Demonstrators Target Letting Agents In More Protests...

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.