Northern Ireland estate agents 'charging £30 to show rental properties'
Students hit out at agent's 'admin' fees for renting in Northern Ireland
Letting agents in Northern Ireland are charging students fees for securing accommodation - a practice which has been outlawed in the rest of the UK.
The Belfast Telegraph has learned that students here are subject to non-refundable 'administration' or 'application' fees - which, in some cases, are levied just for viewing properties.
Charges vary but, in the Belfast area at least, the add-ons are understood to start at £30 per student, up to as much as £45.
In many cases angry students say they are being given an inadequate explanation from the letting agents as to what they are paying for.
Former Queen's Students Union vice-president Paul Loughran, who is undertaking a Masters degree, has been hit with these fees on more than one occasion.
"Practically all the Belfast letting agents are doing it," he said. "Some charge more than others ... if you ever challenge the letting agents as to what the fees are actually for, a lot don't even have a justification for it."
Paul and two housemates were each charged a £30 'admin' fee by Piney Rentals LTD in 2014-15 for a property in Stranmillis.
The following year, he was charged £36 by F5 Properties. Again, he and two friends opted for a house in Stranmillis and, this time, they were each charged what the agency referred to as an 'application fee'.
Belfast-based student Mary Gill recently took out a lease with Property People and she revealed she was also charged a £45 'admin fee'.
The Belfast Telegraph contacted some letting agents yesterday to enquire about these charges.
Hastings Campbell, at Piney Rentals, said the fee, payable per person per property, is only due if the tenant is accepted.
Property People boss Colin Moran said the admin fee relates to "increased human resource costs". He also said the company was working on an online system to improve efficiency.
No one from F5 Properties was available for comment.
Belfast City councillor Declan Boyle, who has several properties that he rents out to students, said he does not charge his tenants application fees.
"I don't know what it's for," he said. "This fee has been removed in other parts of the UK, although I know it continues to be levied here. Personally, I am not in favour of it."