Prestigious international letting agents Hamptons Estates must withdraw advertising that fails to fully explain fees tenants have to pay before moving into a new home.
The company based in Mayfair, London, lets luxury homes in prime residential neighbourhoods to wealthy clients.
The company’s web site listed a home to let at £1,200 a month plus a £216 administration fee and noted ‘other fees may apply’.
The Advertising Standards Authority received a complaint alleging that other non-optional fees applied to tenants and that the letting agent’s marketing materials failed to make this clear.
Hamptons explained the advert was linked to other information about fees tenants would have to pay, such as referencing and check-in charges which varied depending on the size of the property.
The firm also calculated fees differently in their Bristol Office, where a single charge was made combining the three fees which was the highest of either 35% of the first month’s rent or £420.
Hamptons also promised to amend their documentation to include details about check-in fees more prominently.
The ASA upheld the complaint on the grounds the way fees were explained was misleading and ordered the letting agent to withdraw the advert and make sure information about compulsory fees which could not be calculated in advance were explained more clearly..
Advertising rules insist that if a tax, duty, fee or charge cannot be calculated in advance, the advert must clearly state it is excluded from the advertised price and explain how it is calculated.
“The ASA considered consumers would interpret the claim ‘+£216 including VAT admin fee per property + other fees may apply’ to mean that the administration fee was the only non-optional charge and there might be other fees depending on the situation. However, we understood that there were other non-optional fees that consumers would have to pay if they rented the property,” said the ruling.
“While we acknowledged details of the costs were included in a document which was hyperlinked to the claim, we considered non-optional fees were material information that was likely to have an impact on a consumer’s transactional decision.
“We considered, therefore, that the information about the non-optional fees was not sufficiently prominent. Because the ad misleadingly implied other fees might not apply, and the information about non-optional fees was not sufficiently prominent, we concluded the ad was misleading.”
Although the decision relates specifically to the complaint against Hamptons, the principles of the ruling should be applied by any landlord or letting agent advertising homes to rent.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 is coming in in May this year which imposes further duties in relation to lettings agents and the displaying of information including fees. We are preparing an article at the moment and it will be published soon.