Techniques Tenants Can Use To Avoid Letting Agent Fees

The other day I ranted about how I think it’s unfair that high-street letting agents Charge Tenants An Admin Fee for simply being a consumer. It’s those kinds of bullshit fees that will probably be the fall of letting agents because, these days it’s so damn easy for landlords and tenants to make a connection without the use of letting agents, hence avoiding the fees altogether. Regardless, I’m going to take the issue one step further and discuss ways tenants can avoid these fees!

The obvious way to completely avoid tenant admin fees is by not using a letting agent at all. That’s a no-brainer. Avoiding them would mean the tenant would have to communicate directly with the landlord, which isn’t a bad thing…

Advantages of dealing directly with landlords

A lot of people believe it’s a lot easier dealing with letting agents because they “take care of everything” While that can be the case, there are also a lot of desirable aspects of dealing directly with a landlord:

  • A letting agent acts as a middle man, so information has to go through him/her before it gets to the right person. That’s long, slow and boring. No one wants to wait for a message to travel across a chain of people.
  • With one less person in the chain, there’s less chance of getting lost in translation.
  • Agents want to get the most rent out of tenants because it reflects directly on their commission. So it’s quite likely that tenants can get a better rate if they deal directly with the landlord.
  • Let’s face it, it’s difficult to trust an agent so you never know where you stand (rightly or wrongly so).

Why tenants (and landlords) don’t need letting agents anymore…

  • Before social media and classified websites really took off, letting agents had the upper hand of being able to reach a large network of local people through their various marketing tactics. But now we can all update our Facebook, Twitter and Myspace statuses and inform a network of local people that we have a property for let, or we’re looking for a property to rent. It’s free, affective and extremely powerful.
  • The growth of online classified websites have rocketed, and the best one’s are free and receive terrifying levels of traffic e.g. Gumtree.
  • Letting agents aren’t a necessity for landlords/tenants anymore, they’re a luxury. Money is tight, so everyone wants to save where they can. Avoiding the use of letting agents can be a big saver for both tenants and landlords, so it’s a no-brainier that they’ll be sacrificed.

How To Avoid Tenant Admin Fees

Here is a small list of techniques tenants can use to find rental accommodation without having to pay an high-street letting agent admin fee…

Find a letting agent that doesn’t charge a tenant admin fee

First and foremost, let me clarify, it is possible to find agents that don’t charge tenant admin fees, although they’re probably not all that common. But it’s worth asking/looking around.

Some agents have embraced quirky little policies that ultimately means the tenant initially pays an admin fee, but has the opportunity to get it returned. For example, Property Genius said they do the following:

Each tenant pays £75 but instead of paying for a fee, it gets added to their tenancy deposit. If they move-in, they get it back with the rest of the deposit. If they fail to take the property on move-in day, or fail the references, then the £75 is non refundable and they lose out. We feel this gives the landlord security, while essentially being free for tenants.

So, as long as you don’t waste the agent’s time, they will return your initial fee, which is pretty fair.

Negotiate with letting agent

Some times you can catch an agent on a desperate good day and they may be willing to waive the fee. It’s always worth haggling. Remember, agents make their money from the landlords, so they’re often willing to let the tenant’s fee slide.

Classified websites

This is by far the most effective way of finding rental accommodation without the helping hand of a letting agent. There are an abundance of landlords who themselves are avoiding letting agent fees by marketing their properties for free on classified websites. Those websites are the best places for prospective tenants to find properties and communicate directly with the landlords.

Here’s a list of websites that have properties available for rent:
Craigs List
Spare Room
Flat Mate Rooms

Local Papers

I had a look in my local paper just before writing this post, and it had 3 full pages of local rental accommodation listed by private landlords.

Clearly landlords are still utilizing the good old local paper. Tradition still rocks.

Ask friends and family

Word of mouth will never stop being useful. Ask friends and family if they know of anyone who has a property available for rent.

Embrace Social Media

Update your Twitter, Facebook and MySpace statuses. Inform your local world that you’re looking for rental accommodation. You maybe surprised to find out how small this world really is.

Market yourself

I recently posted an example of how a lady, looking for accommodation, successfully marketed herself on Gumtree as an extremely appealing tenant. Her advert received thousands of hits.

It was an effective way of grabbing the attention of landlords. You can see the article here, Landlords And Tenants Shouldn’t Neglect The “Wanted” Section.

I’m not entirely sure of the success off her campaign, but I’m confident it was a success.

