A London council has launched a letting agency for private tenants in a bid to protect renters from extortionate fees and charges.
Haringey Council in north London says its online letting agent, Move 51° North, is the first in the UK to provide private tenants with an alternative to mainstream letting agents.
A study by Citizens Advice last year found that tenants were paying an average of £337 in charges to letting agents, but that fees vary massively from agent to agent.
Costs for checking references ranged from £6-£300, while tenants also faced charges of between £15-£300 for simply renewing their tenancies.
Haringey Council’s agency will charge tenants a fee of £180 to cover administration and £72 for credit checks. There are no renewal fees for those tenants that wish to continue their tenancy beyond the original contract term.
Landlords will be offered lettings and management services at the market rate and access to the council’s maintenance services for any repair work.
The council will spend around £500,000 in the first three years to cover costs, but hopes to return this by the fifth year.
Around one third of the borough’s homes are privately rented, with an average rent of about £1,600 per month for a two-bedroom property.
Haringey Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, Alan Strickland, believes the agency will “help stamp out rip-off fees and charges”.
He says: “Private tenants in London are too often forgotten in the noisy debate about the housing market in our city.
“Haringey is fast becoming one of London’s most popular places to live and work, and we know many people prefer the flexibility of the private rented sector, which is why it’s vital we do more to protect them from rogue landlords and unscrupulous lettings firms.”1
Dan Wilson Craw, of Generation Rent, comments on the plans: “The average household in London pays more than £400 in agent fees when they move home, so some disruption to the market is welcome.
“We hope the council will use this as an opportunity to lead the way in providing secure tenancies with predictable rents, but for the time being, not all tenants will benefit. We need much wider reform to give renters greater power in the market.”1
Would you use a letting agency like this one?