Foxtons has suggested that it fully accepts last week’s ruling that it can no longer use ‘administration fees’ as a blanket term, but must provide a breakdown.
The firm looks as though it will not be appealing – although it has 28 days in which to do so.
Instead, it has welcomed clarification. The ruling has significant implications for all other letting agents and for Trading Standards.
Separately, in another part of the UK, a student in Belfast is pursuing a challenge against the legality of letting fees charged to tenants.
Paul Loughran took the action after being charged “admin” and “application” fees by separate agents, who he alleges could not properly explain what was meant.
The case is due a final hearing next month, with a written judgment expected later.
Should he be successful, it is possible that tenants who have paid these fees in the past will be eligible to reclaim them.
Loughran told the local paper: “Practically all the Belfast letting agents are doing it.
“Some charge more than others … if you ever challenge the letting agents as to what the fees are actually for, a lot don’t even have a justification for it.”
Loughran and two housemates were each charged a £30 ‘admin’ fee by Piney Rentals in 2014-15.
He said he was charged £36 by F5 Properties the following year, when he and two friends opted for a different house when each was charged what the agency referred to as an ‘application fee’.
Loughran’s case is against Piney Rentals.
Piney Rentals’ solicitor Desmond Carr said the case is “about the legality of letting agent fees in Northern Ireland”.
He went on: “It is not about whether such fees ought to be banned; that is a political issue, which is currently being considered by the Department of Communities.
“The case is being defended on the basis that there is at present nothing [in law] prohibiting such fees.
“My client, like many agents, charges a fee in good faith to the tenant because they provide a service to the tenant. We decided to defend the case because of the potential significant and unfair impact a negative outcome could have for a lot of local businesses.”
The Belfast test case – Northern Ireland has devolved housing powers – follows last week’s test case in England where Camden Council in London announced it had won an appeal against Foxtons over the use of the term “administration fees”.
Foxtons had not spelled out what these fees were, but as a result of the ruling it looks as though all letting agents will have to provide a full breakdown rather than simply use the blanket term.
A Foxtons spokesperson suggested there will be no appeal against the ruling, saying: “Foxtons employs an open and transparent approach when it comes to fees and we respect the Court’s decision.
“We are happy to work with local councils to ensure we comply with their guidelines and are pleased to finally be provided with these.”