The second reading of the Tenant Fees Bill took place in the House of Commons yesterday evening. It was passed unanimously after a three-hour debate, and with MPs not having to enter a lobby to vote.
Last-minute campaigning centred on moves to ensure that MPs understood the unintended consequences of a ban, which will cost letting agents up to an estimated 24% of income, and, say critics, push people out of jobs and raise rents. However, none of these arguments appeared to hit home.
One MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, said that “most agents” in his Brighton constituency were involved in sharp practices. Many of the MPs at last night’s debate called for a further tightening up of the law, particularly in relation to ‘default’ fees which agents will still be able to charge – for example, if a tenant loses their keys.
Last night ARLA boss David Cox sounded despairing, as he told EYE: “This really is a done deal. It is only a question as to how much more draconian it gets.”
He said ARLA would continue to fight, in particular raising awareness as to how MPs might be persuaded to understand the difference between default fees and deductions from tenants’ deposits.
Cox said: “There is clearly overwhelming support in Parliament for the ban.
“However tonight’s debate makes clear MPs do not understand what is meant by default fees and the implications of reducing tenancy deposits. As the Bill goes to committee stage it is more important than ever that agents go and see their MPs to make the case for why these fees remain vital even after the ban comes into force.”
Isobel Thomson posted on the NALS website earlier yesterday: “It is important that MPs fully understand the implication of the fee ban for their constituents who rely on the Private Rented Sector (PRS) and who will be affected by the ban.
“There will be inevitable increases in rent for tenants and increased costs for landlords, but there will also be a huge impact on agents operating small businesses in their local areas.
“We are urging MPs to use this time to fully assess the impact of the Bill.
“It is crucial that Government looks again at the proposals and consider tenant fees in a broader, coherent framework of regulation planned for the PRS.”