By Lyndsey Hall
On 12th February 2019, the Tenant Fees Act was officially passed and became law. Three years in the making, the Act means that extortionate admin fees, credit check costs and other additional charges that bump up the cost of renting could be a thing of the past, saving renters around £240 million a year.
The new rules effect new tenancies from 1st June 2019 and renewals from 1st June 2020, meaning it will benefit all renters from next year. The main points in the Act include:
- Deposits must not exceed the equivalent of 5 weeks’ rent (or 6 weeks’ rent if the annual rent exceeds £50,000).
- Refundable holding deposits will be capped at one weeks’ rent.
- Charges for any changes to a tenancy, such as names, will be capped at £50 (unless the landlord can demonstrate with evidence that greater costs were incurred by the change).
- Early termination fees must be capped at “the landlord’s loss or the agent’s reasonable incurred costs”.
- Third party websites also now specifically come under the Consumer Rights Act 2015’s transparency requirements.
In addition to rents and deposits, agents and landlords will only be permitted to charge tenants fees for:
- A change or early termination of a tenancy when requested by the tenant
- Utilities, communication services and Council Tax
- 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).
A breach of the fees ban will be a civil offence and will incur a penalty of up to £5,000. If landlords or agents go on to break the rules again within 5 years they will face an unlimited fine.
It’s estimated around 4.8million renting households in England will benefit, saving between £200 and £800 for each move. The fees ban was first mooted by Philip Hammond in his November 2016 autumn statement, but after extensive lobbying by landlords and agents alike it has only now become law. The Act brings England into line with Scotland, where letting fees were banned in 2012, and several other European countries. The ban is set to extend to Wales from this September.
During the consultation period, 93% of tenants surveyed agreed with the proposed ban. The Act has been introduced in part to encourage more people to consider renting in future, as the housing crisis, climbing house prices and stricter mortgage lending practices have made homeownership ever more difficult and expensive.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said, “This is a landmark moment for the millions of people who rent privately. For too long, families and other renters have had to hand over hundreds of pounds on unfair and uncompetitive letting fees every time they moved home.”