Did anybody catch our Editor and Spokesperson of Just Landlords, Rose Jinks, on Sky News at the weekend? She was on the Sunrise show speaking to Stephen Dixon and Gillian Joseph about the Tenant Fees Act.
On Saturday 1st June 2019, the long-awaited Tenant Fees Act came into force across England. It has banned landlords and letting agents from charging upfront fees to tenants, as well as capping security deposits at five weeks’ rent and holding deposits at one week’s rent.
Rose was invited to speak to the Sunrise team about the effects of the Act on the private rental sector.
The Government has introduced the ban to save tenants money, as well as make the private rental sector a fairer, more transparent place to live. It could potentially save tenants hundreds of pounds, as they will no longer have to pay for tasks such as looking around a property, setting up a tenancy or check-out.
Landlords and letting agents caught charging the fees after 1st June will be fined up to £5,000 for a first offence, facing £30,000 fines or prosecution for another offence within five years.
Rose agreed that tenant fees could be unfair: “The average fee across the country is £400, but it can vary massively across the regions, so tenants can face extremely high costs when it comes to moving into a new property or moving within the private rental sector.”
So, why haven’t landlords controlled fees before this point?
Rose explained: “Often, it’s a letting agent that’s managing the property, so the letting agent has their own set of fees, they charge those to their tenants, they also charge their landlord customers, so it may be that the landlord who owns the property isn’t even aware of how much their tenant’s being charged, but, again, they do charge themselves, so now the Government’s stepping in and saying ‘we want to save tenants money, let’s put a ban on this’.”
With that in mind, it seems that the ban will naturally save tenants money. However, Rose is worried that the Act may not result in this.
“We’ve seen a lot of concern in the industry that it may not positively affect the tenants in the long-term, because the landlords may put the rent prices up instead, or they may leave the sector, which would reduce housing stock for tenants,” she claimed. “So I believe it’s a positive move by the Government to try and save the tenants money, but what we’re hearing is concern that that may not be effective in the long-term.”
However, Dixon argued that perhaps small increases in the monthly rent would be more manageable for renters.
Rose agreed: “Tenants can often face difficulties with moving house, and the private rental sector is designed to be flexible; you can move freely within it, but sometimes they’re facing barriers with extremely high costs that mean they can’t move house, because they have to pay all of these fees for these admin tasks, so hopefully now, yes, they will be able to move more fluidly.”
So, could this be beneficial to landlords as well?
“We always say to landlords that, if you get a good tenant in your property who looks after it, treats it like a home, pays their rent on time, that’s beneficial to you, you should be supporting your tenants to actually be comfortable in their own homes,” she added.
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