With news of Tenant Fees Bill, a reminder that redress schemes really work, and an invitation to join us at the launch of Generation Rent’s campaign to end S21 evictions. Sergio, from s21 Choir, will be there, too. He’s long been conscious of the link between poor mental health and insecure housing, through the threat of a ‘no fault eviction’ using S21. Now, Mind, the mental health charity, has launched a housing campaign.
Join The Campaign To End ‘No Fault’ Evictions
Evictions using Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988; so called ‘no fault’ evictions, are the leading cause of homelessness. Tenants suffer bad landlords and poor conditions, most reluctant to complain for fear of being evicted. The stress of insecurity is a way of life for millions, as the threat of a s21 Notice hangs over the heads of renters, like the sword of Damocles.
England and Wales are among very few countries in Europe that allow private landlords to evict their tenants without having to give a reason. 4.7m households rent homes from private landlords, including 1.8 million families with children; and ever-more renters of pensionable age. Renters need more security, better peace of mind and confidence to complain. The time has has come time to abolish section 21.
Generation Rent is spearheading the campaign to end section 21. All of us engaged in the struggle for our right to adequate housing are coming together to support this major campaign. And everyone is invited to the campaign launch event on 13 June. Speakers include Gordon Maloney from Living Rent, the campaign group that played a key role in winning the fight against no-fault evictions in Scotland.
Space is limited so booking is essential >> End Unfair Evictions Campaign Launch I hope to see you there!
Mind has launched a Housing Campaign
We know that life in the private rented sector can impact negatively on renters’ mental health. Renters’ Rights London very regularly receives emails from people adversely affected by bad living conditions, horrible landlords, or the insecurity inherent in Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Now, Mind is keen to know whether a housing problem has had a negative effect on your mental health?
As you probably know, Mind works to improve the lives of people who have experienced mental health problems. Public campaigns and government lobbying are part of that work. As part of a major housing campaign, Mind is collecting information about the housing problems facing people with mental health problems, and how issues around housing impact on our mental health, before approaching politicians and decision-makers with their asks.
If you are able to contribute to this research, please complete this short form
Tenant Fees Bill
The Tenant Fees Bill was introduced to Parliament by James Brokenshire, the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on 2nd May. This long-awaited Bill passed its second reading on 21st May and will enter the Committee Stage on Tuesday, 5th June.
Of course, the lettings industry has already responded angrily. The Office for Budget Responsibility warned that plans to ban letting fees paid by tenants could lead to rent rises. Back in 2013, Shelter concluded that, if letting agents didn’t absorb the difference, “landlords may be justified in increasing rents to reflect their additional costs”.
However, agency fees are legitimate business expenses and as such, tax deductible to landlords. Renters’ Rights London can find no reason for the fees ban to be used to justify rent increases, then.
Under the new rules letting agents and landlords will only be able to charge for rent; deposits; if a tenant requests a change or early termination of their tenancy; for utility and council tax bills; and damage or cost caused by a tenant (replacing lost keys, for example).
This long-awaited Bill limits the level of any deposit charged by a landlord or agent to six weeks rent. At Renters’ Rights London, we consider this excessive and still wish to see deposits limited to no more than one months rent.
Other provisions in the Tenant Fees Bill include
- A cap on holding deposits, to no more than one weeks rent
- A cap of £50 on any charge to change a tenancy agreement, unless the landlord can show that actual costs were higher than that
- Extension of letting agent transparency requirements, which include publicising a full list of fees and details of which redress scheme they belong to, should also apply to online portals
- Introduction of a £5,000 fine for an initial breach of the fees ban
- A second breach of the fees ban will be treated as a criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of £30,000, if someone has been fined or convicted of a similar offence within the previous five years
- Vesting local council trading standards officers with power to enforce the ban
- Tenants will be able to recover wrongly charged fees
- Landlords will be prevented from taking back possession of their property until they have repaid any unlawfully charged fees
Unfair Contractual Terms
In a recent roundtable discussion, one of the better letting agents (he sits around the table with renters’ representatives) reminded us that redress schemes really work. All letting agents and property managers are required to join one of the three government-backed redress schemes. Details of membership must be displayed in agents’ offices and also, on their website.
It’s an offence for an agent not to join a redress scheme. If you visit an agency and can’t see details of their membership, contact the Trading Standards team at your local council. The council can issue a fine of up to £5000 to every letting agency branch that is not a member of a scheme.
This agent told us how his contract had included a non-refundable holding deposit of £300 on a four bedroom flat. A group of friends paid the holding deposit but, 24 hours later, changed their minds. One of the four visited the agent to tell him that they did not wish to move into the flat, after all. She asked for reimbursement of the holding deposit. The agent refused, pointing to the contract signed the day before.
Undeterred, the group of friends contacted the agent’s redress scheme. This service is free to use and independent. The redress scheme agreed that the contractual terms were unreasonable. There was no way that those 24 hours had cost the agent £300. He was ordered to reimburse the holding deposit in full.
There’s more information about how to complain on the websites of the respective redress schemes