The Fair Fees Forum set up last month by the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) met yesterday for the first time to consider the contentious issue of excessive fees charged to tenants by agents. Many in the industry are hoping the consensus it will built can head off an outright ban on tenant fees by replacing it with a fees cap.
It was quite a meeting of minds. Every interest group was invited including those from the lettings industry, two of the redress schemes and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Representatives from trading standards and tenant groups such as Crisis and Shelter were also at the ‘first of its kind’ gathering, which NALS hopes will lead to consensus among the different groups on a ‘fair fees charter’.
Agents represented at the meeting included Belvoir, Chestertons, Foxtons, Hunters, Leaders, Northwood, Portico, Savills, Spicerhaart and Winkworth, all of whom made up an ‘agent group’ at the day’s proceedings. The Residential Landlords Association also had representatives at the meeting.
The agent group agreed unanimously on the need for ‘fair, justifiable and transparent fees’ and that excessive fees should be curbed.
But they also made it clear that agents should be able to charge fees for services such as preparing the tenancy agreement and providing a rental relationship for the tenant.
The agents also agreed that while an outright ban would ‘negatively’ affect the market it would also have unintended consequences including alternative fees, a drop in standards and agent closures.
A wider debate then followed between all the interest groups during which NALS says there was a ‘robust’ exchange of views on both an outright ban, a fees cap and the lack of enforcement of existing fee structure regulations.
A working group is now set to meet within 28 days to consider the key issues raised during the forum.