Find out what to do if you're charged too much by a letting agent, given an unfair tenancy agreement or your letting agent won't do repairs.
High or unfair fees and charges
It's a criminal offence for a letting agent to charge you just for registering or to give you details of accommodation.
Don't pay any fees until a letting agency has found a place for you.
You may be able to challenge charges on the grounds they are unfair, for example if:
- you paid charges that are unreasonably high
- the letting agency didn't provide full details of the charges in advance
- you believe the letting agent charged both you and your landlord for the same thing (known as double-charging)
Find out more about the fees and charges letting agents can ask you to pay.
If you believe a letting agency is acting illegally, you can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline to complain to your local council's trading standards department.
Refused a tenancy because you claim housing benefit
If you find a place to rent and you need to claim housing benefit, check with the letting agent if the landlord accepts tenants who receive housing benefit.
Some landlords and letting agents won't accept tenants who claim housing benefit.
Don't leave it too late to check. You may be charged admin and credit check fees only to find out that the landlord still won't accept you as a tenant because you claim benefits.
Claiming housing benefit during your tenancy
If you are already a tenant and your circumstances change, for example you are made redundant, you may be able to claim housing benefit to help pay your rent.
Claiming benefits does not affect your right to stay in the property, as long as you continue to pay your rent.
Get advice if the letting agent or landlord tells you to leave because you have started claiming benefits.
Unfair terms in tenancy agreements
Your tenancy agreement must use plain and straightforward language. Any legal jargon should be clearly explained.
The agreement must also contain certain information.
The law says that tenancy agreements must not contain any unfair terms. A term is unfair if it takes away a legal right you would otherwise have had. Unfair terms are not legally binding.
Examples of unfair terms could include:
- the landlord can use a 'break clause' to end the tenancy early, but you can't
- that you have to pay for, or arrange, structural repairs – these are the landlord's responsibility
- unpaid rent will carry interest at 15% per annum
- you're not allowed to have guests overnight
- that your landlord can come into your home whenever they want, without giving notice
If you think your agreement includes unfair terms or you're being held to something you don't think is fair, ask an adviser to look at the agreement for you.
Gas and electricity agreements
Some letting agents may try to insist that you use a particular energy supplier as a condition of your tenancy agreement.
You probably can't switch to a different supplier if you pay your letting agent directly for your gas and electricity. But if you pay your own gas and electricity bills, you should be able to chose your own supplier.
If your tenancy agreement says you cannot switch supplier, this could be an unfair term and you may be able to challenge it.
Get advice about how to do this.
Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.
Check your tenancy agreement before signing
You must be given enough time to read and understand your tenancy agreement so that you can ask any questions.
Ask your letting agency for your tenancy agreement at least a week before you move in.
The letting agent should not expect you to read and sign the tenancy agreement on the day you're supposed to move in.
Get advice if you're having problems getting a copy of the agreement from your letting agent.
Letting agent hasn't protected a tenancy deposit
When you pay a tenancy deposit for an assured shorthold tenancy, either the letting agent or the landlord must protect it in an authorised tenancy deposit protection scheme. This must be done within 30 days.
The law also says that you must be given certain information about how your deposit has been protected.
Slow or delayed repairs
Check your tenancy agreement for details of how to report repairs.
Your agreement may say that requests for repairs must be made through the letting agent, who then contacts the landlord to arrange for the repairs to be done.
Try contacting the landlord directly if repairs take too long. It could be that the letting agent has not been in touch with the landlord or has been slow to get quotes for the work.
Complaints about letting agents
You can complain if you're unhappy about fees charged by a letting agent or the service they provided.
Find out how to complain about a letting agent.
If your complaint isn't resolved within 8 weeks, you can escalate it to a letting agent redress scheme.
Use Shelter's letting agent dispute tool.
Last updated 09 Oct 2014 | © Shelter