The Welsh government has revealed its planned letting fees ban legislation after it was introduced to the country’s Assembly on Tuesday and, like its English counterpart, is likely to become law next year.
The Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Wales) Bill is similar to the English system, banning almost all fees including those for accompanied viewings, inventories, contract signing and renewing a tenancy.
Welsh agents will be allowed to charge tenants rent, security deposits, holding deposits and fees when a tenant breaches a contract.
The bill also opens the way for deposits to be limited to an as-yet specified limit, will cap holding deposits at a week’s rent and establish a mechanism for prompt repayment of deposits.
But enforcement of the new laws will be different, says Housing and Regeneration minister Rebecca Evans (pictured).
Agents found charging prohibited fees will be issued £500 fixed penalty notices and, if these are not paid, prosecuted in a Magistrates Court and face unlimited fines.
Enforcement will also be integrated into the recently-introduced agent licensing system, Rent Smart Wales.
“This Bill builds on the work we have already done here in Wales through the Housing and Renting Homes Acts to ensure that those wishing to rent in the private sector can expect high standards, fair treatment and transparency,” says Rebecca Evans.
“Fees charged by letting agents often present a significant barrier to many tenants, especially those on lower incomes.
“The Bill will mean that tenants no longer face significant upfront fees when they start renting. In most instances they will only need to pay their monthly rent and a security deposit.”
The new legislation has received a relatively lukewarm response from landlords – the NLA says it may, like the English ban, have “unintended consequences” for some renters.
“Whilst tenants and applicants deserve to be treated fairly, and not unduly charged, it is disappointing that the Welsh Government seem to be adding to the enormous amount of change with which landlords in Wales are being expected to contend,” says Chris Norris, its Director of Policy and Practice (pictured).