Out of eight of Britain’s biggest letting agents – those with over 100 branches – seven are charging tenants more than the average fee.
The accusation comes from Generation Rent, which says its research shows that the average cost is £404, based on two adults renting an unfurnished two-bed property.
LSL, parent company of Your Move and Reeds Rains, is the only one of the eight to charge less than the national average, at £381.
Generation Rent says Leaders/Romans charge different fees in different parts of the country, but across six branches the average is £593.
This, it says, is boosted by a branch of Romans charging £813.
Connells Group charges a consistent £570 throughout its network.
Spicerhaart charges £540 across several brands, while The Property Franchise Group charges an average of £476 across the 15 branches in Generation Rent’s study area – London and parts of the south.
Generation Rent accuses one branch, Martin & Co in Brentford, of being “opaque” about its check-in fee, and says the £476 is “likely to rise if and when Brentford opens up its fees policy”.
Hunters branches in Wokingham and Stoke Newington are also accused of failing to specify check-in fees, and Generation Rent has raised concerns with the respective councils “which have responsibility for enforcing transparency rules for letting agents”.
The average for Hunters branches is calculated at £416.
Belvoir charges an average of £414, but Generation Rent says this goes up to £590 in its Balham office.
Generation Rent also singles out Spencers Property Services in east London, with a charge of £742.
Dan Wilson Craw of Generation Rent concludes: “This breakdown shows how important tenant fees are to the larger estate agents – strip them out and our national average comparison fee would drop.
“Also, we can see that using one of the big boys does not necessarily mean they are automatically transparent.
“The gilded age of the letting agent is now under threat from the Government’s proposals to ban fees, which are out to consultation.
“We should expect a determined fight-back from agents so it is essential that we make our voices heard.”
He also describes the tenancy renewal fee as “an incredibly successful British invention”, alongside steam trains, TV and vaccines.
He describes agents as a “group of entrepreneurs [that] have exerted their creative minds to produce the £250 photocopy and are currently raking it in”.
He accuses them of “milking” cash out of their captive market.