Date Published 09 July 2013
There were fresh demonstrations outside letting agents in London at the weekend, with protesters once again calling for an end to ‘rip-off’ tenancy fees.
In Brixton, demonstrators also protested against the alleged ‘gentrification’ symbolised by the new Foxtons branch. Protesters managed to enter the premises and unfurl a banner in its window saying ‘Yuppies Out’.
Private tenants’ group Digs was behind the latest protest, which targeted branches of Foxtons and Felicity J Lord and came just days after former Labour housing minister John Healey launched a Private Member’s Bill which proposes to stamp out letting agent fees.
Digs said letting agents had helped to push up private rents.
One tenant, Rosie Walker, said: `When I moved into a flat in Stamford Hill the agent asked for a £150 ‘security fee’ on top of the usual deposit and signing fee (about another £100). Letting agents need to recognise that renters are tired of being ripped off and treated badly.
`When I asked what ‘security fee’ meant, they explained that it was ‘highly recommended’ because ‘this landlord could get difficult when it comes to returning the deposit’.
`In the criminal world, this is called protection money.`
Heather Kennedy, from Digs, said England should follow the example of Scotland where fees charged to tenants are banned.
She said: `Letting agents need to recognise that renters are tired of being ripped off and treated badly.
`More and more tenants in Hackney and across London are now getting organised and standing together, demanding fair treatment from letting agents and landlords.
`The Government needs to recognise that in a city where demand for affordable housing far outstrips supply, regulation of letting agents is desperately needed to protect renters from the worst excesses of an overheated rental market.
`MPs must follow the example of Scotland by banning rip-off fees which are making the private rented sector inaccessible to people on low incomes who have nowhere else to go.`
A spokesperson for Felicity J Lord, which is understood to charge a £250 tenancy fee plus £50 per extra person, said: `Our fees are extremely competitive and provide exceptionally good value, given that we provide a dedicated specialist administrator in every branch, offering a first-class service to both our tenants and landlords. Many other agencies don’t offer this level of support.`
Foxtons, which is understood to charge £350 for a tenancy agreement plus a £125 check-out fee to London tenants, declined to comment. At earlier protests, it hired bouncers to keep demonstrators out of its Brixton branch.