Tuesday, 4 September 2012 8:25 AM
One in four people feel they are being "ripped off" by letting agents, the housing and homelessness charity Shelter today revealed.
Twenty three per cent of those surveyed believe unfair fees are being levied against them, equivalent to 11 million people.
These include fees for 'administration', credit checks and for renewing a contract.
More than half said that the fees are unwarranted because they do not equate to the cost or amount of work done.
Kay Boycott, Shelter’s director of campaigns, accused letting agents of "scandalous" behaviour.
She continued: "Some letting agents are creaming off huge profits from the boom in private renting, by charging both tenants and landlords fees that are totally out of proportion to the service they provide.
"With costs like these, on top of the sky-high rents that families already face, it’s no surprise that many dread the day they have to look for a new place to rent."
Jane Ingram, president of the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA), agreed that standards need to be "raised" and called for the government to act "swiftly" and introduce a robust licensing system to protect consumers.
“ARLA has already taken steps to help inform and protect consumers by setting up our own member licensing system to guard against bad practice, and all of our members are required be clear and transparent with tenants of any charges that they will incur.
“It is important to bear in mind that a professional lettings service cannot be provided to either a landlord or a tenant for no cost, however both parties should be aware of their costs and feel that they have had a professional service, and should have somewhere to seek redress if they feel otherwise."
Shelter is inviting people to share their letting agent experiences.
Angelique, a renter from Hampshire, paid a huge £540 in administration costs when she rented a home with her partner through a letting agent.
She said: "We didn’t receive any justification for these extortionate fees, and ended up having to pay nearly £3,000 upfront, making a huge dent in our finances.
"I have nowhere I can complain to and be taken seriously. We can’t afford to buy our own home; renting is so expensive that it seems impossible to save for a deposit. The rental market is a horrible place right now."
Shelter's survey was carried out by YouGov and 5,379 adults participated.
If you've got a nightmare letting agent story to share, or wish to read others, then you can find them here on Shelter's website.