Duty to publicise fees on third party websites

Tenant Fees Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 12 June 2018.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Virendra Sharma Virendra Sharma Labour, Ealing, Southall

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 19 and 20 stand part.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Thank you, Mr Sharma, for permission to group these three clauses. I will discuss them briefly in turn. Clause 18 amends section 83 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Section 83 places a duty on letting agents to publicise their fees and information about redress under client money protection schemes in order to provide greater transparency for landlords and tenants.

In the Government consultation on banning tenant fees, concerns were raised that these transparency requirements do not apply in relation to property portals, such as Rightmove and Zoopla. These websites are often the first port of call for tenants when searching for a home to rent. To ensure that tenants and landlords have easy access to relevant information, this clause extends the transparency requirements to third-party websites. I am sure that will be warmly welcomed.

Clause 19 amends section 83 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to require agents in the private rented sector to publicise the specific name of their client money protection scheme. At present, agents have to say only whether they are a member of such a scheme. The Government are committed to making membership of a scheme mandatory for all agents in the private rented sector. This will ensure that all tenants and landlords have the financial protection they want and deserve. Regulations were laid on 3 May to achieve that and are intended to come into force on 1 April 2019, subject to parliamentary clearance. Once it is mandatory for letting agents to belong to a client money protection scheme, we want agents to display the name of their scheme provider so that this information is clearly available to tenants and landlords.

Lastly, clause 20 amends section 87 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. There has been a desire for greater clarity about whether trading standards can impose more than one financial penalty if letting agents continue to fail to publicise specified information. That includes information related to their fees, their redress and their client money protection scheme membership. The amendments made by this clause provide that clarity, and I hope they are warmly welcomed. Their effect is that if trading standards impose a financial penalty due to a breach of the transparency requirements that the agent fails to rectify within 28 days, they may impose a further financial penalty, unless the agent appeals. If the agent appeals, a further financial penalty may be imposed if the breach continues after 28 days from the conclusion of the appeal process. No further financial penalty may be imposed if the earlier financial penalty has been withdrawn or overturned on appeal.

Together, clauses 18, 19 and 20 strengthen consumer protections, and I beg to move that they stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 18 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 19 and 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 21