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Let it fee: The banning of agency fees in Wales

Photo Credit: Fadhila A. Al Dhahouri via Facebook

By Indigo Jones

On the 4th of February 2019 Cardiff University’s SU President, Fadhila A. Al Dhahouri, announced on Facebook that the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, confirmed that letting agency fees should be banned in the new academic year.

According to the Students’ Union website, “Cardiff University Students’ Union called upon Mr Drakeford to give an assurance that letting fees would be prohibited in Wales by September 2019, the start of the next academic year,” to which he seemed incredibly hopeful at the idea.

Dhahouri also stated that “We made it happen”, as members of the Students’ Union came together to share testimonies and personal stories on the matter to demonstrate their support. This includes Janet Williams, Amr Al Wishah (VP Welfare and Campaigns), Wiliam Rees, Iqra Babu and Jake Smith (VP Postgraduate Students). The above also played their part in organising the Governance of Wales Citizen’s Assembly, which was held in partnership with Citizens’ Cymru Wales. The event hosted over 350 attendees who represented a variety of Wales’ different communities.

When we spoke to the Students’ Union President, she stated she was “very proud of the fact we worked tirelessly over the last 3 months to put this event together”. She elaborated that this pride stems from the impact the ban would have, which would not only effect Cardiff or Cardiff’s students, but everyone across Wales.

Fadhila also shared own testimony with us, as she told her story as a student spending large sums of money on letting agent fees as well as deposits. She told us how she struggled to eat and begrudgingly lived on a diet of just rice, in order to afford the bills she was forced to pay.

When asked how this would impact Wales, Dhahouri replied, “That is the difference we could make, that the students could focus on their studies and education rather than making money”.

The president of the UMCC (Undeb Myfyrwyr Cymraeg Caerdydd), Wiliam Rees, who was involved in the the Governance of Wales Citizen’s Assembly, and introduced the First Minister stated that he, “welcome[s] the First Ministers commitment to ban these fees from the start of the next academic year, saving hundreds of pounds for students who will no longer be ripped off by agencies”.

He went on to tell Gair Rhydd that “Having paid up to £400 pounds in fees myself, I feel happy and also relieved that I, or anyone else for that matter won’t have to go through with this process again when looking for houses in future”.

Mark Drakeford explained his reasoning for introducing the bill, “Fees charged by letting agents can be a significant barrier for tenants, especially students and those on lower incomes. This is why we’ve introduced a Bill, which will ban fees charged in the private rented sector and make things fairer for tenants. “

He continued by stating, “Under this Bill tenants will no longer be charged fees for basic things like signing a contract, renewing a tenancy or receiving an inventory […] I want renting to be a positive and widely accessible choice for people and this Bill will make sure the costs associated with renting are more reasonable, affordable and clear”.

This development has been long awaited as Scotland originally banned letting agency fees in 2012, meanwhile agency fees should be banned in England by June 2019. The First Minister told Gair Rhydd that “If this Bill passes through the Assembly, I am confident it will be enacted ahead of the start of the next academic year”.

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