A draft Tenant Fees Bill was published at the end of last year aiming to make it easier for tenants in the private rented sector to see how much a property will cost them to rent, without being hit by extra fees.

It will prohibit landlords and letting agents from charging fees and other charges on top of the rent as a condition of obtaining a tenancy.

The Bill, in its current form, will also cap security deposits at no more than 6 weeks’ rent and holding deposits at no more than 1 week’s rent. It will also introduce new civil and criminal offences for breaching the ban with a civil penalty of £5,000 and criminal offences for subsequent breaches or a civil penalty of up to £30,000.

The move has been criticised by those in the private rented sector in that the proposals are potentially double-edged and could lead to higher rents as letting agents will need to recoup losses by passing them on to landlords, who in turn will be forced to pass on higher costs to their tenants.

Consultations have also been launched on mandatory client money protection schemes for letting and managing agents, and on barriers to longer term tenancies, as well as a ‘call for evidence’ by the Government on rent-a-room relief: a scheme which provides income tax relief for those letting out furnished accommodation. The property redress scheme may also be given a shake-up with suggestions of a move to a single Housing Ombudsman to cover the entire housing sector.

The last three years have seen many changes in the law affecting private residential tenancies and clearly with more on the horizon it is unsurprising that landlords are quitting the lettings sector with a recent report by housing charity Shelter suggesting that one in ten landlords are quitting each year. But with other reports estimating that a quarter of households in the UK will rent privately by the end of 2021 the sector is still an attractive proposition; the key to be well informed and to prepare for changes in the law well in advance. For advice contact Lupton Fawcett’s Partner, Johanne Spittle, on 01904 561425 or Johanne.spittle@luptonfawcett.law.