I have long supported proposals to ban letting agent fees paid by tenants and I therefore welcome the Tenant Fees Bill 2017-19.
Tenants are charged hundreds of pounds a year for any of a variety of fees when renting a property. Before moving in, charges can include a holding deposit, a registration fee, an administration fee and a fee for a reference check. Tenants can also be charged fees to renew their contract and to exit a contract and some even have to pay the letting agent to provide a reference for their new landlord.
Although the Tenants Fees Bill is satisfactory in many respects, it still provides the opportunity for the continuation of an exploitative approach. I support measures to close loopholes through which landlords might continue to charge rip-off fees.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee scrutinised a draft form of the Bill earlier this year and concluded that, as it stands, the Bill ‘does not provide a comprehensive definition of ‘default fee’ and warned that this is ‘open to abuse’ by landlords. Indeed, letting agents involved in the inquiry told the committee that the fees that agencies would be allowed to charge tenants, including default fees, would be ‘increased severely’ and ‘applied more rigorously’ in order to recoup lost revenue.
The Bill passed its second reading on May 21 and there will be an opportunity for further scrutiny as this Bill progresses through Parliament. I will stand up for renters by backing proposals to close loopholes by which landlords can continue to charge unfair fees. Those in the private rented sector are in desperate need of clear and positive action from the government to protect their rights. I hope we will see a strengthening of resolve from Ministers as the Bill proceeds.