The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) is launching its Fair Fees Forum, which will bring industry, trading standards and consumer groups together to discuss the creation of a fair fees charter for the private rented sector.
The Fair Fees Forum will explore whether a cap on upfront tenant fees is practical and enforceable, while also examining a uniform format to outline clearly the exact fees charged to tenants.
The issue of letting agent fees in England refuses to go away, with increasing numbers of tenant organisations pushing for an outright ban on fees. Following months of uncertainty, NALS acted to create the Fair Fees Forum. The Forum will work together to consider fees and ensure agents are still paid for the work they do setting up a tenancy, while looking at a way to curb the fee excesses that may have crept into some parts of the market.
Backing for a cap on fees has been led by NALS, and is gaining support across the industry. NALS asked 1,000 of its letting agent firms based in England if they would agree that a cap on their fees might be appropriate, as opposed to an outright ban. The results were compelling, with 84 per cent of agents agreeing, as they believed they were already charging a fair fee for their services, and would fall within any proposed limit.
This was borne out in NALS’ research which also showed that, on average, the fees letting agents charge per tenant were £172* – significantly below the national average of £233 reported in the English Survey of Housing** and recent figures quoted by the Citizens Advice Bureau***.
Isobel Thomson, Chief Executive of NALS said: “Ultimately this is about creating an equitable solution for all. The truth is, a good private rented sector cannot be free, and nor should it be. Agents should be paid for the work they do, but equally tenants should know they are paying a reasonable fee that has been explained to them clearly: nothing hidden, nothing excessive.
“The private rented sector faces the widely held misconception that all letting agent fees are sky high, and should therefore be banned. In fact, the bulk of letting agents are charging tenants a fair fee for their service. Where they aren’t, we believe excessive fees should be curbed. NALS’ Fair Fees Forum brings all sides together to explore the feasibility and practicalities of a cap as well as considering the way in which agents’ present fees to tenants to ensure clarity and understanding. This is not a talking shop – it’s time to act on excessive tenant fees.”
*Based on total average fee reported by each NALS respondent divided by the total number of valid records.
**The English Housing Survey Private Rented Sector Report, 2014-15 (published July 2016)
The average value of the letting agent fee was £223, up from £196 in 2009-10. Industry data from December 2014 found that on average, ARLA, NALS and RICS member offices charge tenants £202 in total.
***Citizens Advice ReportSeptember 2016
- 365 NALS member offices responded to the survey, between 12 – 26 September 2016.
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The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) exists to make renting safer and fairer for tenants and landlords, and to promote professionalism in the private rented sector.
NALS is an independent licensing scheme for lettings and management agents. When people see the NALS name, they know that firm has agreed to meet defined standards of customer service, is part of a Client Money Protection Scheme and has a customer complaints procedure offering independent redress.