Letting agents aren’t completely useless

I know it may seem like I’m crafting a witch hunt against letting agents, but that’s genuinely not the case. Letting agents have their uses, which can’t be replaced. For example, if a landlord doesn’t want the hassle of managing their property, letting agents are perfect (if you don’t mind paying the premium). That’s actually the core revenue stream of letting agents, and they’ll never lose that because it can’t be replaced in a digital/virtual form.

However, for tenants, I think agents are starting to lose their usefulness. Unless letting agents eradicate the tenant admin fee, I actually can’t think of enough reasons why a tenant would want to embrace the services of a letting agency, especially when it’s so easy to find accommodation without one.

What agents need to understand is that if they have prospective tenants on their side, landlords will have no choice but to use agents. But with pricing structures which include silly tenant fees, I see little hope.

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25 Comments- Join The Conversation...

Guest Avatar
black 12th May, 2010 @ 11:49

Try using a residential rental portal that specialises in bringing landlords and tenants together without the need of letting agents

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Sam 18th May, 2010 @ 18:16

What a positive post landlord! I wholeheartedly agree with landlords and tenants connecting and building a relationship.

Here at we actively encourage tenants to post about themselves and their property wants to help them connect with landlords. We then broadcast that across many different mediums

Here is a current example of a professional tenant looking for a accomodation in North London. Now - any tenants who describe themselves as "very well house trained" have to be worth contacting!

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John Leslie 21st May, 2010 @ 13:49

This site raises some interesting points, but i have had the experience of dealing with a landlord directly and it was terrible. My security deposit wasnt protected in any government recognised deposit scheme and i never got it back. I could never contact my landlord when issues arose with the property i was renting, the lease which he prepared was totally useless and had no relevant information on it. The property didnt conform to any safety standards, no smoke detectors, no gas safety certificate supplied at the start of the tenancy.
In my opinion going direct to a landlord to rent a property is a very bad idea. The second time i rented i went through an agent, paid a small admin fee but the whole process has been a lot better!

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Sam 21st May, 2010 @ 13:56

John, I am sorry to hear of your disappointing experience. For future reference there are many associations out there who can help you in such a situation - the local council and CAB are just 2 who would've ensured your rights were looked after.

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 21st May, 2010 @ 16:32

Hey John,

Sorry to hear about your problems. But truth be told, if you couldn't get hold of your landlord, then the odds are an agent wouldn't have been able to either. And you'd be struck in a chain, as I discussed, where you have to call the agent, and they'll have to try and contact the landlord, and then you'll have to wait for the agent to let you know that the landlord couldn't be contacted. I imagine that would be even more frustrating.

If you've got a bad landlord, you've got a bad landlord, and agents won't always be able to make it easier.

Regarding the security deposit, you could have always taken legal action against your landlord, as by law he should have secured it.

All the best.

Guest Avatar
Barry 22nd May, 2010 @ 18:45

For the record, I work for a lettings agency in South Kensington in London. If letting agents are charging an admin fee (which my company does), we can only survive if we are offering something tangible in return.

In central London where there is a bewildering choice of property available to let and time-poor tenants, the agent is only worth his/her salt IF they can quickly recognise their tenants' specific requirements and take the time and care to show properties in the right locations that meet these requirements.

many agents don't - and if we don't I fully agree with you. nothing makes my blood boil more than overhearing a lettings negotiator (hopefully never with us!) ask for no more info from a prospective tenant than "how many beds and how much have you got to spend?".

You get what you pay for - or as you rightly say - you go elsewhere.

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Ros 18th October, 2011 @ 17:23

We've rented our house for over 6 years. The house has just been bought and the new owners are letting the house through an agent. The new agent wants to charge us £96 for setting up a new tenancy agreement! Can they do this?

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bob 6th August, 2012 @ 02:55

there's admin fee's, credit check fee's, inventory fee's, renewal fee's and insisting that you MUST renew else they will evict you, when in reality, you should not have to renew and instead automatically go to a periodic tenancy where all conditions stay the same.
letting agents are nothing more than legalised con artists and self appointed dictorial jobsworths. i despise them and you will too after experiencing them and the things they do.

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Alison hutchinson 2nd October, 2012 @ 13:02

My son as a house share and we have already signed a tenancy agreement the landlord as not changed letting agency and he as sent out a new agreement but this time it as a new section in it saying that my son as to pay £45.00 when the year is up to leave can he do this and if I don't sign can we use the agreement that I did sign when moving in

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Elliot Tilley 27th March, 2013 @ 07:31

Good article. I agree some letting agents have a bad reputation in society due to landlords having badly experience with them. These landlords share their experience to friends, family and even the media which created a big misconception for them.

