Letting fee refund?

Question from Stephanie updated on 14th June 2015:

Hi there, is it possible to get a refund for a letting fee when I haven't signed an agreement or moved in? Originally I had planned to take the place as the agent said it would be ready within the week and was told I had to pay the letting fee to secure the place. It is still being renovated three weeks later and I have found a more suitable place.

Our expert Alan Bruce responded:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act), a letting fee may be charged by a landlord for services relating to the grant of a tenancy by a solicitor or letting agent. Whether or not a letting fee is required (or refunded) would be dependent on whether a tenancy agreement had been granted, and entered into. Where a landlord has agreed that a tenant can rent the premises from a certain date, discussed the amount of rent to be paid, along with any other terms and conditions (including a letting fee), it may be that the parties have already entered into a valid tenancy agreement. Each case will depend on its own circumstances and will depend upon your discussions with the landlord. Where a tenancy agreement has been verbally entered into between a landlord and tenant, both parties would need to comply with their obligations under the Act. This includes the requirement for the landlord to ensure that vacant possession of the premises is provided to the tenant on the date that the tenancy was due to commence, and the options available to either party to end the tenancy depending on the type of agreement are complied with. If the tenancy has been ended by mutual agreement due to the premises not being ready for you on the date agreed, you should discuss the refund of the fee with your landlord. However, if you gave notice to terminate the agreement, you may not be able to recover the fee. You may be able to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to attempt to recover the letting fee if a contract was entered in to and the landlord has breached that contract. As it is unclear exactly what the specifics of your situation are, I would recommend you contact our Tenancy Advice team on 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262) between 8.00am-5.30pm Monday to Friday to discuss the matter in more detail.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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