Tenants forced to play ‘rental roulette’: Charity reveals how renters in England have to pay up before being shown housing contracts
- Over half of renters put money down before being shown tenancy agreement
- Citizens Advice say tenants are easily being ‘trapped into unfair contracts’
- Survey finds 35% were only told about added fees after handing over cash
More than half of renters across England were only shown their tenancy agreement after they had put money down on a property, a survey suggests.
Citizens Advice said its research showed how tenants are being forced to play ‘rental roulette’ and how easy it is for tenants to become ‘trapped into unfair contracts’.
The survey of private renters discovered that 51 per cent had already paid some money toward the property, such as a holding deposit, before they had even seen the small print.
‘Rental roulette’: Unfair tenancy terms frequently occur in contracts, including hidden fees
More than a third (35 per cent) of tenants claim they were only told about additional fees that could be charged during their tenancy after putting down money.
And almost a quarter (23 per cent) of renters say they have received a tenancy contract that they felt contained unfair terms, but still more than half – 57 per cent – of them signed the contract anyway.
Unsure: Many renters do not feel confident enough to negotiate their tenancy agreement
Unfair tenancy terms frequently crop up in contracts, Citizens Advice said, ranging from a a £50 charge for a written notice if a term is breached to a fine for failing to keep a landlord updated with contact details.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: ‘In no other consumer market would people be asked to put down hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds before seeing the small print.
‘Unscrupulous landlords and letting agents can take advantage of tenants, who lack real bargaining power in the private rented sector.
‘Entering into a rental agreement is such a critical decision, especially for families trying to put down roots.
‘Tenants shouldn’t be forced into a game of rental roulette, where they are putting down money on a contract they’ve not seen.’
Nearly a third – 29 per cent – of the 2,000 renters surveyed said they would not feel confident negotiating terms and conditions of their tenancy agreement with their landlord.
Many renters, including 44 per cent of renters with mental health problems, said they had signed a tenancy agreement without fully understanding it.
Currently, the Tenant Fees Bill is going through Parliament and Citizens Advice said it wants greater clarity on the terms given to tenants and landlords, whereby landlords can charge reasonable costs.