Tenant fees set to be banned at last – but deposits still too high

The Government today published its Draft Tenant Fees Bill that will ban landlords and letting agents from charging fees to tenants.

Since being elected I’ve been campaigning constantly for better conditions for private renters and more regulation of letting agents and landlords.

Although there are still some improvements needed, it’s a breath of fresh air to see the Government finally listening to renters rather than landlords in confirming the ban on letting fees in today’s draft bill.

A ban on fees should have happened long ago – for too long private renters have been left to the wolves in an exploitative and unfair market.

I’ve been a private renter in London for 20 years and have been stung by these fees many times. I’ve listened to renters in my Big Renters Survey last year and found that nearly a third of renters had been forced to pay unexpected fees when they were most cash strapped.

The ban will support good letting agents who offer a decent service, keep them accountable to landlords, and stop those who just want to exploit renters.

However, in my report Letting them get away with it, I found most councils are currently not enforcing the existing rules on letting fees and more resources will be needed so that trading standards can make sure the new ban is followed.

And there is much more that should be done to help renters. In particular the draft bill has capped deposits and holding deposits, but at six weeks and one week of rent respectively, which adds up to much more than renters will be able to pay without going into debt. This needs to be changed before the new law passes.

And the Mayor must push for more devolution of powers over London’s housing market, including the ability to license landlords across London and control spiralling rents. In the Mayor’s current Memorandum of Understanding with Government there is no mention of these powers – see my criticisms here.

An Assembly motion I proposed in November last year was passed by a majority of members and urged the Mayor to go further in pressing for new powers to at least match Wales and Scotland – read more here.