Tenant Fees Bill - Committee (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench 4:45 pm, 20th November 2018

My Lords, I take an opposing view. I am sad to do so on the noble Baroness’s amendment, since she does so much good work in this sector. I declare my interest as a co-chair of the Home Office’s right to rent consultative panel, which looks at the right to rent that people require before taking up a letting.

For sure, somebody has to pay for the identity and immigration status check which now has to happen. The question is whether tenants should pay the agent for this—they would do so whether British citizens or not—or whether the landlord should ultimately expect to pay, getting their agent to do it on their behalf. It is one of the functions of an agent to check whether the tenant is an illegal immigrant or has the right to be in this country. That task is for an agent to perform, just as they need to make sure that the landlord’s property has a gas safety certificate or an energy performance certificate. This is part of the process that an agent is paid for. There is a fundamental principle that the landlord is ultimately responsible for the letting, along with the agent who acts for that landlord, and they and not the tenant should be the ones who pay. In the same way, the tenant does not have to pay for their own reference—that is something that the agent takes up. This is part of the process taken on by an agent and it justifies the fees that agents charge their landlords. What else do we want agents to do but look after the landlord’s interests in cases of this kind?

Therefore, I think that the Government have this right. This is not an area where the tenant should be asked to make a supplementary payment to the agent, and the agent may well charge the landlord a good deal already. As the Bill spells out, it is a matter on which no fee should be payable by the tenant.