MPs announce proposals to the Tenant Fees Act
MPs have proposed a series of amendments to the Tenant Fees Act as part of its Report Stage and Third Reading in the House of Commons.
Yesterday it was revealed that the Bill will include a new default fee provision which will only allow agents and landlords to recover ‘reasonable incurred costs’ for minor damages.
Evidence of these costs will have to be provided to the tenant before agents or landlords can impose any charges.
The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government says this will put a stop to ‘tenants being charged hundreds of pounds for a damaged item that actually only costs a few pounds to replace’.
It gives the example of tenants being charged £60 by agents to replace smoke alarms which the local council would provide for free.
A further amendment tabled yesterday is a move to reduce the timeframe in which agents and landlords have to pay back any fees that have been deemed to be charged unlawfully to 7-14 days.
“Tenants across the country, whatever their income, should not be hit with unfair costs by agents or landlords,” commented MP Rishi Sunak in an official government statement.
“This government is determined to make sure our housing market works and this new provision in the Tenant Fees Bill will make renting fairer and more transparent for all.”
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Conservative MP and founder of franchise agency Hunters, Kevin Hollinrake said the legislation ‘still has flaws’.
He argued that it could hinder landlords if, for example, a tenant loses a key and a payment needs to be made for a company to come out and let the tenant in.
Hollinrake said these charges should not be incurred on landlords and letting agents, and a distinction between fees and lawful charges should be clarified as part of the Bill.
“We’re disappointed but unsurprised the Tenant Fees Bill has passed the House of Commons. Over the summer, we worked with Daniel Kawczynski MP on his amendment to allow agents to charge up to £300,” says David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark.
“Although the amendment was unsuccessful, this shows that members involved in ARLA Propertymark’s campaign have helped MPs understand the unintended consequences of the tenant fee ban; with some MPs listening to the legitimate concerns of the industry.”
“As the Bill moves into the House of Lords we will continue working to ensure Parliamentarians understand the impact the ban will have on the whole private rented sector,” he says.
The Labour Party also proposed amendments to the Bill – both of which were rejected. It called for a loophole which allows landlords to charge tenants significant fines if they break their tenancy agreements to be closed and for the £5,000 cap on landlord fines to be removed.
“Labour’s changes would ensure that landlords and agents cannot get around the bill by sneaking unfair fees into tenancy agreements and help make funding available to catch those who don’t play by the rules,” said Melanie Onn, Labour’s shadow housing minister.