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The Letting Agent Fees Ban: What’s happening?

 

Back in November the country’s Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, conducted the last ever Autumn Statement. Covering a broad range of subjects, one particular suggestion pricked the ears of tenants all over the country: a ban on letting agent fees.

Tenants are all too aware of the huge costs letting agents charge. Credit checks, contract fees, check in fees, check out fees, and many others with vague titles. You can even get charged over £100 for a contract to be renewed, a process involving pressing print, a stapler, and a pen.

So, when is the letting agent fee ban coming into effect?

Not just yet. First, the Government needs to conduct a consultation. This was announced to take place in March/April of this year. Then in February, they released a housing a white paper which again mentioned a ban on fees.

Eventually the consultation was opened on 7th April. It’s currently still open and will close on the 2 June 2017. You can respond yourself here. Along with talking to tenants, the consultation will also include talks with landlords, Citizens Advice, and the Which? consumer group.

Based off this the Government will make its decisions, with landlords hoping the idea will be scrapped and tenants hoping the endless rip off charges will be culled. Although there’s been some concern among renters that the snap election could mean the ban will be forgotten (or quietly buried) after June 8th.

Meanwhile the landlords have asked for the consultation period to be extended. They say it should take place after the election and have sent a letter to the government about it. They claim that because of the election the ban will become a manifesto pledge, which means the consultation may break the purdah rules – purdah being the time between an election announcement and the election where the government cannot announce new laws.

Nevertheless, the Tories have included the ban in their manifesto, saying that they will “shortly ban letting agent fees.” There’s no further details beyond that, but it seems a ban is becoming an inevitability, especially as the Liberal Democrats and Labour have committed to it as well.

So it looks like good news for current and future tenants. Let’s just hope the ban comes in sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, if you’re faced with massive fees before the ban, there are some options. First, if possible, try to rent from landlords directly as they’re unlikely to charge these kinds of fees. Websites like Gumtree, Loot, and Spare Room can be a good place to start. Post on your Facebook and Twitter too in case a friend knows of a place going.

It’s also worth trying to negotiate with the letting agent. If you’re lucky they might let you off some fees. In the end though, if they want to charge them, they will.

Update

Since this piece went live the Conservatives have announced a bill that will ban letting agent fees. At the moment they still need to get their Queen’s Speech passed, but if they do so, then the letting agents fee bill will most certainly pass as all parties support it. There’s no timetable as of yet, especially considering the very fluid nature of UK politics at the moment.

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Josh Salvage

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