In quite a few cases, these bad experiences can be put down to a few corrupt agents cheat inexperienced landlords for their money, or offering poor service. But concluding that all letting agent are like them is not true.You can read a good article that provide a good helpful tips for Landlords.

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gaelstone 9th April, 2013 @ 06:09

good blog

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Jean 1st June, 2013 @ 10:51

Thanks for the interesting article, I am landlord and I have something of an odd situation that I would like some advice on. I have a multi-agent agreement with a letting agent, and I also separately posted my place on gumtree. A potential tenant has contacted both the agent and responded to the gumtree advert. Are we within our rights to proceed directly by passing the agent?

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Amy 30th August, 2013 @ 17:51

I was with a letting agency but dealt directly with my landlord who is brilliant. We cancelled our agreement with the agency as I fint want to part eith £60 admin fee for them to do nothing (difnt even phone to see hie move went etc) but have an agreement with landlord (the builfing's owners required it) of our own. The agency wanted a forwarding address (landlord owns flat) so have given my parents. Is ther any legal issues I should be aware of. First time Tennant.

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Liam 23rd October, 2013 @ 12:18

I am in a unique situation where I am a landlord and a tenant long story short but I rent one out as I moved for work and so rent where I Live now. I have to say I am more than pleased with my letting agents on both sides, I think one main point people overlook is the agent they choose, in my experience I have found that if they are solely a letting agent they are much better than if they are an estate agent with a letting agency attached as they would run that as a side line due to most of their income coming from selling property.
As far as I am aware all fees charged are clear and have always been, in regards to comments about being charged for nothing, you will more than likely find that it would be in a contract somewhere what you get charged so I would suggest that we (and I mean the collective we) as nation need to get better at reading contracts, in response to Amy, if you cancelled an agreement then yes I would imagine you would have to pay some kind of fee as you would if you cancel any agreement with any kind of company.
I struggle to find an understanding about the negativity around letting agents, I have never had any issue with them nor do any of my friends, family or clients. It’s not too dissimilar to what you find travel agents charging on fees so you can go on holiday.
Rant over.

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Jenny Pond 24th August, 2014 @ 15:26

Very informative article, I've been looking for a private landlord in my area for ages, I'm now in a 'no fixed abode' situ with my children. Been looking at agents too, but I'm concerned about my credit referencing; it's not good (to help out my now ex partner), ended up with bad score.

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lara 16th September, 2014 @ 09:33

Hello, I hope no one minds me asking? but a friend of mine is having a FEW concerns/problems with NEW Letting agency, she asked me but I have looked at online and I dont know what to advise. Than I found this page....How does she get/find a break down list of fees agency is charging? as so far she has paid 1 month rent,plus deposit (1295+1932)holding fee, admin/ref=350+65x3=1245 yet another 700 has been charged. The angency are nor replying when she rings, when she went in the shop the person said he couldnt help her, she need to talk to a manager WHOO he didnt know/have any contact details.
On line I looked at reviews of the angency and alot 99% are quite bad, but one person mentioned having deposit kept as they claimed there was items missing/broken but they had no inventory to prove otherwise. I asked my friend if she had that and oops Not one given? Again what do I advise as her partner moved in 1st Sept but due to work duties her complete move is today.
Any advise you can give me to pass on would be most grateful, and I hope I make sense (just ended nite shift).
Again Thank YOU!!

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dannie 18th October, 2014 @ 20:34

was residing in london up until august 2014 decides to relocate to dudley in midlands.
i got this estate agent in birmingham which they advertise a house 495 threebedroom. went from london to view, asked the agent if damp was distrubing the house and she said no.
i payed the agencies fee £260+695 deposit. and i moved in after one week we stared experiencing slugs in the kitchen on the worktub,side gas cooker absoulte everyway kitchen n lounge called the agent and complain but they felt relantant to do any anthing. now we not only experecing the slug damp is almost covering the hold place. i called againto estate agent and dey got back to me that the landlord said he will give me back my deposit. but the thing there is that he does nt no how much stress he has cause on me and my kids little kids.
Now i want the agency to give me my money back the 260+695. which dey collected from me.

