Advertising watchdog sets deadline for agents and landlords

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has set a deadline of 1 November for letting agents and landlords to ensure they clearly display information about non-optional fees in their ads for rental properties.

ASA says non-optional fees such as admin fees, charges for inventories and reference checks can create significant costs for tenants. The changes mean that agents and landlords must now ensure that non-optional fees are made clear on their websites and in other promotional material.

An ASA statement says: “In practice this means that non-optional fees that can be calculated in advance will be included with the quoted asking rent. So, when an agent charges a non-optional fee that does not change according to individual circumstances, e.g. a fixed admin fee of £150 per tenant, ads should state “£1500pcm + £150 admin fee per tenant” or similar.

“If, however, the non-optional fees and charges cannot be calculated in advance, and are excluded from quoted prices, the advertiser must make this clear in the ad, and provide enough information to allow consumers to establish easily how further charges will be calculated.

“Where the advertiser is limited for space, for example in a tweet or in a sponsored search, they will provide information on additional fees through a prominent statement on either the website, a link or via a pop-up. Property portals will make clear when additional fees may apply by inserting a hyperlinked ‘fees apply’ statement, which will link to general information about the range of fees that could apply.”

ASA staff will monitor ads to ensure compliance following the November deadline.

ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker said: “Renting is a big financial commitment and it’s simply not fair to hide extra charges. This practice hits tenants in the pocket at a time when they need every penny they’ve got. But this isn’t just an important win for them. It will also benefit letting agents and private landlords because their customers will trust them more when they’re up-front about non-optional fees.”

Please contact Ingrid Hindle in our Warminster office on 01985 214444 or Sarah Gratton in our Westbury office on 01373 865577, or email ihindle@mulaw.co.uk or sgratton@mulaw.co.uk  if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of commercial property law.