We have warned you to be clear what other charges might apply to a tenancy. Typical examples can include:
- Administration fee – £300 mainly for the preparation of the rental agreement.
- Credit check – £150 confirms names, address and bank details
- Inventory fee – £80 Third Party Inventory Clerks can charge up to 2 weeks rent.
- Renewal fee – £100 Most ‘assured shorthold’ tenancies are six month contracts.
- Maintenance £40 - phoning a plumber.
- Insurance fee – £200
- Checking out fee – £45
- Cleaning fee – £150
- VAT 17.5%
That’s £1200 to rent a flat!
In a recent case a couple hunting for a home came across a bargain – a flat too good to be true. The alarm bells would be ringing for a reader of the Renting Flats in London Blog, but to the couple there was nothing wrong with the smart first-floor Central London flat &, eager to beat off competition, they put down a deposit. First they signed a short contract which included the following innocent-sounding clause: ‘I, the Landlord herewith confirm having received the amount £900 (one month’s rent) as a deposit for one-bedroom flat with a view to entering into a rental agreement … subject to being provided with satisfactory references. Should the references not be satisfactory, the deposit will be paid back (less a fee for checking the references, depending upon the time spent at a rate of £75 per hour, plus expenses such as phone calls).’
Problems arose, however, when the Landlord approached a referee, a finance director at their employer, and began asking questions. The director thought that it was inappropriate to be quizzed, and the couple agreed - ’if this is what he was going to be like as a landlord, I wasn’t interested. I would simply notify him to say we didn’t want the apartment’.
the Landlord told themm it was too late as a reference check was under way. In the end, the landlord refunded £200 of the £900 deposit, claiming the balance was time spent on checking the references.
Another couple of prospective tenants were told that they had failed the reference check because their combined income was not enough to cover the rent, and received only £240 from the £865 deposit. The couple insist their references were ‘spotless’ and their combined income of £2,500 a month was adequate.
A citizens advice bureau adviser has advised four sets of would-be tenants who have put down deposits of close to £1,000 each for the elusive apartment and all have lost most of their deposit. ‘He could well be making a good living out of doing this if our suspicions are right,’ he says.
But do the would-be tenants who willingly signed up to the agreement have a legal leg to stand on? Unfortunately not – it is not an unlawful contract, but it is a rip-off. A police response is that it was a ‘civil matter’ they should pursue themselves.
· Read the small print. Don’t get pressurised or rushed into signing any agreement. Ignore the assurances of landlords that ‘it’s just a formality’ or ‘that clause doesn’t really matter’.
· Bring your own references from an employer, previous landlord, bank etc. Get other references yourself if necessary in case the landlord or agents try to charge you for obtaining any additional references. Consider negotiating a clause that any deductions for reference checking, for example, don’t exceed £50.