Getting set up in a private tenancy can be eye-wateringly expensive. Not only must new tenants find thousands of pounds upfront for tenancy deposits and rent in advance – they also have to pay fees to letting agents, which often cost hundreds and are difficult to compare in the marketplace.
Between late January and early March 2016 we carried out a mass participative mystery shop of 85 letting agents across Wales.
With the help of our campaign supporters we reviewed websites and rang agents to find out what fees they charged and how they displayed them. What we found amounts to a widespread disregard for the law.
More than half of the agents we mystery shopped are not following legal requirements to display their fees clearly. Many agents gave information about fees over the phone that contradicted what was on their websites, while some appeared to be making up fees on the spot.
Overall, the highest fee was 12 times as high as the lowest.
The sum total of this is an uncompetitive market which is failing to drive down prices for the growing number of individuals, couples and families in Wales who rely on private rented housing. This needs to change.
In the face of these realities there is only one realistic solution – to ban letting agents from charging fees to tenants to establish a tenancy.
Read our report here