Letting fees ban from June 1 will ‘stop agents charging excessive amounts’

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Bristol’s leading independent lettings agent, Sarah Kenny Residential Lettings, think the ban will bring ‘uniformity’ to the market but ‘a cap would have been better’

From June 1, landlords will no longer be able to charge letting fees to new tenants.

The move has been cautiously welcomed by leading lettings agent Sarah Kenny Residential Lettings. Rebecca McKelvey, associate director at Sarah Kenny, said: “The changes will bring uniformity to the industry – it’s a big change for all agents and landlords to manage but it will ensure that tenants receive a fair service throughout.

“We are in a fortunate position in that we will be able to absorb some of the costs, such as referencing, but some smaller agents may not be able to which may mean that there could be closures which will be unfortunate.”

Residential rents in Bristol have gone up 33% since 2014, according to data from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). It means that an average one-bedroom flat in the city now costs £795 pcm. The average rent per house was £930, making Bristol £250 more expensive for renters than the national average.

On average, letting fees to tenants in the UK, for things like credit checks, inventories and references, amount to £272 per person. The government has moved to scrap the practice in an attempt to reduce overheads for young people who are more likely to live in rented accommodation.

Dan Wilson Craw, director of pressure group Generation Rent, said: “Renters are in a bind. If they choose to live where there’s a strong job market, they might see their pay packet gobbled up by high rents.”

But there are concerns that the ban could lead to rent rises. McKelvey said: “The changes will stop tenants paying high-level fees, however, landlords will ultimately be affected with costs to them likely to increase.

“If a landlord’s costs increase, then they will just pass it on to the tenant in the form of higher rents.”

A cap on fees, McKelvey feels, may have been a more appropriate way to tackle the problem. “We think the government should have capped the fees at a certain amount which would stop agents charging excessive amounts. We think that fees should be open, transparent and reasonable but not all agents work on that basis.”

McKelvey added that she has no concerns for Sarah Kenny after June 1. “As a fully regulated agent, the changes for us to put into place are mainly tweaks to internal processes but we have a strong team and are confident of the modifications being made.”

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