New proposals to regulate tenant damage fees a ‘direct attack’ on letting agents
A new government proposal to tighten regulation over fees charged to tenants for minor damages was described as a “direct attack” on letting agents by the chair of the group representing the private rental market.
Still, in the report stage, the proposals seek to stamp out bad practice where fees are charged to tenants beyond the actual cost incurred.
But Chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the private sector, Christopher Chope, argued the Bill was simply a “crowd-pleasing” exercise that unfairly targeted a sector already facing tough regulations and interference.
“I think there’s too much crowd-pleasing on the part of the government and not enough sensible regulation and recognition of the important work which those involved in the private rented
sector do,” he told the Commons.
MPs in support of the Bill said the new proposals would ensure fees charged to tenants for minor damages would be “reasonable”.
Speaking in the Commons, Minister for Local Government Rishi Sunak said it was not the intent of the government to leave landlords to pay for damages that were the fault of the tenant, but added the current default fees provisions was “open to abuse”.
He said: “This Bill is not about driving letting agents out of business – it is about levelling the playing field so that the small minority of bad actors in the industry is not able to continue to the disadvantage of the vast majority of agents who do a terrific and valuable job.”
The current legislation already partly mitigates the risk of such abuse, he said, by limiting default fees to the landlords’ loss and only permitting such fees if they are expressly set out in the tenancy agreement but added: “more can be done”.
The Bill later received an unopposed third reading and will undergo further scrutiny in the Lords.
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