A Bill which is likely to end up banning letting agents’ fees levied on tenants in Wales has been introduced into the country’s parliament - but it’s set to take months to debate and will not come into effect until next year.
The Renting Homes (Fees etc) (Wales) Bill was introduced by the Labour administration’s housing minister, Rebecca Evans, and in its own words includes provision for “prohibiting certain payments made in connection with the granting, renewal or continuance of standard occupation contracts ... the treatment of holding deposits.”
This measure allows agents and landlords to charge fees only relating to rent, security deposits, holding deposits, or when a tenant breaches a contract - it will explicitly include powers to limit the levels of security and holding deposits.
Introducing the Bill, Evans told other members of the parliament that 15 per cent of all Welsh households now lived in the private rental sector and required "more reasonable, affordable and transparent" transactions.
"Fees charged by letting agents often present a significant barrier to many tenants, especially those on lower incomes ... No longer will tenants be charged for an accompanied viewing, receiving an inventory or signing a contract. No longer will they be charged for renewing a tenancy. And no longer will they have to pay check out fees when they move out" claimed Evans.
The Rent Smart Wales regime, introduced two years ago, requires agents and landlords to undergo training and obtain a licence; the Welsh Government has indicated any offence regarding the charging of fees, once made illegal, could act as a ‘stop’ on agents obtaining licences in the future.
However, the Welsh Government timeline for enacting measures is slow.
Having been introduced by Evans, the Bill is now at Stage 1 which involves a series of oral evidence sessions and other discussions which will take until mid-October.
There are then three other stages for the Bill to pass through the Welsh parliament, making it impossible for the measure to become law until well into next year.