Banning Letting Agent Fees in Wales

On Tuesday 12 June 2018 the Welsh Government introduced the Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Wales) Bill to ban fees charged in the private rented sector. The Bill will: 

  • Ban tenants from being charged for an accompanied viewing, receiving an inventory, signing a contract, or renewing a tenancy.
  • Allow letting agents and landlords to only charge fees relating to rent, security deposits, holding deposits, or when a tenant breaches a contract.
  • Provide a regulation-making power to limit the level of security deposits.
  • Cap holding deposits to the equivalent of one week’s rent.
  • Create a clear, simple and robust enforcement regime for when offences occur.

The enforcement regime will allow for Fixed Penalty Notices to be issued against anyone requiring a banned payment. If penalties are not paid, Local Housing Authorities can prosecute offences through the Magistrates Court.

Convictions for an offence could result in an unlimited fine and will be taken into account by Rent Smart Wales when considering whether to grant or renew a licence.

“We have been awaiting the announcement of this Bill, given the scrutiny on tenant fees across the private rented sector. It’s no surprise that, as with the Tenant Fees Bill, the Welsh Assembly have decided on a total ban.

“We do not believe the Bill will achieve its aims, as our own research last year demonstrated that tenants will end up worse off and banning fees will not result in a more affordable private rented sector. We’ll be liaising with the Welsh Government to ensure they understand the consequences of what ban will entail and how it will negatively impact all those involved in the private rented sector.”

Giving evidence to the Welsh Assembly

On Thursday 5 July 2018, ARLA Propertymark Chief Executive David Cox gave evidence to the Welsh Assembly’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee who are scrutinising the Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Wales) Bill.  

Ahead of the session ARLA Propertymark provided written evidence to the Committee

Read our written evidence

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

On 27 June 2017 the Welsh Government’s legislative priorities for the coming year (2017-18) were outlined in an annual statement by the First Minister, Carwyn Jones. It included news that the Welsh Government will take legislative action to tackle the fees charged to tenants in the private rented sector.

“We will introduce a Bill to prevent unfair fees from being charged to tenants and prospective tenants. This will provide those in the private rented sector with clarity about the costs involved and ensure the system is fair, equitable and sustainable.”

Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales.

The Consultation

On 19 July the Welsh Government launched its consultation on the fees charged to tenants in the private rented sector.

Communities and Children Secretary, Carl Sargeant AM, said:

“I want to know the extent of the fees charged, what those fees cover and understand the implications of the removal of these fees for letting agents, landlords, tenants and any third parties involved in the private rented sector.”

It’s vital that members give their views on proposals to change the way fees are charged by letting agents, landlords and third parties to tenants.

The consultation seeks views on the nature and level of fees being charged to tenants. It seeks to determine which fees, if any, are justifiably being charged to tenants. It also seeks information on fees paid by landlords to agents, and also on the possible consequence of banning fees. 

In February 2017, the Welsh Government released its summary of responses to the ban on fees consultation.

 

 

On 27 February 2018, the Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Rebecca Evans AM, confirmed the Welsh Government’s intention to ban fees.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

The Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Wales) Bill will be debated in the Welsh Assembly on 6 November 2018.

Things can change during the passage of a Bill through the Assembly and it is now more important than ever that those making the decisions in Cardiff understand the implications of their choices.

Now is the time for agents to see their AMs and explain the vital services they provide for the fees that they charge.

Find your assembly member

Letter

Letter

Use our template letter to get in touch with your Assembly Member

Download

megaphone

Talking Points

Download our talking points and proposed meeting agenda, key points and FAQs.

Download

clipboard

Briefing Paper

Briefing paper summarising the key arguments for you to give to your Assembly Member.

Download

Graph

Economic Analysis

Analysis conducted by Capital Economics assessing the impact of the letting fees ban

Download

Our position

ARLA Propertymark does not support the banning of letting agents charging fees to tenants. We believe fees should be open, transparent and reasonable.

  • Letting agent fees represent legitimate costs to the business that need to be covered.
  • Letting agents deliver a valuable service in ensuring that properties are safe, compliant and professionally managed.
  • Fees are charged to tenants to reflect real work that is undertaken on behalf of them, including checking references, drawing up tenancy agreements, conducting credit checks and general administration.
  • If fees to tenants are banned outright landlords are likely to pass on higher agents’ fees to tenants in the form of higher rent.
  • If less professional and part-time landlords turn away from agents due to increasing costs, they will likely be unaware of new (and existing) legal requirements, causing widespread non-compliance and putting tenants in danger. This could put added pressure on local authorities as tenants look for assistance.
  • Private landlords are an important source of investment in housing stock and a worsening of their financial position will likely result in less investment.
  • Some would-be landlords are likely to be put off by the increased costs that may be demanded by letting agents, and together with the withdrawal of mortgage interest rate relief and additional stamp duty, this will likely reduce the number of new entrants. This will put upward pressure on rents.  

RESEARCH

As part of ARLA Propertymark's Tenant Fees campaign, we commissioned evidence on the likely economic impact of the ban in England and Wales from leading consultancy Capital Economics.

Our research shows that the average fee charged by an ARLA Propertymark Protected agent is £202 per tenant.

Total turnover in the residential lettings sector in England and Wales is around £4 billion and it employs around 58,000 workers.

Official statistics show that real estate activities in England and Wales provided employment for 241,000 people in 2015 (6,500 in Wales and 19,000 in the South West).

Fees charged to tenants generate around £700 million per year or approximately 20% of the industry's turnover.

What else have we done?

Following the announcement in November that the UK Government would ban letting agent fees to tenants in England, ARLA Propertymark wrote to the First Minister in Wales requesting a meeting to ensure that the Welsh Government understand all of the evidence around fees.

In March 2017, ARLA Propertymark wrote a joint letter with the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) to Carl Sargeant AM, the Welsh Communities Secretary, to press for a meeting to discuss the implications of the UK Government’s decision to ban letting agent’s fees to tenants and how any subsequent ban in Wales would affect the sector as a whole.