Some tenants facing admin fees of £600, says Shelter Cymru
Some tenants looking for rented property in Wales are being charged nearly £600 in administration fees, according to new research.
The housing charity Shelter Cymru said the total cost of setting up a tenancy is often hidden, and it wants new rules to make the process more transparent.
It contacted letting companies across Wales to investigate fees and charges and they found a wide variation.
The Welsh government said it shared Shelter's concerns
The survey by Shelter Cymru found some agents charges totalled £594, and most were not well advertised.
This left potential tenants facing large unexpected costs.
Shelter Cymru said the private rented sector was an increasingly important part of the housing market in Wales.
It is highlighting proposals in the Welsh government's housing white paper for the compulsory accreditation of private landlords and letting agents.
"You have to question how reasonable these charges are when credit checks can be carried out online for £20 and tenancy agreements are usually standard template contracts," said John Puzey, director of Shelter Cymru.
"These kinds of unregulated charges, which are now actually illegal in Scotland, are making the private rented sector even more unaffordable at a time when many people in Wales are already struggling to find and keep accommodation.
"In addition, we found that most charges were not well advertised so prospective tenants are often unable to discover the true cost of setting up a tenancy until they are well into the process of making an application, by which time they may already have handed over some non-refundable payments."
Mr Puzey said some agents charged a flat administration fee to all tenants, while others varied the fee depending on the rent level, raising the question of why the amount of administration work should depend on the tenant's choice of home.
"This lack of transparency traps people into paying additional fees as it is almost impossible for them to make an informed choice when they start the process of renting a home," he added.
The Welsh government said it shared Shelter's concerns.
It said it planned to introduce new laws to ensure people renting homes in the private sector were treated fairly.