Cutting our massive fees is bad for you, say estate agents

Cutting our massive fees is bad for you, say estate agents. And the Tories believe them.

And the Tories believe them

In Scotland, tenancy fees have been abolished and, should Labour win next year’s General Election, Ed Miliband would like to do the same this side of the border.

Good news for tenants then, eh? No more eye-watering £250 ‘administration fees’ for five minutes of paper pushing.

Unsurprisingly, some estate agents don’t like the prospect of the abolition of these highly profitable levies, and have reacted to the prospect of them coming to England by complaining to a receptive right-wing media.

What’s more remarkable is how easily the Conservatives have accepted the special pleading of estate agents as evidence that the abolition of tenancy fees is causing higher rents in Scotland.

In response to the news that there has been a 2.7 per cent increase in residential rents in Scotland over the past year, Tory housing minister Brandon Lewis said today that it was ‘now clear that Labour’s plans for the private rented sector would force up rents for tenants’.

It gets a little Orwellian, too. Quoting Gordon Fowlis of the letting agency Your Move, an article on Conservative Home today claims that in Scotland the banning of fees has ‘heightened the financial strain on tenants’.

That’s right: stopping estate agents from charging exorbitant fees has heightened the financial strain on tenants.

This is apparently because landlords and letting agencies are recouping lost revenue by imposing higher rents.

So what does the evidence say? Are rents going up in Scotland because of the ban on letting agency fees? And if England does follow suit, are we likely to see similar consequences here?

Well in a word, no.

Extensive research, released in June of this year and carried out by the housing charity Shelter, found that:

  • Tenants in Scotland had not reported higher rents than two years ago when the legislation was introduced.

  • Nearly 60 per cent of letting agency managers said the ban had not impacted on their business.

  • The lettings market in Scotland has actually grown in the 12 months prior to the survey.

  • Over half of letting agency managers (54 per cent) said the ban on fees was positive for the sector.

  • The majority of landlords who use agents (70 per cent) had not noticed an increase in the fees they pay.

Could it be (perish the thought) that Conservative Home has taken at face value the special pleading of certain vested interests?

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