A string of corporate letting agencies plus ARLA Propertymark have again called on the government to reconsider its proposed ban on agents’ fees levied on tenants in England.
The ban has already been the subject of formal consultation by the current government - that consultation process ends today - and all three major parties make such a ban a central part of the housing parts of their manifestos for next week’s General Election.
Now ARLA’s chief executive has signed an open letter to the government, endorsed by Ian Maclean of Belvoir, Richard Davies of Chestertons, Stephen Nation of Connells Group, Sam Tyrer of Countrywide, Jeff Doble of Dexters, Lucy Morton of JLL, Mark Hayward from the NAEA, Ian Wilson of the Property Franchise Group, Peter Kavanagh of Property Services Holdings on behalf of Leaders and Romans, Jane Cronwright-Brown of Savills, and Paul Sloan of Spicerhaart.
The letter reads:
As the UK’s largest lettings industry professional body, we work hard to protect tenants in the private rented sector. We feel it is important to highlight the potential unintended consequences to tenants of the Government’s proposed ban on letting fees. We have also long called for sensible regulation of the sector and believe that the Government now has the ideal opportunity for a long overdue review.
Our objective is to raise and maintain high professional standards in the lettings industry. We recently commissioned independent economic analysis to assess the impact of the letting fees ban. It found that the ban will have an inadvertent negative impact; with tenants potentially having to pay up to an additional £103 a year in rent as landlords seek to mitigate their increased costs.
Further, we believe it is wrong that the Government intends to ban charging for reference checks, which help tenants to verify their identity, their financial viability and income as well as their suitability as good tenants. We believe these should be excluded from the ban to ensure that these services can still be provided.
Without this, the Government risks creating a two-tier system where tenants who are harder to reference will be given lower priority – and these tenants are often the ones with lower incomes, or a poorer employment or renting history. It is vital that new measures protect all tenants.
We urge the Government to reconsider its current proposals to include referencing costs as part of the ban to protect the more financially vulnerable tenants in society, and to use the time for a more comprehensive review of regulation in the private rented sector.