Tenant Fees Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:20 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 1:20 pm, 23rd January 2019

I thank my hon. Friend. He has great knowledge of these matters and it is always helpful to hear that. In Scotland, it is eight weeks. We are putting forward five weeks. No, I am not aware of a cap at three weeks.

With this in mind, I hope that hon. Members can see that the Government have already brought forward the best solution to the tenancy deposit cap—one that works both for tenants and landlords and does not risk distorting the market. I therefore hope that the hon. Lady sees fit not to press her amendment.

Lords amendments 42 to 47 deal with default fees. The provision permitting landlords and agents to charge default fees was another area of concern for many hon. Members. We amended the Bill in this House to be clear that landlords and agents can only charge default fees that reflect reasonably incurred costs that are evidenced in writing. Many hon. Members thought that this still did not go far enough to mitigate the risk of abuse by rogue landlords and agents. We have listened carefully to the evidence and arguments made. Although we believe that a landlord or agent should be allowed to charge fees where costs arise from the fault of the tenant, we do not want inadvertently to create a back door to other charges.

That is why Lords amendments 42 to 47 limit the default fees that can be charged to late rent, or a lost key or another security device giving access to the housing. This makes it clear where a default fee can be charged. For a late payment of rent, that payment needs to have been outstanding for 14 days or more. Where applicable, landlords or agents will be permitted to charge interest at no more than an annual percentage rate of 3% above the Bank of England’s base rate for each day that the payment is outstanding. Any fee charged in respect of replacing a lost key or other security device must not exceed the landlord’s or agent’s reasonable costs, and must also be evidenced in writing to the person who is liable for the payment. I hope we can all agree that this approach gives landlords and agents the assurance they require while giving tenants enough certainty over what can be charged.