Tenant Fees Bill passes latest Commons stage unopposed

by Gary Whittaker

The government's Tenant Fees Bill has passed its second reading in the House of Commons without a vote, after all parties agreed to support its passage. 

Introduced to put an end to what ministers believe to be unfair charges imposed by agents and landlords, the bill is designed to reduce tenant costs. However, many in the private rental sector have said that these lost sources of revenue will be recouped in the form of higher rents.  

Residential Landlords' Association (RLA) policy director David Smith was among those to sound this warning. He added that it was unfair to treat the whole of the private residential sector in the same way, when only a minority of landlords are charging excessive fees. 

The government's own figures indicate that the abolition of fees will cost landlords £82 million in the first year. 

Housing secretary James Brokenshire started the debate by insisting that the measures are "essential" and that the bill was something "we should all welcome". 

He added that the intention was to hit bad landlords and agents, not good ones, commenting: "Letting agents and landlords who represent good value for money will continue to thrive, while those who rely on charging unfair and unjustifiable fees will have to reconsider their business models.”

Despite these reassurances, some MPs, while supporting the bill, have echoed concerns about rents rising to cover lost fee income. Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer, a member of the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Select Committee, said the legislation may "shift the cost of the burden, not to landlords and lettings agents, but back to tenants in a different way".

However, chair of the HCLG Committee Clive Betts said tenants would usually be better off paying a little extra rent each month rather than upfront lump sums. 

The fees legislation is not the only controversial measure being introduced by the government. 

Plans to introduce minimum room size assessments for homes of multiple occupancy from October are based on flawed data, the RLA recently argued. 

It has criticised a recent impact assessment of the plans on the grounds that it used inaccurate information, including references to two housing tribunal cases, which it said misinterpreted the law on room sizes. 

The RLA has threatened a judicial review over the matter.

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24-May-18General Lettings News