This week Housing Minister Gavin Barwell was caught off-message on Twitter when a reply he gave to magazine Inside Housing about the rumoured fees ban was unearthed.
Barwell said (see right) ‘Bad idea – landlords would pass costs ton to tenants via rent. We’re looking at other ways to cut upfront costs & raise standards’.
It is no doubt this sort of mood music from the Tory government that persuaded NALS that a Fair Fees Forum was a good idea. But they, like Barwell, were caught by surprise when Hammond announced that he would bring forward a total ban on fees charged to tenants.
At least Barwell is consistent, though. He is one of the few people Tory MPs who who haven’t undergone an astonishing conversion to banning tenant fees since 2014.
Those with longer memories will recall that both the 2014 Labour amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill and a 2013 Private Members Bill both failed to gain support from the Tory benches.
Chancellor Philip Hammond and Prime Minister Theresa May both voted against the Labour amendment, which was defeated by 291 to 228 votes.
But while Barwell has stuck to his guns – his Tweet reflected his ‘no’ vote to the Labour amendment, Hammond has change his tune.
By proposing a ban during the Autumn statement, Hammond said it would ‘improve competition in the private rental market and give renters clarity and control over what they pay’.
One irony of the Labour amendment in 2014, which most agents opposed, is that agents and landlords were going to be allowed to charge for credit checks, something they will not be able to do if the current proposed ban become law.