Over the next few months, the Houses of Parliament will be deliberating on the wording of the Tenant Fees Bill, a hard-won piece of legislation that will ban letting fees.
There are a few problems with the Bill as it's drafted, and politicians need to hear from renters how the Bill could be a missed opportunity to prevent tenants being ripped-off.
Default fees are one exemption to the ban - letting agents and landlords are permitted to charge fees if a tenant fails to comply with the tenancy agreement. This is supposedly to protect landlords if tenants have to get new keys cut, or if they are late with rent, but landlords and agents are free to define the circumstances when the tenant can be charged. In theory tenants could challenge unfair terms but this relies on the redress system to operate effectively.
The Bill also allows fees for tenants who move out of a home they share and need to find a replacement tenant.
The Bill limits the amount that can be charged in these cases to the loss incurred by the landlord. The trouble is we know, from experience of the deposit system, that it can be difficult to challenge the landlord's claims, even if their loss sounds exaggerated.
Holding deposits are finally being regulated, but if the tenancy ends up not being agreed the agent or landlord can keep the holding deposit if they claim that the tenant has provided false or misleading information. The Bill is unclear on how the tenant should go about challenging such claims.
These exemptions could be abused by dodgy agents and landlords and see tenants keep getting ripped off, especially if it is difficult to challenge them. We're interested in hearing from you if you have:
- Wanted to remove unfair terms from a tenancy agreement, and if you managed to do this;
- Lost your holding deposit due to failing a reference check, and whether you thought this was fair;
- Raised a complaint about your letting agent with a redress scheme, and what the outcome was;
- Disputed deductions from your deposit, and what the outcome was; or
- Any other experiences you think are relevant to the above
Please provide details of your experiences below. We may include your comments anonymously as part of our evidence to the parliamentary committee which is examining the Bill, and at other stages on its legislative journey.
If you prefer you can contact the MP Bill committee directly here.