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Estate agent commissions: consumer group Facua warns these can no longer be demanded of tenants
Consumer affairs

Estate agent commissions: consumer group Facua warns these can no longer be demanded of tenants

The consumers' association flags up that some agencies are covering up this charge by hiding it under other fees in blatant violation of the new housing law

Raquel Merino

Monday, 27 May 2024, 19:00

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The new Law on the Right to Housing, which introduced a modification to article 20 of the 1994 Urban Renting Law, has just come into force. By virtue of this change, it is now stipulated that "property management and contract formalisation costs shall be borne by the lessor" in the case of long-term contracts, i.e. those aimed at meeting the permanent need for housing.

Until this modification, the payment of this commission was the landlord's responsibility when a legal entity (company). However, when it was an actual person, then the law proposed that landlord and tenant should come to an agreement as to how to divvy up this expense. According to the new regulation, this payment now always falls on the landlord, regardless of their status (legal entity or physical person).

Facua-Consumers in Action warns, however, that there are still estate agents who continue to charge fees or management costs to tenants. This is the result of a study that the consumer association has carried out on a sample of 114 agencies in 11 provincial capitals (Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Palma de Mallorca, Bilbao, Santiago de Compostela, Toledo, Salamanca, Valladolid and Zaragoza). Four out of 10 real estate agencies analysed do not comply with the prohibition of charging these management fees to the tenant. According to Facua, 47 (41%) continue to inform people looking for a flat that, if they sign the rental contract, they will be charged a certain amount denoted as "fees", "management costs" or "commission".

Facua highlights that some real estate agencies mask this charge to tenants in contracts by using terms such as "feasibility and economic solvency study", or simply "fee" with no explanation, or as services "provided to the tenant" without detailing what those are, to cite a few examples.

Facua also points out that agencies usually ask for a monthly rental fee, but there are also those who charge a fixed fee, or 10% of the annual rent.

Right to reimbursement

As a consequence of these findings, Facua-Consumers in Action reports that it is already preparing a battery of complaints against the real estate agencies more recently found to have been infringing the regulations. These are in addition to the 31 with complaints already filed against them in June of last year.

Their advice to tenants who have been obliged to pay this commission in order not to lose the opportunity to rent a flat is that they should ask the agency for a separate invoice for the fee paid, or to make the payment by bank transfer indicating the reason for payment themselves.

Subsequently, once the rental contract has been signed and they are already living in the property, they should contact the real estate agency to request a refund of this amount. If the agency refuses, Facua reminds those affected that they can turn to the association to help claim the refund on their behalf. They can then file a complaint with the regional consumer authorities, requesting that a fine be levied against the company for violation of said regulations.

If the agency still refuses to refund the money, consumers can take them to court. As this is a claim that, as a general rule, would not exceed 2,000 euros, they can do so without the need for legal representation as this is handled similarly to the small claims court in the UK.

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