Hopeful tenants are paying letting agents upfront fees simply to register with them and look around properties.
The agents, naming themselves relocation agents, charge upfront fees for registrations and viewings, claiming they do not receive payment from landlords.
Allegedly, by calling themselves this, the agents are exempt from the normal regulations, which prohibit letting agents from charging prospective tenants for registering with them or providing a list of properties.
If letting agents do this, they are committing a criminal offence and tenants can report them to Trading Standards.
But can these firms escape the law by calling themselves a different name and not charging landlords?
It still appears that these agents act on behalf of the landlord, whether they are paid by them or not, in finding properties and booking viewings for tenants.
This dilemma is similar to the for sale by tender side of the sales sector, in which the agent acts on behalf of the vendor but mostly charges the buyer.
Easyletsuk is a firm that apparently operates under the relocation agents name, listing on Rightmove and charging £79 for tenants to see properties over four months.
Another agency, Spacelet lists on Zoopla and charges £79 just to register.
Spacelet’s Claire Reynolds explains the service: “We are not an estate agency or a letting agency, we are property finders and we work differently from the former two types of agencies.
“We are not instructed by landlords and therefore do not charge landlords a commission.
“We are absolutely free to landlords and, in return, they give us discounts on their properties.”1