Citizens Advice welcomes new law on letting agent fees

citizens adviceA LONG campaign by Citizens Advice has played a major part in securing a change in the law which will have big benefits for people who cannot afford to buy their own home and need to rent.

The new Tenant Fees Act came into force at the beginning of this month and it ensures that private renters will no longer have to pay unreasonable letting agent fees.

Citizens Advice had been calling for a ban on these fees for around 10 years and after obtaining cross-party support for what it was demanding it then worked with politicians to make sure that the new law was as watertight as possible.

One of its key successes was to close off the possibility that landlords would have been able to benefit from a “default fees” loophole that could have led to them and their agents being able to add unfair terms to tenancy agreements.

Parliament was also urged by Citizens Advice to reduce the amount of money required for a deposit from six weeks’ rent to four weeks. It did not achieve all it wanted but did win a compromise with the deposit being fixed at a maximum of five weeks’ rent where the total rent is under £50,000 a year.

Among the other benefits of the changes is that those having to rent cannot any longer be charged fees for looking around a property or the costs of setting up a tenancy, such as obtaining credit references.

Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, commented: “The end of these uncompetitive and unfair letting fees is a real win for renters.

“The new law means families and other renters don’t have to hand over hundreds of pounds every time they move home. We look forward to working with the government to further strengthen the hand of renters in a market where they have little bargaining power.”

In England, over one in three households in the private rented sector are families with dependent children. Up to now they have been paying £13million a month in letting fees, which is a total of £234million since the government committed to banning them in November 2017.

Citizens Advice helped over 190,000 people with housing problems in the past 12 months and more than 57,000 of these were people living in the private rented sector.

The ban on tenant fees applies to new or renewed tenancy agreements signed on or after June 1 2019. The aim of the act is to reduce the costs that tenants can face both when taking on a property and throughout a tenancy.

From now on tenants will be able to easily see what a given property will cost because the advertised rent should be free of hidden costs.

Help from Citizens Advice is free, confidential and impartial and it holds two advice sessions in Lyme Regis each week. They are on Mondays between 10am and 12noon at the medical centre in Uplyme Road (DT7 3LS) and on Wednesdays from 10am to 3pm at the St Michael’s Business Centre (DT7 3DB) in the centre of the town. No appointment is required.

Anyone is also welcome to seek help at its offices in South Street, Bridport, DT6 3NY every weekday between 10am and 3pm or can contact Citizens Advice by email on advice@bridport-cab.org.uk or by telephone on 03442 451291, which gets you through to the Dorset AdviceLine.

For people just wanting help with Universal Credit claims they can contact Citizens Advice on a national freephone number which is 0800 144 8444 and a webchat support service is available through its website.

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