An MP has tabled a written question asking for reassurances that English letting agents will not pass costs on to landlords when the fees ban kicks in – or attempt to get round the ban in any way.
Similar concerns have been expressed in Wales where a ban is also under discussion, and where the Welsh Assembly has been told that if a ban is introduced, it must not result in rising rents.
Dr Andrew Murrison (Conservative, SW Wiltshire) asked what steps the Department for Communities and Local Government is taking to ensure that private letting agencies do not transfer costs to landlords or “redefine” tenant fees.
Meanwhile, ARLA has said that the Government has still failed to provide any detail on the substance of the ban or the likely timetable.
Yesterday, ARLA managing director David Cox said he has met DCLG twice since the announcement of the ban and is working on its response to the forthcoming consultation.
He urged letting agents to respond to an ARLA consultation, saying: “This is your livelihood, your business, your industry, so please make your voice heard.”
He added: “We don’t yet know enough about how the ban will operate and the substance of this is absolutely crucial. The most important tool at our disposal is tangible, credible evidence. Please contribute your views now.”
Cox also warned that a petition on the Parliament website trying to overturn the Chancellor’s decision could backfire on the industry.
In the Welsh Assembly a debate was initiated this week by UKIP which called on the National Assembly for Wales to bring forward legislation to ban renters fees, ensuring that costs cannot be passed on either to landlords or to tenants by way of artificially higher rents.
UKIP’s Gareth Bennett AM said: “ARLA has been critical of the proposed ban in England.
“They claim that the average charge is actually £202 per tenant and that this is broadly a fair fee to cover agents’ costs.
“The Residential Landlords Association says that it would have been better to improve the transparency of fees charged by agents by forcing them to publicise their charges and what the charges actually cover rather than have a blanket ban.
“The problem with this is that the Consumer Act legislation already did this, covering England and Wales, and Shelter Cymru’s evidence seemed to conclusively reveal that it had little effect on the commercial behaviour of many letting agents.”
Welsh housing minister Carl Sargeant told the Assembly that RentSmart Wales will improve the practices of letting agents.
He said that rather than rushing into legislation, the Welsh Assembly should look at the experience of Scotland and what is being proposed in England.
He said of UKIP’s motion that it “suggests that costs must not be passed on to tenants via rent increases.
“There is a separate discussion to be had about the desirability of comprehensive rent controls, but this goes way beyond the question of banning agents’ fees to tenants.”