The Government yesterday backed letting agents over renters by refusing to ban fees to tenants. In voting on the Consumer Rights Bill, Conservative and LibDem whips defeated the ban 281 to 228. The Government instead promised new fines for agents who don’t publish their fee tariff.
Campaigners from Shelter and Generation Rent have been calling for a ban on letting fees to tenants because of the failure of letting agents to end the “hidden fees” scam, where agents apply unexpected fees once a tenant is committed to a property.
A recent ComRes poll showed that 30% of tenants are stung with these hidden fees and research carried out by Shelter showed that 1 in 7 tenants face fees of more than £500. There is already a ban on charging both sides of a transaction for lawyers, recruitment consultants, financial advisers and even travel agents.
This isn’t a majority of agents but the hidden fee scam is still hitting a million tenants each year to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. The government commitment to beefing up regulations against hidden fees will be extraordinarily expensive for the taxpayer to implement if it is to be effective, while a ban on fees to tenants would cost almost nothing.
This move by the Government could yet hit the General Election prospects of both coalition parties. 43 of the government MPs who voted against the ban represent constituencies where private sector renters outweigh the MP’s majority by more than 3 to 1. Thirty-four of those MPs are Conservative and 9 are LibDem and the loss of these seats would overturn the coalition’s majority of 78.
Generation Rent is bringing together renters in these 43 constituencies, they are organised, spreading the word, and ready to vote only for those ready to stand up against exploitative letting agents and landlords. Sign up to our campaign today and let us know if you would like to be part of a local campaign group.