For landlords there is certainly a need to make sure they are fully abreast with the new legislation. Working with a Lettings Agent who is a member of the Property Ombudsman and the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA) such as Amelies will help ensure that you enter into fully compliant tenancy agreements and that you receive honest and transparent advice.
The new regulations only come into force with any tenancy agreements signed after 1st June 2019 but landlords need to start thinking about how these costs will be absorbed. Critics of the new legislation have cited higher rents as an inevitable outcome, as landlords pass back the costs to tenants in this way. Certainly, the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA) believe this will be the case and that in the long term, tenants will ultimately pay more compared to the average fee charged by an ARLA Propertymark Protected agent of £202 per tenant. However, indications from landlords seem to suggest that the long lead in time for the legislation has allowed them to prepare for the absorption of any new costs and that market performance will help them balance their books. Landlords seem to be prepared for profits to remain static this year but seem optimistic going forward after that.
For tenants, the new Act appears to offer an instant and significant cost saving which is good news at the start of a tenancy, when tenants also have to pay a deposit and their first month’s rent in advance. However, there are a couple of things to be aware of. The first is ensuring you use a reputable agent. This means that you can be sure that the new regulations are being upheld and you are not finding yourself invoiced for costs no longer payable by you.
Secondly, although Tenants Fees Act is detailed and specific there are a couple of loopholes to watch for: namely the ability to apply penalties on tenants if they are late with their rent or if they lose their keys. Reputable agents will make these penalties clear at the outset but do read all the small print.
Any major change in legislation such as this can hit hard, particularly as the current market is sluggish and rent increases have slowed. ARLA estimates that fees charged to tenants account for approximately 20% of the Letting Agents Industry turnover. So, make no mistake, this is a big deal.
At Amelies, we have been preparing for the introduction of the new Act for a while and working closely with the Landlords whose property we manage to ensure the transition on 1st June is smooth. As ever, our ethos is focused around working in partnership with landlords to take the stress out of letting and is all part of our culture of going over and above to exceed expectations. We are fully up to speed with all of the new legislation, so if you are a landlord who would like some expert advice please do get in touch.
For tenants looking to rent a property we can advise on what the legislation means for you and what you should be looking out for in a tenancy agreement. There’s no need to get caught out with charges by agents who are not up to speed on the new laws. We are happy to have an informal chat over the phone, so please do get in touch.
The Tenant Fees Act – what are the key measures?
For more detailed information click here to read the Government’s documentation.
- Security deposits can only be a maximum of five weeks' rent (unless the annual rent exceeds £50,000 then deposits are capped at six weeks’ rent).
- Holding deposits must not exceed one week’s rent. There are also new requirements on landlords and agents to return a holding deposit to a tenant.
- Charges to tenancy will be capped at £50 unless the landlord can prove that greater costs were incurred.
- An initial breach of the ban will incur a fine of £5,000 with a criminal offence where a person has been fined or convicted of the same offence within the last 5 years. Financial penalties of up to £30,000 can be issued as an alternative to prosecution.
- The law will be enforced by Trading Standards who will make provisions for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees via the First-tier Tribunal.
- Landlords are prevented from recovering possession of their property via the section 21 until they have repaid any unlawfully charged fees.
- Property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla will be also be covered under the letting agent transparency requirements via an amendment to The Consumer Rights Act 2015.
- Money raised through fines in relation to the act can be used by Local authorities for future local housing enforcement.
- Alongside rent and deposits, agents and landlords will only be permitted to charge tenants fees associated with:
- A change or early termination of a tenancy when requested by the tenant
- Utilities, communication services and Council Tax
- Payment of damages where the tenant has breached terms in their tenancy agreement
- Payments arising from a default by the tenant where they have had to replace keys or a respective security device, or a charge for late rent payment (not exceeding 3% above the bank of England base rate)
Daniel J McCarthy, Director Amelies Sales & Lettings Oxfordshire