End of Letting Agent fees?

Peers in the House of Lords have come a step closer to getting lettings agent fees in England banned.

A controversial Private Member’s Bill, introduced in the House of Lords by Baroness Grender, to effectively ban lettings agent fees passed through the committee stage last week.

The Renters’ Rights Bill seeks to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 by stopping letting agents from charging tenants or prospective tenants: registration fees; admin fees; inventory check fees; reference check fees; renewal fees; and exit fees.

However, trade body the National Approved Lettings Scheme is relying on a minor amendment that could preserve some charges.

The Bill says: “A letting agent who, in connection with the grant, renewal or continuance of a residential tenancy, requires from the tenant the payment of any premium shall be guilty of an offence under this section.”

This doesn’t include taking rent or deposit, but a further clause, NALS believes, allows some leeway, stating: “The Secretary of State may by regulations specify the categories of sum which are not to be treated as a premium for the purposes of this section; and the maximum amount which tenants may be asked to pay in respect of such a sum.”

Speaking to Peers during the debate, Baroness Grender didn’t seem to think this amendment would be used by the Government.

Isobel Thomson, chief executive of NALS, said: “This amendment is a welcome one. NALS has long campaigned to raise the issue of upfront fees and what is fair for both tenants and agents. We believe that industry itself can offer credible alternatives to the complex issue.

The Fair Fees Forum – drawn together by NALS – seeks to find common ground between responsible, professional agents and tenant focussed groups over the range of fees that agents should be allowed to charge in return for the significant work they do, often behind the scenes.

“Baroness Grender is aware of the Forum and has asked to be kept involved in its work. The Forum looks forward to helping inform Government’s thinking on what can be charged for and at what level.”

The legislation still needs to get through report stage and have a Third Reading before it is then looked at by MPs.

The Bill also backs mandatory electrical checks and a database of rogue landlords.

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Written by: Houseladder