So, who watched Watchdog last week (Thursday, 12th April 2012)? Who, who, who?
On the Rogue Trader’s section of the programme, they exposed a couple of shit-for-brain letting agent cowboys ripping off innocent and unsuspecting prospective tenants with “Reservation fees”, and nothing gave me greater pleasure than watching them squirm on national TV as they were exposed.
What is a tenant Reservation Fee?
The bullshit fee (yes, it is bullshit) is paid if the tenant wishes to “reserve” a property for a set period (typically 10-14 days). Once the fee is paid, the letting agent cannot reserve, offer the property to anyone else, or let the property to anyone else during that period. That’s the theory anyways.
The letting agency Watchdog investigated were caught red-handed, accepting reservation fees from multiple prospective tenants for the same property. They were charging £200 a pop, so it’s not chump-change we’re talking about here; we’re talking ‘penis enlargement operation’ in Eastern Europe money. They should be peeled like an onion and launched into a bowl of balsamic vinegar. But I suppose being exposed on Watchdog is a good start. I’m sure it’s a cruel practise embraced by many agents around the country.
Being the jovial and caring person that I am, I’ve taken it upon myself to chop, slash and hammer together the episode of Watchdog for you. You should definitely watch it. It’s about 25mins long, so may cause problems to those with short attention spans, but it will be time well spent, even if it’s playing in the background while you’re making inconvenient love to your partner- just lay on your back and raise your neck over your partner’s shoulder. Trust me, I’m the first person to highlight when something isn’t worth watching, like that bullshit movie Donnie Darko- complete waste of time, which miraculously has a huge “cult” following. I should have known it was bullshit based on that; if it was any good, it would have a “regular people” following, not just a “cult” following, which implies a population of weird hippies that worship Satan and/or porcelain dolls. I’m going off track here. Simply, watch the video below, and throw “watching Donnie Darko” on the NEVER to-do list!
So, what did you think?
A bunch of absolute douche-bags, right? Right!
The worrying part was, the entire workforce of the agency seemed to be elaborately involved with the scam. They were clearly all trained to be part of the ploy. What confused me more, and what was not clearly explained is, how did/do agents actually get away with taking multiple registration fees, and then explain to the prospective tenant(s) that the property was not reserved for them, and then refuse to refund the money? What possible excuse could the agent provide, and how could any rational tenant accept that kind of situation? One thing is for sure, if I was the tenant, I would not rest easy until I got my money back.
I don’t want to reduce this blog-post into a petulant arsenal of childish attacks, but that greasy, pompous-arse motherfucker at the end portrayed himself as a proper condescending prick. His stupid tie didn’t match his stupid suit either. Yeah, that’s right, I took it to that level, and what?
Avoid agents that subject reservation fees
The “reservation fee” is just an unnecessary and ugly sister to the “tenancy deposit” That’s all it is. If a prospective tenant likes a property THAT much, the only requirement to reserve the property should be to pay the standard security deposit, and the landlord/letting agency should be happy with that. As soon as a deposit is received, the property should in theory, be secured.
The reservation fee is equally as shit as the Tenancy Renewal Fee. Ultimately, neither of those fees pay for any extra labour or service; it’s just another unscrupulous means of lining the agents pockets with more cash… for doing fuck-all. It’s genuinely mind-boggling.
I personally wouldn’t use a letting agent that charges reservation fees and/or tenancy renewal fees, because agents like that generally only care about one thing, and what’s precisely why I’ve flagged those issues/fees in my how to find a good letting agent guide. Check it out :)
So, let me hear your thoughts, folks…
Update: GOOD NEWS (for tenants in England)!
On the 1st of June 2019 the “Tenant Fees Act 2019” came into force, which is a legislation that focuses on banning and restricting letting agents and private landlords from charging tenants in England with certain fees, which includes ‘tenancy renewal fees’ (and various other charges).
If on or after the 1st of June 2019 any tenant in England is charged with a tenancy renewal fee it will be deemed unlawful and punishable by hefty fines. For more details, please refer to the ‘Tenant Fees Act 2019’ blog post.
Unfortunately, if you’re a tenant outside of England, you may still be subject to reservation fees!
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.