Tenant Fees Bill - Committee (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench 4:30 pm, 20th November 2018

My Lords, it is worth underlining that this part of the Bill is an important measure to prevent what is a pretty common abuse, which is, when there is a change of tenancy, at little or no cost to the landlord, the agents involved making serious amounts of money, which the Bill would prevent them doing in future.

At Second Reading, I cited an illustration from my last intern, whose sister was taking her place in a flat share of three. Each of them, on entering the flat, needed to pay the agent a fee of £275 for the privilege of signing up. When one of the occupiers left and was replaced by her sister, the outgoing one was charged £250 for termination of the tenancy agreement and her sister, who was moving in on the same day with her packed suitcase, was charged £275 as a new tenant. The agents got £525 for this transfer from one sister to another. The landlord received exactly the same amount of rent, because there was no discontinuity in the rent paid.

In such circumstances, paying £50 as a takeover fee for the privilege of signing a photocopied document when one person moves in in place of another sounds quite enough. The guidance may be the best place to put this, but the test must be whether the landlord has suffered a loss of rent. If there is no such loss, surely the £50 should kick in as the maximum which the agents can take. One can understand the need to compensate if there has been a loss of rent because of a gap when one tenant has moved out and no new one has arrived. Otherwise, £50 sounds like a maximum not a floor.