Lettings agents in England will face civil and criminal charges for flouting a ban on fees, the Government has revealed as it publishes its Draft Tenants’ Fees Bill today.
It will create a civil offence with a fine of £5,000 for an initial breach of the ban, and create a criminal offence where an agent has been fined or convicted of the same offence within the past five years. Penalties of up to £30,000 can be issued.
A ban on lettings fees to tenants was first announced a year ago and there was a consultation in June answered by 4,700 respondents.
The Government has also launched a consultation on making membership of client money protection schemes mandatory for letting and managing agents that handle client money.
The Bill will:
- Cap holding deposits at no more than one week’s rent and security deposits at no more than six weeks’ rent. The draft Bill also sets out the proposed requirements on landlords and agents to return a holding deposit to a tenant.
- Create a civil offence with a fine of £5,000 for an initial breach of the ban on letting agent fees and create a criminal offence where a person has been fined or convicted of the same offence within five years. Civil penalties of up to £30,000 can be issued as an alternative to prosecution.
- Require Trading Standards to enforce the ban and to make provision for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees.
- Appoint a lead enforcement authority in the lettings sector.
- Amend the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to specify that the letting agent transparency requirements should apply to property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla.
The full draft bill can be viewed here