Kojo Apeagyei
Kojo Apeagyei

By Kojo Apeagyei

So, what’s the latest on the Letting Fees ban?

We have campaigned since 2013 to ban letting agent fees – launching our ‘Letting Away With It’ campaign, which quickly received 13,000 signatures of support from people all across the country. We even produced a video highlighting just how ridiculous the fees are within the context of buying a coffee – you wouldn’t pay for fees like ‘receipt printing’ and ‘water renewal’ at a café, so why should you pay for similar charges when renting?

With the announcement of the letting fees ban in November 2016, all of this is thankfully coming to an end… Hold off on the celebrations though, because the ban has still not yet been put in place.

Currently, the government is organising a committee to discuss the details of the ban – essentially which fees are scrapped and how this would be implemented.

‘But Kojo, wasn’t the ban on fees announced almost a year ago?’ I hear you cry. Well yes, you’re absolutely right. The announcement was made in November 2016, but this was only an announcement of the forthcoming policy and not an enforcement of it. The government still needs to decide how the ban will be implemented.

Consultation

To aid this, during the summer the government opened up a consultation on the ban. Inviting views from the public on the necessity of the ban and how it should be implemented. We expected some letting agents to be extremely vocal in their support of the fees – claiming that a ban on the fees would lead to a dramatic increase in their costs resulting in either financial ruin for letting agents or an increase in rent. This claim was made in Scotland prior to their ban on letting fees in 2012.

Shockingly enough, Scotland hasn’t seen a rise in rents since or financial ruin for letting agents. People still need affordable homes and Scotland’s letting agents are still in successful business.

Shelter commissioned an independent research to assess the impact of the ban on letting agent fees in Scotland. Finding that any negative side-effects of the ban have been minimal for letting agencies, landlords and renters, and the sector remains healthy.

Supporter responses

We reached out to supporters via email and social media and asked you to tell us what fees you’ve been charged by letting agents. After receiving over 300 responses we presented them to the government during its consultation period, further highlighting just how ridiculous these fees are and why they absolutely needed to be banned.

Carol, for instance, paid a deposit of £650 to secure her home, £33 for a ‘signing’ fee, £300 for a credit check, then a £75 fee per each of her guarantors, an administration fee of £50 (per tenant), a referencing fee of £75 (also per tenant), and finally a check-in fee of around £72… yeah, you can breathe now.

Another supporter, Neil, was told by his letting agent that he had to pay his own deposit protection, whilst Charlotte pays £140 every six months simply to renew her contract and stay in her home.

It’s no secret that housing across the UK is in short supply. With more and more people now turning towards the private rented sector, it’s a wonder how anybody is supposed to rent without parting with a huge lump sum of money upfront – particularly crippling for those already struggling to make ends meet as is.

Parliamentary debate

The government recently made a firm commitment to banning the fees outright before the next election. Whilst this is vaguer than we would have liked, we welcome the fact that it reaffirmed a commitment to ensuring this is not a cap, or partial scrap, but a full ban on all fees to private renters. This announcement was made during a Westminster Hall debate on the letting fees ban hosted by Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton. Kevin is currently the non-executive Chair of a large letting agent and also a full supporter of the ban. All in all, whilst we wish the ban would come into force as soon as possible, we are pleased that the Government is showing a clear commitment to standing up for private renters.

Next stage

The government will soon publish a draft bill on the letting fees ban, enabling a select committee to scrutinise the details of the ban. We’ll be there to make sure there are no attempts to water this down and will be monitoring this closely – we will keep you updated.

  • If you want to help private renters further and stop more people becoming homeless, sign our petition to end the freeze on Local Housing Allowance.

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