Lettings fees ban comes into force

Hirwuan Street Cathays: New roads to have Welsh language names to reflect their heritage. Source: Colin Smith

by Charlotte King

Three months after its implementation in England, the ban on lettings fees has come into force in Wales in time for new and returning students who will be seeking property arrangements over the coming year.

Earlier this year, the Welsh Assembly passed a law stating landlords and letting agents could face a fixed penalty notice of £1,000 if they are caught trying to charge tenants for payments which are not ‘permitted’ under this new legislation in an effort to protect tenants.

This means that tenants in Wales can no longer be charged for signing a contract, renewing a tenancy, or having an accompanied viewing, for example. According to a press release from the Welsh Government, landlords and letting agents are only legally allowed to charge tenants for rent, security deposits, holding deposits payments when a tenant breaches a contract, and payments regarding council tax, utilities, television licence or communication services. The Government also states the new law will ensure the prompt repayment of deposits.

It is anticipated that this new legislation could see tenants saving £200 on what Cardiff Central AM Jenny Rathbone calls “extortionate fees”. The AM says she has been campaigning for a ban on lettings fees in Wales since 2016 and that this new ban “will make a huge difference to young people…[It] will ensure they feel they are not taken advantage of in case of future disputes with their letting agencies.”

CPS Homes, a popular lettings agency amongst students, have called this ban the “biggest change to hit the lettings industry in decades” and have said that it will affect agents “massively”, estimating that lettings agents across England and Wales will collectively lose almost £200m in fees within one year of the new legislation being implemented. CPS state they will now have no choice but to “increase [their] fees to new and existing landlord clients”. There is a potential this could lead to increased rent prices.

Daniel Carroll, a former Cardiff University student, told Gair Rhydd of his experience getting his deposit back before the ban which hopes to make deposit returns easier for future tenants.

Daniel said, “After my tenancy had finished, I emailed every couple of weeks asking about my deposit and when it was being returned. The replies were simply delaying tactics until the cut-off date for independent adjudication had been reached.

“[The estate agent] then sent me a letter stating they were taking my entire deposit! I went to the SU for advice and took [the estate agent] to a small-claims court…I fully support any law that limits [estate agents’] power and expands tenants’ rights in what is an extremely predatory market.”

Another student told Gair Rhydd that throughout two years of living private accommodation, they have paid over £200 in agency fees to letting agents.

Deputy Housing Minister and Local Government Minister Hannah Blythyn has said the Welsh Government understands adjustments will need to be made by landlords and letting agents to ensure they can comply with the change, however the Government “[wants] to see this important legislation come into force” before the start of autumn term in Wales.

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