The law on tenant fees has changed.
A landlord or agent cannot require you (or anyone acting on your behalf or guaranteeing your rent) to make certain payments in connection with a tenancy in England. They cannot require you to enter a contract with a third party for the provision for a service or for insurance or make a loan in connection with a tenancy.
The only payments in connection with a tenancy that you can be asked to make are:
- the rent
- a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than five weeks’ rent where your total annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks’ rent where your total annual rent is £50,000 or above
- a refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than one week’s rent
- payments to change the tenancy when requested by the tenant, capped at £50, or reasonable costs incurred if higher
- payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant
- payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and council tax; and
- A default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device giving access to the housing, where required under a tenancy agreement.
If the payment a landlord or agent is charging is not on this list it is not lawful, and a landlord or agent should not ask you to pay it.
From 1 June 2019, if you enter into a tenancy agreement, student let or licence to occupy housing in the private rented sector, a landlord or agent will be prohibited from charging you any fees or other payments that are not included in the list of permitted payments above.
Landlords will be responsible for the costs associated with setting up, renewing or ending a tenancy (e.g. referencing, administration, inventory, renewal and check-out fees). Agents and landlords do not have to pay back any fees that they have charged you before 1 June 2019. You should challenge a landlord or agent if you think they are charging an unlawful fee.
If you entered into a tenancy before 1 June 2019, a landlord or agent will still be able to charge fees up until 31 May 2020, but only where these are required under an existing tenancy agreement. This might include, for example, fees to renew a fixed-term agreement where you had already agreed to pay these.
Nonetheless, businesses such as letting agents are prohibited from setting unfair terms or fees under existing consumer protection legislation. If you consider the level of fees being charged to be unfair, you should discuss this with your landlord or agent.
From 1 June 2020, the ban on fees will apply to all assured shorthold tenancies, tenancies of student accommodation and licences to occupy housing in the private rented sector in England. Landlords and agents will not be able to charge any fees after this date (apart from those payments which are excluded from the ban – see above).
If a landlord or agent requires you to make a payment under a term within a tenancy which was entered into before the ban came into force, such as check-out or renewal fees, they can continue charging those fees until 31 May 2020.
After 1 June 2020, the term requiring that payment will no longer be binding. Should you, in error, make such a payment, you should ask the landlord or agent to return the payment immediately. The payment must be returned within 28 days. If they do not return the payment within 28 days, then they will be treated for the purposes of the Act as having required you to make a prohibited payment (a payment that is outlawed under the ban).
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau will be happy to help you with any problems you have about these new rights.
www.salfordcab.org.uk or 0300 3309 074
June 4, 2019.