Letting agents have now been banned from charging fees at the start of a tenancy for three years.
After years of campaigning by Generation Rent and others, the Tenant Fees Act came into force on 1 June 2019, and banned almost all fees. At the start of your tenancy you should not be charged anything above the rent, a refundable security deposit worth a maximum of five weeks’ rent and a refundable holding deposit worth a maximum of one week’s rent.
If you’re ripped off by a letting agent or landlord, one way of getting your money back is through the First-Tier Tribunal – until you get it, you’re protected from a Section 21 eviction. Decisions made by the tribunal are published and we have taken a look at cases from the past 12 months to see what you should look out for if you want to make a claim:
- If a tenancy doesn’t go ahead, the holding deposit should be returned if you have taken all reasonable steps to agree the tenancy. The landlord or letting agent has 14 days from taking the holding deposit to agree the tenancy, then, if they want to keep it, they must tell you why within 7 days. If they don’t then they need to give it back regardless of the actions you took.
- If you’re moving out of a house share and find someone to replace you, your agent can charge up to £50 as an admin fee – but the tribunal found that any more is unreasonable. But that means if you don’t find a replacement, the tribunal might consider a higher fee to be reasonable.
- Regardless of whether your occupation of a property is based on a tenancy or a licence to occupy, you should not be charged fees for setting it up. One agent was told to refund money charged to set up a “short term let” of two months – which was considered to be a tenancy under the law.
- Landlords and letting agents cannot require you to pay for professional cleaners in the tenancy agreement – though they can require you to clean to a reasonable standard. If you don’t then they could claim against your security deposit.
- Beware that the tribunal has accepted complicated referencing processes as reasonable. One would-be tenant pulled out after the agent asked for open banking access after an initial round of referencing checks, but they didn’t get their holding deposit back.
Read more here about what you can be charged by landlords and letting agents.