Renters protest over £900 registration fee for 2-bed East End flats

Campaigners outside a Bethnal Green estate agents protesting at high registration fees

Campaigners outside a Bethnal Green estate agents protesting at high registration fees - Credit: Renters campaign

Renters are paying up to £900 in fees for two people just to register for a two-bedroom flat in London’s East End, campaigners claim.

Renters' protest co-ordinator Glenn McMahon

Renters' protest co-ordinator Glenn McMahon - Credit: Archant

Some lettings agents charge a week’s rent, which for an expensive Canary Wharf property would come out at £2,000, they point out.

The campaigners toured lettings agency offices in a protest to expose “extortionate fees” and to name-and-shame any they claim are breaching regulations by failing to display charges up front.

They handed out spoof fines to agents around Bethnal Green and Spitalfields, after finding 34 of the 165 operating in the East End “flouting” legislation.

“Many of us are already paying well over half our income on rent,” Tower Hamlets Renters campaign group co-ordinator Glenn McMahon told the East London Advertiser.

“Having to fork out exorbitant fees can force many people to borrow or cut back on basics just to put a roof over their head.

“They could also find themselves doing it again six months later if their tenancy agreement isn’t renewed.”

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The call comes just three weeks after Tower Hamlets Council launched its Private Landlords register, following its warning last year that it would clamp down on agents not displaying fees when new regulations came in.

“Yet 10 months on we’ve found 34 lettings agents failing to display their fees,” Glenn added. “If regulations aren’t enough, we hope a £5,000 fine would be.”

One agency in Bethnal Green received the campaigners’ ‘award’ for “the highest fees outside Canary Wharf” at £742 to register for a two-bed flat. The highest fees were an agency in Canary Wharf at £900.

“Many agencies charge a week’s rent as an admin fee,” Glenn revealed. “So a two-bed flat costing £2,000-a-week in Canary Wharf would be charged at £2,000—on top of fees for checking references.”

The protesters also turned up outside Davey’s lettings agent’s in Brick Lane, which charges a more realistic £150 to register and £50 for each reference or guarantor.

Owner Liam Davey said: “We list our fees up front, which are the same whatever the rent.

“But the protesters have a point—there are agents who charge according to property value or according to who’s coming in the door. They tarnish the business and should be pinpointed. They don’t play by the rules.”

The campaigners are meeting Tower Hamlets cabinet members later this month who are responsible for housing and trading standards, to get support to stem “extortionate fees” and to issue fines to agents they say are flouting regulations.

The campaigners, meanwhile, began drop-in advice sessions yesterday to help private tenants in the East End know their rights.

The sessions are every first Tuesday of the month, 12-2pm, and every third Tuesday, 6-8pm, held in St George’s Old Town Hall at 236 Cable Street in Shadwell.