive move..
Recent news articles have highlighted the fact the Right to Buy properties are now costing some local councils up to four times as much in rent to private landlords as they were able to gain when the properties belonged to the council and they charged the rent.
It has been reported that nearly half of Westminster’s 22,000 council homes have been sold through Right to Buy over the past 30 years. Government rules do not allow local authorities to keep the sale proceeds of these properties, so these sold properties have not been replaced with more social housing. Many of the flats originally purchased under Rent to Buy have been bought up by private landlords and then rented out to tenants, many of whom are claiming benefits.
This has left some local councils with the situation where they are paying housing benefit to tenants who are renting ex-council properties from private landlords. This sometimes results in costs to the council of around four times the rent charged for a council home rented directly from the council. In some areas, this amount could even be up to five or six times the council rent.
What a mess, but can it be avoided? Probably not as rentals from private landlords are a big portion of the rental sector throughout the UK, which is good news for landlords, perhaps not such good news for local councils.
Looking for a property to rent? Check out current properties available on the Private Landlord Directory.com website.
Buy-to-let mortgage arrears have not yet surged as a result of the increasing number of severe tenant arrears cases. This gives the impression that the landlord is still meeting the mortgage payments even if the rent has not been paid by the tenant. In the last three months of 2011, the number of buy-to-let mortgages that were more than three months in arrears fell by 5% compared to the previous quarter, representing an annual decline of 22%. However there are still more than three times as many buy-to-let mortgages in severe arrears than in Q4 2007.
Low mortgage rates have been a godsend for private landlords, and have helped prevent mortgage arrears from spiraling in spite of the increased number of tenants facing severe arrears. Not only have private landlords kept down the monthly payments they face, but low interest rates, compared to high rents, have also allowed many investors to set aside slush funds, and/or pay for rental guarantee schemes to guard against potential mortgage arrears.
Non-payment of rent is a landlord’s worst nightmare. A tenant in severe arrears means not only that the landlord doesn’t receive the rental income needed to pay the mortgage, and they are unable to fill the property as they would with a void period, because the property is already occupied.
As a result, in the current economic climate, there is an even greater need to rigorously scrutinise a prospective tenant’s financial circumstances at the start of any tenancy. In many cases, landlords are willing to negotiate on the rent to accept the tenant with the best financial credentials.
A new scheme which increases a tenants’ credit rating if they keep up to date on their rent is being introduced by credit referencing company EXPERIAN.
The scheme known as the Rental Exchange could help to strengthen a tenants’ credit history in the same way that a good payment record to a mortgage company helps a homeowner gain credit.
This seems to be a positive development as it gives tenants an incentive to pay their rent on time and gain a higher credit score which will help them in the future to obtain credit including a mortgage.
Currently the Rental Exchange will only operate with a number of the larger corporate private landlords but if it could be widened to small private landlords it would be an excellent way of encouraging tenants to be prompt with their rental payments and bring down rental arrears. The scheme allows landlords registered for the initiative to share information on a secure website and could help tenants get better access to mainstream low-cost credit. The information will be held by Experian’s secure database for up to 36 months, being accessed by other landlords and credit providers only when requested with the express consent of the tenant.
Paul Vescovi, UK & Ireland managing director of Experian Credit Services, said: “With several million people currently living in privately rented accommodation, a significant percentage of the population could be missing out on mainstream, low-cost credit because lenders do not have a comprehensive picture of their financial track record.
“The Rental Exchange will strengthen people’s credit histories, helping them to access a wider range of credit deals.”
As renting is increasingly becoming a lifestyle choice for many Britons, it is important that the process for credit scoring accurately reflects a tenant’s status and rent payment history to enable them to have fair access to affordable credit and services.
If a tenant has a good credit history they are more likely to be successful in renting from a private landlord. If they are given an incentive to pay their rent on time, it is not only going to benefit them in the long term, but also the landlord who is able to rest easy that he has someone who is financially able to meet the rent each month.
