Agents charging multiple ‘holding’ deposits from tenants come under fire from Which?

Agents have come under new fire from Which? for charging multiple ‘holding’ deposits from prospective tenants after one of its members of staff twice handed over £500 to an agent – and found he was not the only one to do so.

Adam French, 28-year-old senior content editor, said he had been looking for a flat for months, “squeezing myself into shoebox flats with 15 other prospective tenants and one grinning, swaggering letting agent”.

(You can see where this is going, but in all fairness, this really is not the best PR for the industry.)

He and his girlfriend finally found an acceptable flat and made an offer.

“And then something altogether unexpected happened. The letting agent told us that to put our offer to the landlord and take the flat off the market he’d have to take £500 off us as a ‘holding deposit’.

“This was the first nice flat we’d seen in weeks. We were worn down by months of flat hunting, and out of sheer desperation – and against our better judgment – we agreed and transferred the cash, which we understood was supposed to hold the property off the market for us until checks had been made.”

The next morning, however, French was told that two other prospective tenants had also put down a £500 holding deposit – “a fact he [the letting agent] must have known before we put our money down. We had paid a holding deposit that didn’t do what it said on the tin – it didn’t ‘hold’ the property for us at all.”

French said the agent then tried to play the parties off each other, in a bid to increase the rent offers, all the while holding £500 from each.

French said: “At this point we walked away and demanded our deposit back. A return that inexplicably took five full working days to come back into our account. All the while meaning that we couldn’t move forward with any other flats we saw, as we needed that money.

“I wish I could say this only happened once, but it happened TWICE, and with different letting agents.”

On a third occasion, French and his girlfriend refused even to participate.

Which? has now produced an advice guide and template letter for renters in a similar situation, and says it is now looking at what should be done in the long term over what it calls “sharp practice”.

Alex Neill, managing director of home products and services  for Which?, said: “Navigating the London rental market is both stressful and expensive. For letting agents to be adding to that pressure by taking financial advantage of prospective tenants is totally unacceptable.”

Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: “Taking a multiple deposit is bad practice and just shouldn’t be done.”

Last week, the Government said that holding deposits would be capped to the equivalent of a week’s rent, with other deposits capped to a month’s rent.

However, Kate Webb, head of policy and research at Shelter, said: “It’s positive to see the ban on letting fees confirmed in the Queen’s Speech, along with a new commitment to cap deposits.

“However, action also needs to be taken to ensure holding deposits are only equivalent to three days’ rent and are not taken out by agents for multiple tenants.”


Email the story to a friend


  1. Mark Walker

    Oh look a comment from someone at Shelter.  One of the one’s who hasn’t resigned for having been chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council and owning the company that sold the cladding used on Grenfell Tower.

  2. PeeBee

    Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: “Taking a multiple deposit is bad practice and just shouldn’t be done.”

    So… WHAT is he and his Association going to do about it?

  3. jeremy1960

    Let me guess, this happened in London, journalists cannot get out from the M25 and therefore assume that all agents need tarring with the same brush!

    Lazy journalism as usual that needs to carry a warning along the lines of “Our lazy-ar**d reporter drew this report up from his/her office, didn’t venture out and therefore has produced a biased, report concluding that all letting agents are the same!”

    Apparently all you “journalists” there is a process of finding out what happens outside the M25, it’s called a train but if your bosses cannot stretch to paying the train fare there is always the telephone; you could call agents outside of London and ask them what process they use!

    1. PeeBee

      Let’s all assume that you are posting this in the hope that some of the “journalists” you don’t seem to have a lot of time for are reading this.

      Because you can’t be aiming it at our lovely Frau Renshaw – she’s one of a kind and certainly wouldn’t deserve any derision of the type you wish to heap upon those of her profession.

      And for confirmation, F. Renshaw can and often DOES call her Agency contacts up and down the country to ensure her articles are righteous.

  4. SJEA

    And so it starts, another bash at Letting Agents !

    I am sure that when letting fees are finally banned, Agents will want to take multiple holding fees to ensure the applicant is financially committed and then will ensure that they give no assurances to the applicant that the property will be held. No property is secure until contracts are signed following the application process.

    What will be the motivation for Letting Agents to do all of the work and underwriting with no assurance that the applicant will proceed ? I am sure my clients and staff will work hard to encourage as many applications as possible until such time as we are able to proceed to contract.

    Another issue is the cap on deposits, I am suremany Landlords will decided not to allow any high risk tenants into their properties including increased risk such as pets – yet another policy not very well thought out !


You must be logged in to report this comment!

Comments are closed.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter, we have sent you an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Additionally if you would like to create a free EYE account which allows you to comment on news stories and manage your email subscriptions please enter a password below.