UNISON has welcomed moves to protect tenants from unfair and unnecessary fees from private landlords and letting agents contained in the Tenancy Fees Act which comes into force in England on 1 June.
The union says the act “will make a huge difference to our members who privately rent in England” by reducing upfront costs.
The new legislation bans unfair lettings fees for administration, reference checks and tenancy renewal fees, which create huge affordability problems for private tenants.
It also sets out penalties that will be levied on landlords if they breach the law. Private tenants can also recover any unlawfully charged fees.
It follows the lead of the Scottish government, which has already banned lettings fees. The Welsh Assembly is legislating its own ban.
The new rules mean that private tenants will no longer have to pay upfront fees in addition to their rent and refundable deposits when they sign a new. However, landlords will still be able to charge certain fees, which are reasonable and where they provide evidence, such as:
- when changing or ending a tenancy is requested by a tenant;
- charges related to council tax, utilities or communications, where they are not included in the rent,
- fees for late payment of rent;
- fees for replacing lost keys.
More and more UNISON members rent their homes privately, dealing with insecure tenancies and high rents.
“As a result they face uncertainty and struggle to pay the rent each month as well as other living costs,” says UNISON assistant policy officer Sylvia Jones.
“The reform of lettings fees in England is a victory for our members, as it will lead to reduced costs and make private renting more affordable for private tenants.”
But more needs to be done to improve affordability and security and “UNISON will continue to call on the government to overhaul the private housing system to give tenants greater security, stability and protection from frequent rent increases,” she added.