Looking for a place to rent? First pay 500 euros please

An increasing number of real estate agents are asking potential tenants a fee of up to 500 euros just to bring them into contact with landlords, De Standaard reports. If they don't cough up the cash, they are not being put in touch with the landlord. And if they do pay, they risk losing the money if they find a different place. The Flemish platform defending the interests of tenants, Vlaams Huurdersplatform, is concerned.

Those looking for a place to rent are in for a challenge. Not only do you have to find the right place, there are several administrative and financial hurdles to take. Apart from ID papers, future tenants are asked to supply a document showing their earning of the past three months, they are asked to pay a deposit worth three months and, which is new, more real estate agents are asking to pay a sum of between 200 and 500 euros just to get the process started.

Tenants can get this sum back if they eventually take the house, but they risk losing it if they find a place via a different agent. For many this is an extra financial hurdle which may be hard to take. "I wonder  whether this is legal", says Joy Verstichele of the Vlaams Huurdersplatform.

The Flemish Minister responsible for Housing and Living, Liesbeth Homans, and the federal minister concerned with Consumers' Affairs, Kris Peeters, say they will stage talks with the sector to solve the issue.