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Tenant Fees Ban: two months on

Most agents and landlords planned for this event by tightening up their operation. Some, also, says Frances Burkinshaw, cut some corners to minimise the loss of income.

Frances Burkinshaw

Link to Lettings update

The summer holidays are upon us; that can mean employees taking annual leave. It can also mean an increase in families looking for a rented home prior to the new school year. Employees left in the office can be under additional pressure to meet targets but also to accommodate those applicants.

Frances Burkinshaw image

Frances Burkinshaw

Rented accommodation in popular school catchment areas can be in great demand. It makes sense for families to move during the summer holidays, settle the family into their new home prior to the start of the new school year. Many children will move from primary to secondary school with associated worries. Others will be anxiously waiting for results of GCSEs and A Levels and those results could influence where the family live for the next stage in their lives. Those families will be ready to ‘pounce’, chasing after the best properties available to let.

We have to hope that no more draconian legislation will be introduced to hurt landlords and agents!

Others will be moving because they have sold their house but haven’t found another one to buy or perhaps they have bought but want to make substantial alterations and so wish to rent while the work is carried out. Spring and summer are naturally the most popular times to buy and sell and this has a knock-on effect for the rental market.

Do not cut those corners

Landlords and agents must not cut corners to take advantage of additional demand and workload. The consequences are too great. If references and credit checks are not carefully carried out there may well be an influx of fraudulent applications. Those wishing to take advantage of a situation are waiting in the wings to dupe unsuspecting staff. We must remember, the fraudsters are often more clever than the average person!

Another issue that must be taken very seriously is timing; the word ‘later’ should never be used in the context of lettings. It is essential to have a checklist prior to the tenant taking occupation. Each of the following items must be ticked and signed for by the tenant prior to them signing the tenancy agreement…

Gas safety, EPC and Right to Rent check. Any deposit paid must be protected under one of the approved schemes; the prescribed information and leaflet about the scheme must be given to the tenant. On move in day the smoke detectors and any carbon monoxide detector must be checked as should the inventory. If any of these essential procedures are not carried out there is a danger that any Section 21 notice served in the future may not be valid.

Housing benefit applicants

Another area of concern following the introduction of the Tenant Fees Ban is that applicants on Housing Benefit may be overlooked in favour of more affluent applicants. If fees cannot be charged for referencing a guarantor as well as the applicant for example then why not take the applicant more likely to pass references without a guarantor?

Agents will, without doubt, be far more choosy. It is already being noticed that there are more failures of applications. This is probably due to the fact that applicants may now apply for more than one property through several agents and then choose one to rent, dropping the others at the twelfth hour. (Yes, they will lose the small ‘holding deposit’ they have paid if they do not go ahead but this will be far less than the fees which were charged before the ban came into effect.) This is why application fees were charged in the first place. We are coming full circle on this issue – I clearly remember being regularly let down in the 1980s by applicants. All the work had been done, property ready etc and then ‘no show’. We introduced a ‘administration fee’ and the problem virtually disappeared.

Many agents are now asking applicants to complete a pre-viewing form. This is a detailed questionnaire; the agents will not carry out viewings without this form being fully completed. Many applicants fall by the wayside at this point thereby reducing the time wasted for the agent.

What next?

I am sure there will be further implications of the Tenant Fee Ban that will come to light as time goes by. We have to hope that the industry will be able to settle down and that no more draconian legislation will be introduced to hurt landlords and agents. Will a new Prime Minister help our industry? I wonder!

Frances Burkinshaw is an experienced independent trainer available nationally for in-house or group training. 01892 783961 or 07887 714341 or frances@ivychimneys.co.uk

August 1, 2019

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