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Bill banning tenant fees gives Minister room to exempt

Amendment by Baroness Grender averts all-out ban on agent fees to tenants

Nigel Lewis

The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) says that the proposed total ban on fees charged by letting agents to tenants may be subject to exemptions following an amendment to the Renters’ Rights Bill currently passing through the Lords.

baroness-grender tenant feesThe amendment, which was published on Friday by the legislation’s sponsor, Baroness Grender (pictured, left), said that although a total ban on fees was being sought, she had introduced an amendment to to replace the previous prescriptive list that she says would have led to “new names for charges to get round it” and enable the Secretary of State to allow certain kinds of fees.

“If evidence emerges of services in respect of which there is value to the tenant in charging a particular fee, this can be done”, she said.

“I do not anticipate any such fees but my new amendment allows for the possibility, if concrete evidence was indeed found that a fee for a specific service would be in the best interest of the tenant in some way”.

NALS believes this is significant development because it appears to recognise the legitimate charging of reasonable fees by letting agents setting up tenancies.

“This amendment is a welcome one. NALS has long campaigned to raise the issue of upfront fees and what is fair for both tenants and agents,” says Isobel Thompson, CEO of NALS (pictured, below).

isobel-thompson tenant fees“What she’s saying now is that ‘yes, I want fees to be banned but I want to put in powers for the Secretary of State to specify where there are exemptions'”.

“We believe that industry itself can offer credible alternatives to the complex issue. The Fair Fees Forum – drawn together by NALS – seeks to find common ground between responsible, professional agents and tenant focussed groups over the range of fees that agents should be allowed to charge in return for the significant work they do, often behind the scenes.”

But the Grender amendment is also likely to be a move to give the industry room to negotiate through the recently-launched Fair Fees Forum which, if the legislation were to make it to the statute book in its current form, would lose its purpose entirely.

November 22, 2016

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