Tenancy fees can vary by more than 1,500pc depending on the agent and by hundreds of pounds between towns, new research has revealed.
The most expensive town found was Basingstoke, at £622 for an unmarried couple moving into an average rental property. The cheapest town uncovered by the research – conducted by Urban.co.uk – was Harborough, at £137.
The most expensive agency found had charges over 1,500pc higher than the cheapest for the same set of services. These included the set up costs, contract fees and any referencing fees.
Fees are part and parcel of renting, but in many areas demand for rental properties is high, and estate agents effectively have a captive audience to levy fees from.
Some agencies were found to be adding expensive peripheral costs to ramp up how much they could charge tenants. Examples found included photocopying at £5 a copy, additional charges to move in on a weekend and additional fees for keys.
However, there were only six towns where the cost for an unmarried couple exceeded £500, and 15 towns where the figure was £200 or less. Only two individual agents exceeded the £1,000 mark, and the five cheapest agencies ranged from £72 to £110.
Personal circumstances were found to influence the fees charged at some agencies. At one, getting married or divorced and changing a surname on an agreement came with a £200 cost.
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Although the fees in London and the South were found to be generally higher, steep fees were by no means constrained to these areas. Lichfield in Staffordshire was found to cost an average of £467 for an unmarried couple, and Alnwick in Northumberland came in at £530.
Dan Wilson Craw, policy manager at campaign group Generation Rent, said: “Renters tend to choose the best flat they can afford rather than go with whichever agent charges the lowest fees. This gives agents a captive market and some exploit it by charging many times more than the admin really costs.”
He added that landlords are the agents’ real customers and so “fees to tenants should be banned”, with the landlord paying the admin charges instead.
“Because landlords get to choose which agent to use, unscrupulous agents wouldn’t be able to get away with the profiteering they currently enjoy,” Mr Craw said.
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