A campaign group of activists says there have been only “few reports of dodgy behaviour” by agents and landlords in the four years since the introduction of the Tenant Fees Ban.
On June 1 2019 agents in England were banned from charging tenants fees for starting, renewing or ending a tenancy; many of the fees now instead fall on landlords.
The activist group Generation Rent claims the fees used to cost tenants an average of £400 and “could reach as much as £800 charged by some agents.”
Under the ban, letting agents can only charge rent, refundable holding and security deposits, or specific fees relating to tenant actions like ending the tenancy early.
A statement by the group says: “It’s hard to know exactly how well the law is working, but we don’t get many reports of dodgy behaviour. The most common issue is landlords and letting agents refusing to refund holding deposits when the tenancy application falls through – in most cases you are entitled to a refund and can apply to the first-tier tribunal to get your money back.”
The group lists the issues which its followers may encounter, based on past disputes which have reached Tribunals, and sets out tactics to combat them.
It says: “A general rule is that as long as you have taken all reasonable steps to enter a tenancy agreement, but it doesn’t proceed, you should still get your holding deposit back. A couple of cases saw the tenancy fall through because it took too long to vet a guarantor, or the letting agent’s referencing company had technical problems, but the tenant was still protected.
“If you have to pull out of an application because of personal reasons, you might still get a refund if your would-be landlord or agent has failed to follow the rules when taking a holding deposit. This happened in a couple of cases where the holding deposit was worth more than the maximum one week’s rent.
“Agents can withhold the holding deposit if the tenant has provided false or misleading information. In a case in Berkshire, the tenants declared £42,000 of income but the referencing process could not verify the full amount. Luckily the tribunal found the tenants provided genuine information so they got their money back, but it’s a reminder for tenants to be clear about what your income is before you start applying for tenancies.”