More than half of renters (51%) had only been shown their tenancy agreement after they’d put down money on the property Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Extra fees only explained after deposit was paid

More than half of renters had only been shown their tenancy agreement after they’d put down money on the property.

A Citizens Advice survey found that more than one-in-three tenants were only told about additional fees that could be charged during their tenancy after putting down money.

The charity argues this highlights the ease with which tenants can be trapped into unfair contracts by agents and landlords, and then face hefty penalties when terms are breached.

Gillian Guy chief executive Citizens Advice Image: Citizens Advice

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.”

Citizens Advice regularly sees unfair tenancy terms cropping up in contracts. These range from a fine for failing to keep a landlord updated with contact details to a £50 charge for a written notice if a term is breached.

The survey also found:

  • Almost one in three renters would not feel confident negotiating terms and conditions of their tenancy agreement with their landlord
  • Close to one in four tenants have received a tenancy contract they felt contained unfair terms, but more than half of them signed the contract anyway
  • One in three renters signed a tenancy agreement with their landlord or letting agent without fully understanding it
  • Forty-four percent of renters with mental health problems signed a tenancy contract without understanding it

Entering into a rental agreement is such a “critical decision”

Gillian Guy said:

“Tenants shouldn’t be forced into a game of rental roulette, where they are putting down money on a contract they’ve not seen.”

The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk