The legislation that will bring in the tenant fees ban next year sailed through its latest stage in the Commons with few MPs dissenting from the accepted line that the ban is a good idea.
Letting agents hoping for a miracle defeat for the Tenant Fees Bill during its second reading were disappointed when it was passed unanimously by MPs following a three-hour debate.
Although 123 MPs are landlords, only two pointed out any failings in the legislation that might have given letting agents hope.
These were Labour’s Andrew Lewer and Conservative Alex Chalk, both of whom asked that not all agents should be tarred with the same ‘rogue’ brush and that the bill could prompt higher rents.
But all of the dozen or more other speakers were in support of the bill’s aims, many on both sides of the political divide calling for it to be tightened up particularly in relation to ‘default fees’.
“Rogue letting agents have for too many years been able to profit from unsecure tenancies,” said Dr Paul Williams.
Default fees are one of the few fees agents will be able charge soon and will be permissible only when a tenant prompts work, for example if they ask for changes to a contract, leave a tenancy early or lose their keys.
One other area of intense debate during the second reading was the six-week deposit ceiling; many speakers said it would persuade agents and landlords to ‘go to the max’ above the current average industry standard of four weeks.
Also, many of those involved in the debate worried that any ‘grey areas’ would be exploited by unscrupulous or rogue letting agent to generate replacement fees.
The introduction of a ban on tenant’s fees being charged was always likely to be pushed through Parliament fairly easily with overwhelming support from all sides of the House and the House of Lords.
The “professional” bodies have done little except whinge and have, in my opinion, given their members a degree of “false hope” that the ban would not happen when they should have been putting more time and effort into encouraging businesses to plan and innovate in readiness.
My recent series of round table discussion meetings (facilitated by teclet) have shown that agents are likely to lose around 15% of new income and that, unless efforts go into changing approaches, there will potentially be serious damage caused to businesses as a result.
Many enlightened businesses have already planned and taken action to change their business models. It can often take some time to see the benefits of change and so the sooner you start, the sooner you will see the results of any such changes.
Standing still is not really an option.
Businesses need a root and branch review of their operations and to be prepared to kill off any “sacred cows” that may exist. Change can be painful but often leads to innovation and a better looking future.
I welcome discussing how I can help your business.
Michael S Day MBA FRICS FNAEA