|On the 1st of November 2017, the government published the draft
tenant fees bill. You can read the full document here
The purpose of this draft bill is to set out the Government’s approach to
banning letting agents’ fees paid by tenants. As the bill is currently in
draft form there is still some way to go before its contents become law. In
terms of process it is worth noting;
- The proposal to ban fees was in the manifesto of all major political
parties, so there is broad political support for the proposals
- The bill is in draft form, so there is still an opportunity to influence
various aspects of it, particularly those elements that the government is
still formally consulting on
£13 million per month
Philip Hammond announced the intention to introduce a ban on Letting
agents’ fees which are paid by tenants back in November 2016. This follows
concerns from some about the amount renters were required to pay in such
fees – currently estimated at £13 million per month. It is fair to say that
the aim of the Government here is to dramatically reduce costs to tenants.
The draft bill is the result of a period of consulting over the summer and
it is important to note that it relates to England only.
What the government says that this bill will do
The bill is aimed at banning landlords or their agents from requiring any
payment from tenants for granting, renewing or continuing their tenancy,
with three exceptions;
- Refundable tenancy and holding deposits
- Tenant default fees, for lost keys, late payments etc.
In its current form the ban also covers landlords or their agents requiring a tenant to pay for a service from a third party, such as
for a reference check or similar service.
The intention set out in the draft bill is to cap tenancy deposits at no
more than 6 weeks rent and holding deposits at no more than 1 week’s rent.
In this proposal, any holding deposit must be refundable. Furthermore it
must be returned within 15 days if the landlord or agent decides not to
take forward the tenancy. However, it can be retained if the tenant;
- Fails right to rent checks
- Provides false or misleading information
- Does not take forward the tenancy or do so in a timely manner
Once the tenancy is confirmed it is possible for the holding deposit to
form part of the first month’s rent or be put towards the tenancy deposit.
Penalties and enforcement, with fines up to £30,000
In its current draft form, the bill includes
- The creation of a civil offence with a fine of up to £5,000, if it is
found beyond reasonable doubt that the agent has charged a prohibited
payment or if a holding deposit is not returned
- The creation of a criminal offence where a person has been fined or
convicted of the same offence within a 5 year period, with civil penalties
of up to £30,000 to be issued as an alternative to prosecution
- The requirement for Trading Standards to enforce the ban and make
provision for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees
Also included in this month’s draft is the proposal to amend the consumer
rights act so that the letting agent transparency requirements will also
apply to property advertising portals, such as Right Move and Zoopla.
Should all aspects of the bill move forward as currently positioned, this
would mean such websites would need to display the following on relevant
- Any permitted Letting Agent fees
- Which property redress scheme the agent was part of
- The relevant client money protection scheme
Finally it is important to note that if and when the bill is introduced, it
will not be retrospective so at present it is not envisaged that these
changes will apply to existing tenancies.
The Student Perspective
The implications of the draft bill are very significant for the sector.
However, our research has indicated that most student specialist agents and
landlords have started to plan for it some time ago.
Currently opinion is still split between those who feel it will not have
too much impact and those that do feel the impact will result in increased
rents being passed onto students. Only time will tell how this plays out,
however, the student accommodation sector has traditionally been very
innovative in the way that it responds. We have already seen some of the
hall providers remove the requirement for students to pay any form of
deposit or booking fee, to make the online booking experience as simple as
We will be collecting further feedback and comment from our landlords,
agents and halls partners in our December survey, but in the meantime
please do get in touch if you have any questions or comments.