The Renters’ Rights Bill made more progress in the House of Lords last Friday. The Bill, which proposes changes to the charges letting agents are able to levy on tenants, now goes on to the Report Stage at a later date.
During last week’s committee stage, proposer of the Bill, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Grender, made amendments to her legislation.
Grender decided to make these changes as she felt the terminology used in the original document, ‘would leave too many options for newly named fees to be charged.’
As opposed to specifying named fees to be banned, the amended Renters’ Right’s Bill now, ‘Bans all fees to the tenant from the letting agency and specifies that charging a fee to a tenant would be an offence.’
There does however remain a sub-section in the proposal allowing the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to make an exemption. This is so that should evidence emerge of services in respect of which there is value to the tenant in charging fees, it could be done.
Grender informed peers that she, ‘does not anticipate any such fees but my new amendment allows for the possibility, if concrete evidence was indeed found that a fee for specific service would be in the best interest of the tenant in some way.’
Despite general support, not everyone present agreed with all elements of the Bill.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes observed: ‘If the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, believes that people will simply reduce their rents, it is unrealistic. When she talks about how much rents have gone up, that is nothing compared to how much property has gone up.’
Addressing other measures of the Bill, such as the mandatory registration of landlords and limits on deposits, Gardner said: ‘“I thoroughly approve of the idea that you should have access to a register of rogue landlords and all that, but it is unrealistic to imagine that this list of things which the noble Baroness has set out in detail will suddenly become inexpensive or vanish.’
Responding, Grender noted: ‘There are good lettings agents out there who are members of government-accredited redress schemes and pursue best practice. They should continue to charge a fee for the work that they do but the fee should be from the landlord, who can shop around and choose which lettings agency to use. Landlords can decide to use the decent, regulated ones.’