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Amie 23rd November, 2014 @ 16:03

Searched for your advice after coming across and estate agent that charges £300 administration fees! But get this they want you to submit all your documents electronically fill in the form and send it to there companies credit referencing company - well having rented for a long time I know that the credit reference agency (homelet) recognised by most companies on the high street only cost £56! so how can estate agent justify that mark up - especially when you are doing all the administrative work! Its very unfair and I think some legislation should come in as no-one can afford to throw away a non-refundable £300 each time! If you see a property you like it there should be a choice so that people can choose to avoid rip off merchants like these! I have even come across a company who say if you want a property then they will put you forward with 5 others let the landlord choose from your completed forms (with credit information and earnings address etc) then you have to sign a contract that signs your data protection away outside the EU! Come on government these are the new car salesmen of the UK and we need more protection - especially when maintenance of the property and acceptable standards comes into question. The rental markets out of control and many of us missed the boat for house buying!

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Paolo 4th December, 2014 @ 17:30

I have paid agency fees for myself, got the flat and now my wife wants to join me and the agency told me that I need to re:apply from the beginning, is that correct?

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Ted 14th December, 2014 @ 17:18

I just left a property and Have agreed with the letting agent how much deposit to be refunded with the DPS. I have sent off the form signed to the DPS to agree how much deposit I will get back. After a call to my letting agent that day to get my Pin number to claim back my deposit they suddenly out of the blue said they wanted to take a further 179 pounds to cover their 'check out fee' and backdated 'admin fees' as they suddenly said they 'forgot' to add this during the duration of my tenancy after 11 years and wanted to charge me for the 'backdated' fees of well over 700 pounds suddenly out of the blue It was only until I informed them that I had already sent the form off to the dps they suddenly decided to do this. Is this illegal for them to do this after I have sent off the form and agreed the amount with the DPS?

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Tim Robson 18th May, 2015 @ 22:32

Hathways. South Wales. £300 non returnable admin processing. Its a scandal/rip off.

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John Doe 4th June, 2015 @ 18:46

If you think an agent is dodgy you can just pay all their fees on a CREDIT CARD. That way you don't have to go begging for a refund (which you'll never get) if they run a credit check and 'computer says no', just hit them with a chargeback.

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Darren 9th April, 2016 @ 18:19

Hi All,

Alot of you people are saying >>> Oh I paid this and that and nothing is working and etc also I think the letting agent really has no right at all to charge anything at all to the prospective tenant!!! > the arrangement is really between the landlord and the agent > you dont go to a pizza shop and but a £10 pound pizza and then find out there are other cooking and packaging and serviette charges,
please! in future if you have issues just report them and if nothing is done in an appropriate amount of time > just withhold rent > hello people!!! > are you victims? just refuse to pay until issues are sorted!!! and furthermore > if you are placed in a position where you are at risk or flooded or fire damage etc also refuse to pay for the time the property was unlivable > > and use the only bargaining chip that you have " the rip off rent" then landlords will take notice and take action! and if they want to play hard ball and threaten to kick you out because you have asked only what is contractually required > then flip it on them and say ..... ok then we agree to disagree and you will need to take court action to remove me and then you again have the upper hand as no greedy landlord wants to risk getting zero rent for many months and trying to sue people who may never have the means to pay.

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Annie 11th May, 2016 @ 06:07

Ah, it's great to see someone in the world of property has a sense of humour! I'm surprised that us tenants can fart without an agent charging us a fee for it! They ought to be ashamed, they ought to but there's so much demand and so little supply that, instead, they're swimming in piles of cash just like grubby little Scrooge McDucks!

But I digress, the reason I felt compelled to reply was to this comment from Liam: 'It’s not too dissimilar to what you find travel agents charging on fees so you can go on holiday.
Rant over.'

Liam, I know you'll probably never read this, or even care if you do, but who uses travel agents nowadays when you can create your own package for a quarter (no exaggeration!) of the cost?! It's not the 80s anymore, and anyone with the word 'agent' in their job title should be well avoided! Apart from Secret Agents, who are both mysterious and intriguing and good value for money.

We've got a great private landlord and a beautiful, reasonably priced Victorian flat. I just wish he owned a house with a garden as that's what we're looking for (due to recently giving birth to Mini-Me) and dipping my toes into the world of renting again after two years off the market has reminded me how many sharks are lurking in the water... Good luck, everybody!

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Patricia Thomas 17th October, 2017 @ 14:52

I am a retired lady, active 70 years old, looking to rent in Littlehampton, West Sussex from March 2018. Non smoker, no pets (although I love animals). Hope to join local Yacht Club to meet new friends. Personal references available. I have rented for many years.


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