In June 2019, things will change for lettings agencies. From this time, lettings fees will be banned. It is important if you are a landlord or a lettings agency to know what you are allowed to charge or you will be liable for prosecution.
After June 2019, there will only be certain payments you will be allowed to charge tenants. As well as rent, you will be able to charge refundable tenancy deposits and a refundable holding deposit in order to reserve the property. The tenancy deposit is capped at five weeks’ rent, while the reservation fee cannot be more than a week’s rent.
A tenant can also pay fees in order to change the terms of the tenancy or if they need to request an early termination. You may also need to pay for costs such as utilities, a TV license or council tax, as well as default payments if the rent is late or you need to replace a lost key.
If you are unsure whether a payment you have included in an agreement falls under these parameters you can contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau to clarify this.
It should also be noted that under the section 21 rules you can’t evict a tenant until any unlawful charges have been repaid.
The rules under these payments apply to any agreements after the 21st June 2019. These agreements will be enforced by Trading Standards or local authorities. If tenants feel they have not had fees returned they can recover them through a first-tier tribunal or through a redress scheme (It is also possible to lodge an appeal through a tribunal as well.)
It is recommended that you keep evidence of payments such as invoices, tenancy agreements or bank statements to show what has been put through. If it is felt that you breached this legislation, then you can potentially face a fine of up to £5000. However, if an additional breach is committed within five years, then you can face five years in prison on top of this (though this will be decided on a case by case basis by different authorities.) There is also the risk that if you commit more offences within that time that you could be added to a register of rogue landlords and lettings agents, which will severely impact the reputation of your business.
Getting it right
It is natural to be worried that you may unintentionally commit an offence. Fortunately, there is government information available that can show you how to let a property within the new guidelines, avoiding any fines or prosecution.
If you are a landlord or a lettings agency and you are unsure or want more information on the upcoming new rules we can help. Contact Larcomes today, and our legal specialists will be happy to guide you through what you need to know and help ensure that your tenancy agreements and fees are fully up to date and in keeping with the latest legislation.