The Tenants Fees Bill received Royal Assent

by Property 118

11:25 AM, 13th February 2019
About a month ago

The Tenants Fees Bill received Royal Assent

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The Tenants Fees Bill received Royal Assent

The Tenants Fees Bill 2017 – 2019, click here, has formally received Royal Asent and has now become law commencing on June 1st this year. The Bill is sponsored by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (image right):

This means the ban on lettings fees will apply to all tenancies signed after June 1st.

Agents and landlords will only be able to collect rent and deposits from tenants with the exceptions of fees for:

  • A change or early termination of a tenancy when requested by the tenant
  • Utilities, communication services and Council Tax
  • Payments arising from Default fees limited to charges for replacement keys or a respective security device, and late rent payments only

Lord Bourne also confirmed that although landlords can charge for damages any amount recouped from a tenant can only put them back in the same position they were previously.

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP heralds new law protecting tenants from unfair letting fees in a government press release:

“Tenants will be protected from unfair letting fees and will see their tenancy deposits capped at 5 weeks’ rent, putting hard-earned cash back in their pockets, thanks to a new law being ushered in today (12 February 2019).

Unexpected letting fees and high deposits can make properties harder for people to afford and are often not clearly explained upfront – leaving many prospective tenants unaware of the true costs of renting a property.

The Tenant Fees Bill, which has received Royal Assent today and now becomes an Act, puts an end to costly fees imposed by landlords or agents – with the ban on fees to come into effect from 1 June. It is expected to save tenants across England at least £240 million a year, or up to £70 per household.

The Act also caps the security deposits that renters pay at the start of their tenancy at 5 weeks’ rent, giving people the assurance that legally they cannot be expected to pay more than this to secure a property.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said,

Tenants across the country should not be stung by unexpected costs from agents or landlords.

This Act not only delivers on our promise to ban letting fees but also caps deposits at 5 weeks’ rent and sets out how and when landlords can charge tenants fees – helping renters keep more of their hard-earned cash.

This is part of our ongoing action to make renting fairer and more transparent and make a housing market that works for everyone.

Under the Act, landlords and agents are only able to recover reasonably incurred costs from tenants and must provide evidence of these costs before they can impose any charges.

This will put a stop to, for example, tenants being charged hundreds of pounds for a damaged item that actually only costs a few pounds to replace – such as £60 to replace smoke alarms.

The Act also ensures that tenants who have been charged unfair fees get their money back quickly by reducing the timeframe during which landlords and agents must pay back any fees that they have unlawfully charged. Taken together, these provisions help reduce the costs that tenants can face at the outset, renewal and termination of a tenancy.

The Act is part of a wider package of government reforms aimed at rebalancing the relationship between tenants and landlords to deliver a fairer, better quality and more affordable private rental market.

We have introduced a range of powers for local authorities to enable them to crack down on the small minority of rogue landlords and agents who let unfit properties. This includes fixed financial penalties of up to £30,000 and banning orders – possibly for life – for the most serious offenders.

Ministers have also extended mandatory licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation to improve living conditions of tenants in shared homes and tightened up rules on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Private tenants can also apply for a refund of up to 12 months’ rent if their landlord does not deal with health and safety hazards in their home.

Other government steps to reform and improve renting include:

  • a national database of rogue landlords and agents to keep track of those that have been banned from letting
  • a comprehensive review of the rating system used by local authorities to assess the presence of serious risks to the health and safety of tenants
  • mandatory client money protection – by which rental money held by letting agents is safeguarded against theft and fraud – for all agents
  • a mandatory redress scheme for landlords
  • an independent regulator to oversee letting agents, setting standards and maintaining minimum qualifications
  • new, mandatory 5-yearly electrical installation safety inspections
  • considering the case for a specialist housing court to provide greater access to justice for landlords and tenants in property disputes

These measures are all part of ongoing government action to protect tenants and drive up standards in the private rented sector – helping make a housing market that is fairer and works for everyone.

David Cox, chief executive, ARLA Propertymark, said: “We’ve known the tenant fees ban has been coming for a long time, but with only 109 days to go until it comes into force, the industry must start taking time to prepare.