Private Landlord Directory we are able to offer Experian Credit Checks for just £8 (+vat) with a guarantee 24 hour turnaround. We are authorised brokers of Experian, one of the UK’s leading credit referencing agency.
From 6 April 2012, landlords and letting agents will have just seven days to produce an EPC to prospective tenants after they’ve started marketing a property, rather than the previous 28 day period. The full report including recommendation to improve the energy efficiency of the property must also be provided whereas at the moment only the graph showing energy efficiency is required. (This report is not the same as the annual CP12 Gas Safety Certificate.)
From April 2018 it will be unlawful to rent out any premises, including commercial premises, that have an energy efficiency rating of less than E.
The penalties for non-compliance are not changing. This will continue to be enforced by Trading Standards officers with the issuing of penalty charge notices. Currently the penalty for non-compliance for the sale or letting of a dwelling is £200.
Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) give information on how to make your home more energy efficient and reduce your energy costs. All homes bought, sold or rented require an EPC. If a building is made up of separate units, each with its own heating system, each unit will require an EPC. So if you are a private landlord with a block of flats, each flat will require an EPC.
EPCs carry ratings which compare the current energy efficiency and estimated costs of energy use. The rating measures the energy efficiency of your home using a grade from ‘A’ to ‘G’. An ‘A’ rating is the most efficient, with ‘G’ being the least efficient. The average efficiency grade to date is ‘D’. All homes are measured using the same calculations, so you can compare the energy efficiency of different properties.
You don’t have to act on the recommendations in the recommendation report. However, if you decide to do so, it could make your property more attractive for sale or rent by making it more energy efficient thus keeping energy bills low.
Regardless of the benefits of the EPC, you do need to make sure that it is completed by a Registered Domestic Energy Assessor. The certificates cost around £50 plus VAT*. Private Landlord Directory has a list of recommended tradesmen so you will be able to find a list of EPC Assessors near you.
* This is a guide price only and cannot be used as a quote
There seems to be a very healthy demand for rental properties across the UK right now, which in part may be driven by the costs associated with buying a home: costs which, for some, will only increase as the stamp duty holiday comes to an end. Average gross yields on a buy to let property have been just over six per cent for the past two years, driven by growth in rental values.
However, with house prices likely to remain broadly flat again this year, buy to let landlords can again expect little capital gain on their investment in 2012.
Regional rental prices show significant variation
While the national average monthly rent increased by 4.8% overall, there are more significant gains in regional areas. The largest increases were in East Anglia (8.0%) and the North (6.9%). The South East and Greater London recorded rises of 5.8% and 5.6% respectively. In contrast, rents increased by less than 1% in Wales (0.1%) and Scotland (0.7%).
Average rents in London are more than twice the national average
The average rent in Greater London remains significantly higher than elsewhere in the UK, at £1,212 per month. The average monthly rent in the capital is 69% higher than UK average of £716 and 41% above that in the South East (£858) – the next highest region. The lowest average rents are in Wales (£474 per month), the North and Yorkshire and the Humber (both £488 per month).
One couple signed up for a PV installation in their roof – then found the 25-year lease made it hard to remortgage their home, despite official guidelines
Thousands of households that agreed to rent their roofs to solar panel companies, in return for free electricity, could find their properties are unsaleable. It has emerged that lenders have begun turning down mortgage applications from homeowners who signed up to the schemes.
Guardian Money has been contacted by a Southampton couple who were refused by several companies when they tried to remortgage. The refusals were on the basis that they had agreed to allow a firm to install solar panels on their roof for the duration of a 25-year lease. Although their existing mortgage provider agreed to the scheme, the couple are now worried they won’t be able to sell if potential buyers also struggle to find a loan.
Money believes that their case, which is probably the first of its kind, threatens the viability of “rent a roof” schemes and could result in a raft of legal disputes. And anyone else who signed up to such a deal will be prompted to get out the paperwork and pore over the fine print.
