Renters could be left out of pocket, despite a government plan to increase protection for private tenants.
If passed into law, the government’s proposal will require the details of all landlords and management agents to be included on a national register. Any that fail to act in their tenants’ best interests or protect deposits could be struck off.
But, reference-checking agents acting for landlords and management companies will not be covered.
Which? member Paul Brown was caught out by reference agents Keysafe Tenancy Vetting. When Paul, a lecturer from north London, applied for a new tenancy agreement he was amazed to find he’d failed a reference check on the grounds that he’d incurred rent arrears on a previous property.
While an unwitting admin oversight left Paul owing around £120, this was rectified at the earliest opportunity, and Keysafe was informed within 24 hours of the bill being settled.
Even so Paul and Danousia were charged £100 for a reference check, and an additional £50 to consider Paul’s brother as a guarantor.
The process proved stressful and embarrassing for the couple, as Paul explains: ‘When you rent a flat, you want to know how much you pay, and not be subjected to additional charges from a vetting agent that doesn’t seem to do much to justify their fees.’
According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, additional costs, including admin fees and reference checks can cost renters an extra £600.
We contacted Keysafe on several occasions, but received no response.
Find out more about your rights if you fall into arrears in our guide.
If a reference agent has imposed charges to vet you or your guarantor, let us know at email@example.com
Which? Money when you need it
You can follow @WhichMoney on Twitter to keep up-to-date with our Best Rates and Recommended Provider product and service reviews.
Sign up for the latest money news, best rates and recommended providers in your newsletter every Friday.
Or for money-saving tips, and news of how what’s going on in the world of finance affects you, join Melanie Dowding and James Daley for the Which? Money weekly money podcast
For daily consumer news, subscribe to the Which? news RSS feed here. And to find out how we work for you on money issues, visit our personal finance campaigns pages.