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Letting agents are charging fees of up to £600 to tenants who want to privately rent a home in Wales, says housing charity Shelter.
Shelter claims letting agents mask the true cost of letting a property and wants the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to introduce new rules to make the cost of renting clearer to tenants.
The criticism of charges comes as the WAG looks at tightening up private housing rules with a proposal to licence landlords and letting agents.
Shelter has also kicked off a campaign against unfair letting charges in Scotland, where laws make some costs imposed by letting agents illegal.
“You have to question how reasonable these charges are when credit checks can be carried out online for £20 and tenancy agreements are usually standard template contracts,” said John Puzey, director of Shelter Cymru.
“These kinds of unregulated charges, which are illegal in Scotland, are making the private rented sector even more unaffordable at a time when many people in Wales are already struggling to find and keep accommodation.
“We found that most charges were not well advertised so prospective tenants are often unable to discover the true cost of setting up a tenancy until they are well into the process of making an application, by which time they may already have handed over some non-refundable payments.”
Some agents charged a flat administration fee to all tenants, while others varied the fee depending on the rent level, raising questions about why the amount of administration should depend on the cost of the home.
“This lack of transparency traps people into paying additional fees as it is almost impossible for them to make an informed choice when they start the process of renting a home,” said Puzey.
The average cost to two adults renting a two bedroom home in Wales in April was £1,294 – made up of a £233 admin fee, advance rent of £520 and a £541 deposit.
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