A councillor in Southend, Essex has vowed to do battle with local agents who charge tenants high letting fees after his son killed himself over the cost of renting a flat.
Southend independent councillor Tino Callaghan says the council has supported his motion to ‘name and shame’ local agents charging tenants high administration costs.
Mr Callaghan, who launched the initiative with fellow councillor Laurence Davis, says his son was worried because he couldn’t afford the cost of a deposit for a flat to house his family.
“Registration fees can be astronomical and we have spoken to many tenants who been caught out with fees,” Mr Davis told the Halstead Gazette.
“The council can’t enforce anything but they can name and shame those who are not acting in the best interests of the public.”
This tragedy played out in Southend is the latest development in a growing campaign by several media outlets, councils and politicians to highlight what they see as the excessive administration fees charged by some agents.
This includes The Guardian newspaper which recently called fees a ‘great letting agency rip-off’ while in May this year the London Borough of Tower Hamlets gave six local agents 28 days to display fees or face a £5,000 fine, following a local campaign.
“Since April 2015 lettings agents are legally obliged to display their fees prominently online and in their offices, but research showed that 34 of around 134 agents operating in the borough were failing to do so”, the Tower Hamlets Renters campaign website says.
Also, a bill was introduced in Parliament in June this year by Lib Dem peer Baroness Grender designed to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act. This would prevent letting agents charging tenants a range of fees including registration, administration, inventory check and reference fees and recently passed its second hearing unopposed.