“The government will soon publish its guidance now that we have legislative certainty, which will give agents a better understanding as to how the ban should practically be implemented.”

Further information

The Tenant Fees Bill has now received Royal Assent. From 1 June the Act will improve security for tenants, including:

  • capping security deposits at no more than 5 weeks’ rent and holding deposits at no more than 1 week’s rent. It also sets out the proposed requirements on landlords and agents for returning a holding deposit to a tenant
  • capping the amount that can be charged for a change to a tenancy at £50 unless the landlord demonstrates that greater costs were incurred
  • creating a financial penalty with a fine of £5,000 for an initial breach of the ban with a criminal offence where a person has been fined or convicted of the same offence within the last 5 years. Financial penalties of up to £30,000 can be issued as an alternative to prosecution
  • requiring Trading Standards to enforce the ban and to make provision for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees via the First-tier Tribunal
  • preventing landlords from recovering possession of their property via the section 21 Housing Act 1988 procedure until they have repaid any unlawfully charged fees
  • enabling the appointment of a lead enforcement authority in the lettings sector
  • amending the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to specify that the letting agent transparency requirements should apply to online property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla
  • enabling local authorities to retain the money raised through financial penalties with this money reserved for future local housing enforcement


Comments

Richard Peeters

14:52 PM, 13th February 2019
About a month ago

Today I saw an article by a local letting agent, where they claimed the items below would all be banned:

Anything not exempted, that the tenant (or someone acting on their behalf like a guarantor or parent) is required to pay as a condition of the 'grant, continuance, assignment, termination or renewal' of an assured shorthold tenancy or licence agreement.

This includes payments to third parties, either for services throughout the tenancy or for specific performance of a job and loans from third parties.
In short this means that pretty much any fee that is in the tenancy agreement will be void unless it is exempt.
Examples of banned fees then would be:
• Charging for a guarantor form • Credit checks • Inventories • Cleaning services • Referencing • Professional cleaning • Having the property de-flead as a condition of allowing pets in the property • Admin charges • Requirements to have specific insurance providers • Gardening services

Richard Peeters

14:54 PM, 13th February 2019
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Richard Peeters at 13/02/2019 - 14:52
I can't believe that cleaning fees in general can be banned? Or getting flea treatment after tenants with pets move out? Has that agent exaggerated / misinterpreted the new laws? Or have I underestimated them?

Kincavel

9:38 AM, 14th February 2019
About a month ago

Probably need a property lawyer to interpret but it does say:
"Under the Act, landlords and agents are only able to recover reasonably incurred costs from tenants and must provide evidence of these costs before they can impose any charges"
Presumably this covers some of the above items as long as the AST is written in a way to include them? Otherwise, it seems if the charges are unlawful Section 21 will be unenforceable.

Michael Barnes

0:23 AM, 16th February 2019
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Kincavel at 14/02/2019 - 09:38Where does it say S21 will be unenforceable?.

Northern landlord

9:15 AM, 16th February 2019
About a month ago

Not allowed to charge a reference fee. We use Openrent whuch charge £20. The plus is you are able to take one weeks rent to hold property whilst reference is carried out. If the application fails reference check you able to keep the holding fee.
This will stop time wasters who know they have a bad record!

Sean Graveney

12:48 PM, 16th February 2019
About a month ago

Doesn’t it just it mean that default cleaning fees will be banned. So the contract can’t say that ‘you will be charged x amount for cleaning up fleas when you leave’, but at the end of the tenancy you can say ‘there are fleas here, I’m taking x amount of your deposit to clean them up’?

Michael Barnes

17:18 PM, 17th March 2019
About 4 days ago

Reply to the comment left by Richard Peeters at 13/02/2019 - 14:52
I believe that LL will not be able to say, e.g., "£200 to clean and deflea at end of tenancy", but will be able to say something like "the tenant agrees to leave the property in a similar state of cleanliness to that in which it was received, and to take action to ensure that the property is free from fleas and other pests that might be introduced by pets, when the tenant vacates; evidence of the actions taken to achieve this is to be provided by the tenant to the landlord".

i.e. you can claim your costs for tenant failing to do it, but you cannot charge them a fixed fee to do it.


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