Electrical Safety & Fees Charged to tenants are Hot Topics
Hot on the heels of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 last month, comes a Bill now being considered by the House of Lords which includes the banning of lettings fees, however, the bill also includes making five-yearly electrical safety checks mandatory in the private rental sector.The private members’ Bill put forward by Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Grender and the measures include the measure to stop letting agents from charging tenants or prospective tenants, registration fees, administration charges, fees for an inventory and reference checks, as well as banning fees when tenancies are ended or renewed. Whilst one of the measures is being backed by the charity Electrical Safety First (which will be welcome by landlords and letting agents) who are eager for five-yearly electrical safety checks in the private rental sector to become mandatory, the element relating to fees may not be so well-received. Since fees were banned in Scotland there have been calls for fees to banned in England.
Last year we published a list of fees (5 pages worth) collated from training courses across the UK. The disparity is vast - often the consumer and even letting agents believe that the highest fees are within the M25 but our research shows that this is far from the truth. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 dealt with transparency and whilst this legislation has been relatively well publicised through trade press, there are many letting agents in England who still fail to adhere to the requirements introduce in May 2015. The guidance provided by the CMA is very clear on what is required and Trading Standards are beginning to make their presence felt by carrying out visits on letting agents across the country. We have received calls everyday from clients who have been inspected or are awaiting a return visit from a Trading Standards Officer. Please note the TSi are imposing fines.
So where will these leave agents and, incidentally landlords? The measures regarding Electrical Safety are without a doubt necessary - no more grey areas as far as PAT testing and Fixed Wiring tests are concerned (The Housing & Planning Act 2016 also makes provision for Electrical Safety to possibly become mandatory). Banning fees will be well-received by organisations representing tenants, but what will happen to businesses who watch their income dwindle? Fees to landlords will increase and the knock on effect will be that landlords will increase rents. The Renters’ Rights Bill had an unopposed second reading in the House of Lords last week.
Susie Crolla - CEO