Landlords: Is your letting agency hiding its true cost?

Wednesday, April 24th, 2024

At M A S O N S, we promise 100% transparency in how we communicate our services to landlords and tenants. Unfortunately, when it comes to property management, not all agencies are quite so upfront about what’s included.

When choosing a letting agent, there are plenty of questions to consider. Who will market the property to its full potential? Who will take the headache out of administrative and maintenance tasks? Which agency offers the best customer service?

However, asking about hidden or additional costs can often be overlooked. After all, you might easily assume that a monthly management fee would cover every aspect of letting a property. But that isn’t always the case.

So, before appointing a rental agency to manage your property in Hertfordshire, or if you’re keen to evaluate if your current agency represents true value for money, we suggest asking the following five questions. The answers can be quite revealing.

1. Is there a tenancy renewal fee?

When an existing tenancy agreement is renewed, some letting agents charge landlords up to £250 for this service. As renewals can occur as frequently as every six or twelve months (depending on tenancy type) this ‘hidden cost’ can be a significant annual outlay.

At M A S O N S, we view tenancy renewals as an expected and relatively straightforward administrative task (especially if the property has been regularly inspected during the tenancy) … so, with us tenancy renewals never incur an additional fee attached.

2. Will I pay extra for deposit protection?

Since 2007, registering tenant deposit fees with a recognised government-approved scheme has been a legal requirement for all shorthold tenancies.

At M A S O N S, we see this statutory requirement as a basic and essential part of any tenancy agreement. Therefore, we don’t feel it’s ethical to charge for deposit protection as an ‘extra’. It should be part of the service.

However, some agencies take a different view. It’s not uncommon for deposit protection to be charged as a one-off fee (c.£60.00). Or, and we think this one is particularly cheeky, charged as a monthly fee of c.£5.00. Yes, cheeky.

3. What do you charge for property inspections?

It’s a good question, because regular, in-depth property inspections are important.

And guess what the answer should be? Yes, NOTHING, ZERO… because inspections are an integral part of any effective property management service.

Check the small print. Many agencies charge for all inspections, or some charge if additional inspections are requested. This can mount up to be a sizeable hidden cost.

4. Are there hidden markups on maintenance costs?

This one may be difficult to fully assess until you have maintenance work completed by your letting agent. But it’s worth knowing that it’s not uncommon for agencies to add commission fees of up to 30% on any contracted work undertaken at a property.

This could be a significant sum, for example, if you consider the cost of replacing a broken boiler, or for redecoration or cleaning services. Often, the mark-up fee isn’t shown on the contractor’s invoice making it impossible to tell if an agency charges this commission without carefully reading their terms of business.

This practice is a complete no-no at M A S O N S. We work with a range of trusted contractors and always charge their services on to our landlords at cost. We never add commission.

5. When can I expect to pay additional administration fees?

The rental game is full of administrative fun! Taking the burden of the ongoing paperwork is a key reason why landlords opt to employ a letting agency.

It’s not uncommon for agencies to have a ‘small print’ clause which allows them to charge additional fees for admin tasks – if it falls outside the scope of their service.

That’s not the attitude we take at M A S O N S. Where we can, we go above and beyond to complete all required tasks related to letting and managing the property – after all that’s the service we’re already being paid to do for our landlords.

Hidden costs are an unwelcome surprise for any landlord. We hope that our five quick questions will be helpful in revealing any hidden costs BEFORE you’re caught out by them.

At M A S O N S, we feel it’s much simpler to pursue 100% transparency. We don’t advertise super-low property management fees (that actually come with hidden costs). We promote fair monthly fees for a complete service. That way, all parties know exactly what to expect from day one.

If you prefer to avoid analysing small print and questioning agencies to reveal their hidden costs – we’d be very happy to have an informal (and transparent) chat about our approach to property management.


M A S O N S is a leading letting agent in Hitchin, covering rental and buy-to-let properties in Hertfordshire. Founded on award-winning lettings experience, we specialise in property management, buy-to-let in Hitchin, and residential lettings – drop us a line at [email protected] or call us on 01462 557477.