Government outlines details of letting fees ban

by Gary Whittaker

The government has published details of its plans to ban letting agent fees after a consultation found overwhelming support for the measure from tenants.

It found nine out of ten tenants supported the plans, and the draft Tenant Fees Bill will now ban fees and cap holding deposits at no more than one week's rent. Security deposits will be no more than six weeks' rent. There will also be requirements placed on landlords to return holding deposits to tenants.

Should the ban be breached by an agent, this will be a civil offence for which an initial fine of £5,000 will be levied. If a person commits the offence twice inside five years this will become  a criminal offence that can lead to prosecution or a fine of up to £30,000. 

Trading Standards will enforce the ban, and will also help tenants recover any losses incurred through unlawfully charged fees.

Further provisions in the legislation will see a lead enforcement authority being appointed for the private lettings sector, and secondary legislation will amend the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to make new requirements on letting agent transparency apply to online agencies like Zoopla and Rightmove. 

Speaking about the legislation, communities secretary Sajid Javid said: "Tenants should no longer be hit by surprise fees they may struggle to afford and should only be required to pay their rent alongside a refundable deposit.

"We’re delivering on our promise to ban letting agent fees, alongside other measures to make renting fairer and increase protection for renters."

The new legislation will mean landlords need to be aware of their responsibilities and changes to what they can and cannot do. However, it may bring significant benefits, as if the private rental system is seen to be fairer and more customer-friendly for those who rent, it will make that option more appealing to potential tenants. 

While agents will have new laws to obey, a recent survey showed tenants are often somewhat slack when it comes to abiding by the rules set out for them.

The poll by home interior specialist Hillarys found 67 per cent admitted to breaching instructions, such as not to smoke or sub-let a room. 

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01-November-17General Lettings News