In relation to media reportage on the above:
Threshold gave a briefing to a media outlet on Thursday, 11th October 2018 on barriers to people accessing accommodation in the private rented sector, and in particular as this related to people on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
The terms ‘viewing fee’ and ‘booking fee’ emerged in the briefing. Threshold referred to recent cases it had dealt with whereby prospective tenants were being asked by landlords / estate agents to bring money to the viewings. In some cases, prospective tenants understood that unless they had set amounts of money available and upfront, they could not secure the rented accommodation.
Since the publication of the article arising from this briefing, and wider media engagement on this issue, Threshold has further reviewed its case files, and now wishes to clarify that it incorrectly characterised this upfront monetary requirement as a ‘viewing fee’.
While anecdotally the term has been used by Threshold callers, Threshold’s client records only refer to upfront booking deposits and more limited references to non-refundable booking fees. Upfront payments are a particular issue for HAP recipients and those on low income, as they simply don’t have the resources to meet this unrealistic demand and the HAP scheme does not facilitate advanced payments for bookings. Threshold views this as an exclusionary mechanism, impacting on low-income and HAP tenants.
As these upfront sums of money are a barrier to prospective tenants, changes in the law are required to prevent requests for upfront fees and high deposits (e.g. two to three months the equivalent in rent).
Nonetheless, Threshold wishes to apologise for the lack of clarity and any public mis-information arising around the concept of a ‘viewing fee’ being a growing phenomenon.