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Industry pours scorn and derision on fees ban consultation

The government’s formal consultation on its proposed ban for fees levied on tenants by agents has been greeted with derision and contempt by a string of industry bodies which spent the weekend expressing anger.

Isobel Thomson, chief executive of the National Approved Letting Scheme, described the proposed ban as “an unwarranted attack on good landlords and professional lettings businesses” and went on to say it was “a misguided attempt to help tenants which will only serve to hit the most vulnerable and make their access to the private rented sector even less attainable.”

Meanwhile the Residential Landlords Association issued a statement claiming that the last four housing ministers - including the current one, Gaving Barwell - had publicly opposed a fees ban. 

The RLA says that in 2013 the then housing minister, Mark Prisk. said a ban “cannot be the answer to tackle the minority of irresponsible agents”, whilst his predecessor Kris Hopkins described the proposal as a “short term gimmick” which would mean “higher rents by the back door.”

In 2015, Brandon Lewis, now a Home Office minister, said that it would “reduce the number of properties available to rent” whilst the current Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, last year tweeted that it would be a “bad idea” which would increase rents.

The Residential Landlords Association is arguing that whilst high fees do cause problems for tenants, such issues should be looked at as part of a comprehensive strategy for the private rented sector.

The association says a ban will do nothing to improve enforcement of the law which currently means letting agents have to be clear, upfront, about the fees they charge. It claims a handful of council have taken action against agents who have flouted the law.

“Regulation without proper enforcement is meaningless and only helps the rogue agents. Whatever the outcome of the consultation we need a system that ensures finite resources are focussed on finding and rooting out the crooks, not penalising those agents and landlords providing a good service” says policy director David Smith.

The industry software supplier Eurolink is also critical, and urges agents to ensure their voices are heard.

Nigel Poole, managing director of the software provider, says: “It’s time that reputable, regulated agents communicate the extensive work that they undertake on behalf of both landlords and tenants and the way in which they charge fairly to reflect this.

“As with any business, agents have to build in to their fees a whole host of expenses relating to obvious items such as office space and staffing. But they also need to build in less obvious costs relating to the qualifications, professional body membership and government legislation required to offer tenants and landlords the professional service that is being demanded from them” he adds.

Poole concludes: “It is completely unacceptable to expect agents to work for either party for free. This is why I’m telling clients: ‘don’t be shy in coming forward and communicating your worth. Now is the time to speak out’.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Luke Burton, director of referencing company Rent4sure. “We will now work with the government and the lettings sector to find the right solution, so that our agents are able to maintain the high standards of service that their tenants and landlords currently receive” he says.

  • Simon shinerock

    The survey we are expected to complete as part of the consultation is utterly ridiculous and an insult to any reasonable persons intelligence. Hosted by Survey Monkey I think an actual monkey could have come up with a more intelligent offering. The survey assumes the recipient supports the ban and is clearly designed to silence opposition and enable the government to report fallacious support for the ban. The government is quite happy to rip buyers off with extortionate stamp duty and allow lawyers to charge what they like, the tenant is being used as a shameless political pawn, this government will find out that in the long run it's unwise to continuously bite the hand that feeds it.

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    Having been at the ARLA conference a couple of weeks ago the Baroness who spoke about banning fees made it very clear it was going to happen regardless of the consultation - so what is the point in even asking for opinions, they clearly aren't going to listen.
    Good to see that democracy is alive and well in this Country!

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    This is one of the results of having a useless government opposition.

  • Mark Hempshell

    Aren't you supposed to survey before saying a new measure will be brought in, not after you've announced it? Wrong way round surely.

  • David OConnor

    What is a letting fee?
    Tenants contents insurance?
    Filing the paperwork to protect the tenant’s deposit?
    Producing a legal tenancy agreement to which the tenant is a party?
    The above are example of work done by an agent on behalf of the tenants. It will be difficult to construct an enforceable law that says you cannot charge for a required service? If the law is passed it should be challenged by trade bodies as the concept appears highly flawed.
    How can one law say you have to do work to protect a deposit for example by no one pays for the work to be done? Maybe the government can do the work? The government could underwrite all tenants’ deposits, all unpaid rent & repair all damages for free.
    This is nonsense.

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    David O'Connor. Tenants contents insurance is not work done on behalf of a tenant; that's the responsibility of the tenant to look after, but if you are selling it are you registered under the FCA as you should be?
    Also the tenancy agreement is mainly for the benefit of the landlord. The only requirement as far as I can see it on behalf of the tenant is the protection of the deposit, but that's a landlord's obligation too!

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