You call a letting agent to tell them you’ve seen your dream home advertised on their website, a jolly sounding chap called something like Charles or Chas, depending on high end the property is, will offer to drive you there and show you around. You fall in love with it, put in an offer, you’re thrilled the landlord accepts …but the agent slaps you with a bill for hundreds of pounds.
Wait what? You thought they were driving you there in their branded Mini/Beetle/BMW for free? Oh no, my friend. In fact, even if you declined the lift and made your own way to the property, you’ll still have to pay their fees.
Not content with charging landlords hundreds – sometimes thousands – in commission, letting agents also charge tenants “admin fees”, plus other costs including charges for referencing, creating a tenancy agreement, checking you in or out of a property and …well, the list goes on.
These charges are annoying but perfectly legit, as long as the agency tells you how much you will have to pay before you sign any documents. They must also state their fees when they advertise a property, but you’d be forgiven for not spotting the two tiny words “fees apply” in the corner of the ad.
So what are our tips to avoid letting agents’ fees?
First of all, if you browse for properties on the major property sites like Rightmove and Zoopla, you’ll probably see the same place advertised by several different agents. Click on the highlighted wording “fees apply” under the letting agent’s name or logo and you should see a list of the actual charges, so you can compare fees and view the property with the agent that charges the least.
Note that some agents still don’t specify their exact charges because they’re elastic – they’ll say from £XX to £XX and charge you what they think they can get away with. Personally, I’d avoid these agents.
If you’re looking for a property in an area with low demand, you might be able to negotiate with the letting agent to lower or remove the fees altogether. Remember, they’ll be earning commission from the landlord so they won’t go hungry. You’ll have more chance of success if the agent is competing with at least one other agent to find a tenant.
If the agent is charging you for a tenancy agreement, ask them if it’s provided by them or the landlord. If the landlord is providing the agreement, you shouldn’t have to pay a penny, although some agents will try to charge you ££s.
If you expect to rent the property long-term, you’ll be charged renewal fees every time you extend your lease. Avoid this by negotiating a reduce fee at the outset, or trying to dealing directly with the landlord after you’ve moved in.
Obviously, if you’re unfortunate enough to be house hunting in an area with high demand and few homes, you won’t be in such a strong position to negotiate with the letting agent. However, you still might be able to avoid these fees altogether.
Deal direct with the landlord
Half of all landlords advertise their properties without using a high street letting agent. They use online letting agents to advertise on all the major websites and these agents charge tenants little or nothing at all. Some of their ads still say “fees apply” because they charge for referencing, but, crucially, many don’t charge tenants admin fees.
Often, a property being advertised by a high street agent is also being advertised privately by the landlord via one of these online agents, so if you scroll down through Rightmove or Zoopla, you’ll spot their ads.
So, which are the online agents? Easyproperty, Upad, OpenRent, eMoov, Makeurmove, Purplebricks and Rentify to name just a few. Look out for their ads and you could save £££s.
* Landlords, we feel your pain too. So you’ll find tips on how to avoid letting agents fees here.