John and Rebecca Welton had the solar panels installed just before Christmas 2011. The installation was offered by My Energy Station, a trading name of Birmingham-based Norton Energy Solutions. They were promised the free electricity the panels would generate during daylight hours, worth around £150 a year, while My Energy Station would pay for the panels. But in return the company would pocket the lucrative feed-in-tariffs, which are worth 10 times that figure.
“Before we agreed we checked with our current mortgage provider, RBS, and our mortgage adviser, that it would not cause any issue when we came to remortgage or when we try to sell the house,” says Rebecca.
At the time, both said that it was not a problem – but the couple heard a different story when they tried to remortgage in February. A broker found them a better deal with the Skipton building society and they paid a booking fee for the loan. However, when the it learned of the solar lease, it pulled out. It has since told the broker it will not look at any remortgage deals where there is a solar lease in place.
The Weltons then tried the Nationwide. Again, Rebecca says, they were turned down flat, and didn’t even get to the point where a submission was made. RBS has offered them an alternative mortgage on the basis that it had approved the solar installation, but their broker is struggling to find a cheaper deal with another lender.
“We signed up to this scheme on the basis that we were doing the green thing, but it has turned out to be a nightmare,” says John, who works as an air traffic controller. “The implications for us are that we cannot remortgage our house on a lower interest rate. We would still have a mortgage but one on the standard variable rate which will increase with the Bank of England interest rates.
“We are extremely concerned that we will not be able to sell our house as no buyer will be able to get a mortgage on it. We can’t be the only people in this position, can we?”
The problem is, they could be the first to come up against this barrier.
Solar leasing deals were heavily marketed last year as a host of companies sought to cash in on the generous feed-in-tariffs payable to those with solar PV panels on their roofs. Salesmen toured housing estates giving homeowners the hard sell.
The most scrupulous firms sought their customers’ mortgage provider’s agreement, but many didn’t. It seems few people who agreed to solar leases have tried to switch mortgage since.
Last year the Council of Mortgage Lenders produced a guide to try to help the panel providers and the mortgage companies standardise the process. However, it seems mortgage departments are ignoring, or are unaware of, this guide, and are turning down such applications, possibly because they haven’t seen one before.
The issue does not affect those who paid for their panels to be installed.
Money understands lenders are concerned they will not be able to dispose of homes where a PV lease has been agreed by the previous owner. The leases run for 25 years, and so would have to be passed on to any buyer. Crucially, they would restrict a mortgage provider if it was forced to repossess. The lease company will only remove the panels if the lender can show it has tried and failed to sell it.
A spokeswoman for the Skipton told us the society does accept applications where a PV lease scheme exists. However, its guidance to brokers, updated on 20 February, clearly states: “The society will NOT lend where the panel provider is supplying and fitting panels free of charge, is taking income from the grid tariff scheme and is creating a long-term lease against the roof and roof air space.”
The Nationwide told Money it was committed to lending on such projects, but the Weltons’ broker was told, on two occasions, by Nationwide staff that it would not lend on a home where a PV lease was in place, unless it had been agreed by Nationwide originally.
Sue Anderson, who represents the Council of Mortgage Lenders, cautions against reading too much into one case. “I am not aware that there has been any wholesale policy change from lenders – it has always been a commercial decision for lenders, and they take different views. But I certainly haven’t heard of any universal move not to allow remortgage business for properties with leased solar panels,” she says.
Sarwar Ahmed, a director at Norton Energy Solutions, says this is the first such problem his company has come across and says it is “something that we need to look into more deeply”.
He adds: “There needs to be a clearer policy from the banking sector with regard to solar schemes. You mentioned that Nationwide has refused the Weltons a remortgage but has been happy to give its consent to existing customers who want to participate in free solar schemes.”
Ahmed says the lease offered by the company has been drawn up in accordance with guidance from the Council of Mortgage Lenders. He adds that the couple could buy out the scheme for around £15,000, which would solve the problem.
“I would like to get this individual case resolved from a customer perspective, but also appreciate the fact that they have highlighted an issue that will become increasingly relevant as solar leases mature,” he says.