Letting Agents Fees September 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding letting agent fees in the private rented housing sector. 

I appreciate and share your concern about these fees and the fact that people struggle with the growing cost of renting and the insecurity and uncertainty built into the rental market. I am aware of the strong public feeling on this issue, as demonstrated by a Change.org petition signed by more than 255,000 people.

These fees - which average £400 every time a renter moves house, but can be much higher - are extortionate, anti-competitive and are putting additional pressure on renters at a time when rents have risen on average by more than £1,000 since 2010. Indeed, 54 per cent of people say they faced financial difficulties covering letting agent fees and over the last three years one in four who have dealt with a letting agency say they have had to borrow money to pay fees.

This is an incredibly important issue facing people in our constituency and across the country. Indeed, there are now eleven million people renting privately in the UK, including over 1.6 million families with children.

Research by the NUS has also shown that students are particularly suffering as a result of these charges, with more than half of students having to pay over £500 to set up their tenancy and 37 per cent of students getting into debt to meet these costs.

In the last Parliament, during the passage of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the Opposition tabled amendments to ban letting agent fees charged to tenants and to end the practice of double charging where an estate agent demands fees from both buyers and sellers of the same property. I am very disappointed, that the Government voted against those amendments, which would have saved renters money every time they move house.

It is also very disappointing that the current Government's Housing and Planning Act - which received Royal Assent on 12 May 2016 and is now law - does nothing to get to grips with the scandal of sky-high letting fees.

During the 2015 General Election, Labour pledged to ban letting agents from charging fees on tenants. However, this Government has not made any commitments on reducing or scrapping these fees.

I support the Renters’ Rights Bill which is currently moving through the House of Lords. This bill, the key focus of which is to ban these excessive fees, has been endorsed by the Labour Party. I will follow the progress of this bill if and when it moves forward.

I can assure you that I will continue to monitor this issue carefully and press the Government to provide further protections for landlords and tenants in the private rented sector. 

Thank you for writing to me and for sharing your views.