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Letting fees case at Court

A legal case regarding letting fees taken by a Queens University Students Union Officer, and supported by Housing Rights is being heard at Court.  

The test case centres on fees the Union officer was charged when trying to secure rental accommodation. It argues that based on the legislation, (The Commission on Disposal of Lands NI Order 1986), letting fees should not be charged and the money should be refunded.  The Court has also been asked for a declaration that any fees, charges and expenses levied by letting agents on tenants in Northern Ireland are in breach of the existing legislation. This declaration is sought to protect the position of other tenants who are currently being charged such fees by letting agents.

The private rented sector in Northern Ireland has grown significantly in the last 25 years.  A recent survey published by the Department for Communities found that 17% of households in Northern Ireland live within the sector. 

With prospective tenants having to find deposits and rent in advance, the charging of letting fees further adds to the financial burden; many tenants struggle to access private rented accommodation due to an affordability barrier.  The Private Tenants’ Forum 2013 “mystery shopping exercise” of 40 letting agents operating in the private rented sector across NI illustrated that the charging of such fees, at a significant amount, is a frequent occurrence among NI letting agents. The report concluded that the majority of agencies surveyed charged letting fees, with the average being £47.69. In some cases the fees were as much as £100

It is hoped that this test case will provide much needed clarity for both tenants and landlords on the issue of charging letting fees. Notably, bringing forward legislation to ban letting agent fees is one of the proposals contained within the Department for Communities’ 2017 review of the private rented sector.

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Private Tenancies, Legal