It’s time to address the extortionate cost of living in London, says Shelter’s Tom McCarthy.
And now imagine if all shops worked in the same way. If they all decided to charge high fees with little warning.
Luckily we don’t face this every time we nip down to the local corner shop. If we did I don’t think my daily chocolate bar would be worth it, at £52 a pop. But when it comes to finding a home, we’re routinely charged by letting agents at every step.
At Shelter we’ve heard of ‘admin fees’ of up to £700.
Of tenants and landlords being ‘double charged’ by their letting agent for exactly the same service. Of poor services and appalling conditions, all at extortionate prices.
What’s most baffling is no other industry operates in this way – not even estate agents, who are often staffed by exactly the same people. We don’t accept it as consumers anywhere else.
These practices highlight everything undesirable about renting: the unpredictability, the extortionate costs. They restrict our ability to save up for a home of our own. Something’s got to give.
So how could things be different?
Well, agents could be up front about what we’ll be charged, displaying all fees on property adverts alongside the rent. This would give renters advance warning and make sure no additional costs were thrown in at the last minute.
Or letting agents could include the fees in the rent, so renters know exactly what they’ll pay and can plan for it accordingly.
Or maybe even the costs of letting could be passed on to the landlord, who is after all the individual the letting agency is working for.
These are just a few of my ideas. But we all have the opportunity to feed into how renting could be improved. Boris Johnson, London’s Mayor, is looking to redesign London’s renting. He’s asking for our views as part of the London Rental Standard consultation.
We’re asking renters across the capital to take part and tell Boris about their experiences, to help him understand what the problems are and how things could be changed.