Agents breaking letting fees ban should receive robust fines, says CIEH

Publication Date: 6th June 2017

Subject: Housing

Larger agents found flouting the ban on letting agent fees should receive fines up to £30,000 to ensure greater levels of compliance with the new laws, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has said.

In response to the Government’s consultation on banning letting agents’ fees to tenants, CIEH has strongly welcomed a complete ban on all letting agents fees as it would remove some of the barriers tenants face in moving out of a poor quality home, while ensuring standards can improve in the private rented sector.

CIEH represents environmental health professionals, the workforce that carries out inspections in the private rented sector, and has recommended fines of up to £30,000 for larger property managing agents would be in line with the civil penalty for committing a banning order offence.

The membership body has also recommended that holding deposits should not be exempt from the ban as they might allow for loopholes to exploit tenants, such as agents hanging onto more than one tenant’s holding deposit for the same property.

Holding deposits also pose an additional barrier for tenants wishing to move home as they increase the amount of money that is needed to secure a new tenancy, and if they are permitted, they should be registered under a mandatory client money protection compensation scheme to avoid abuse.

Other key points within CIEH’s consultation submission:

  • Tenants should be provided with accessible information on their rights and the obligations of letting agents and how to lodge a complaint with the correct enforcement body
  • The ban on letting agent fees should also apply to landlords and third parties to avoid additional charges to the tenant via another route
  • Premium parts of the market should not be exempt from the ban as it could create  loopholes, such as allowing agents to market certain properties as being bespoke or up-market
  • There should only be exclusions to the ban for the rent, the refundable deposit and for in-tenancy property management services, where this is due to the tenants’ action

Tamara Sandoul, Policy Manager for CIEH, said that the underlying point behind all of CIEH’s calls is they will help improve standards and conditions in the private rented sector, while protecting tenants.

“The private rented sector is such an important part of the housing market, providing homes for people who otherwise cannot afford to buy their own, especially the vulnerable and those on low incomes,” said Tamara Sandoul.

“While the vast majority of letting agents are responsible, there are those who exploit tenants by charging them extortionately high fees. A comprehensive ban on letting agents’ fees is a very positive step forward. It will give tenants greater freedom to move out of properties that are hazardous and in poor condition, which in-turn should drive up standards and quality of rented housing.”

She added: “We do not expect to see higher rents because of the ban as the cost of referencing new tenants is likely to be small in comparison to the costs of maintaining a property to a good standard. At the moment managing agents are charging both the landlord and the tenant fees, but this ban should help to increase competition between letting agents and help to drive the total costs down.”

ENDS 

Notes to editors 

For CIEH enquiries, please contact Steven Fifer on: 020 7827 5922 or email s.fifer@cieh.org

Link to CIEH’s full submission to the Government’s consultation on banning letting agents’ fees: http://www.cieh.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=62321 

Link to Government consultation: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/banning-letting-agent-fees-paid-by-tenants 

About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH):   

CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing over 7,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved. 

Environmental health has an important and unique contribution to make to improving public health and reducing health inequalities. CIEH campaigns to ensure that government policy addresses the needs of communities and business in achieving and maintaining improvements to health and health protection.  

For more information visit www.cieh.org and follow CIEH on Twitter @The_CIEH

 

 

 

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