Agents in Northern Ireland ignoring tenant fee ban – says paper

There has been a call in Northern Ireland for increased enforcement on estate agents who are reportedly charging tenants illegal letting fees.

The N.I. fee ban is not under the same legislation as that affecting England, and pre-dates our legislation by decades.

An article in Belfast Live says that it has been alleged that students are the most likely to be subjected the fees, with it being claimed that some have even been charged for house viewings and having their keys cleaned.

Tony McGuillan, director of Shelter NI, said that the charity is currently working with six students who were unlawfully charged letting fees.

McGuillan is reported as saying:

“The legislation is clear on this matter but with no enforcement and if no penalties are issued, estate agents will continue to take advantage of people.

“This appears to be primarily an issue with Belfast estate agents and you do not see it elsewhere in the country.

“The legislation on this was created in the 80s, but there has been no enforcement of it.

“A court case in 2017 showed that the legislation outlaws this, but we will be pushing to see if the wording of it can be strengthen to stop this disgraceful practice.”

In March, Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey and Minister for Finance Conor Murphy issued a joint statement highlighting the illegality of the letting fees and urging estate agents to give up the unlawful practice.

It said:

“We are writing to you in relation to the issue of letting agents’ fees, and the judgment given in December 2017 that fees should not be passed on to tenants for services that a letting agent carries out on behalf of a landlord.”

The Department For Communities has said that a consultation on the regulation of the private rented sector has been carried out which included proposals to introduce a regulatory framework for all letting agents.

A spokesperson said:

“It is unlawful for letting agents to pass on fees to tenants for services that a letting agent carries out on behalf of a landlord under the Commission on Disposal of Land (NI) Order 1986.

“A court judgement made in 2017 upheld the view that the effect of the 1986 Order is that as a general rule and in most instances, no fee can be passed to tenants for services on behalf of a landlord.”

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