Tenant Fees Bill

Written evidence submitted by James Whittaker, Norwich Accommodation Agency (TFB29)

Dear Sir or Madam

I am writing to express our disappointment with the proposed move to ban letting agents from charging tenants fees.  We do not believe an outright ban would be in anyone’s interests for the reasons stated below.

Letting agents provide a service for both landlords and tenants throughout the tenancy and tenants are also therefore our customers.  There is a considerable proportion of work carried out by letting agents for tenants that should not be charged to landlords.

I’ve listed below a few points to justify charging tenants a fee:

· They come to us for legal advice, we write references for them and forward their mail. 

· Our workload is increased when a tenant is in breach of contract.

· when we have completed deposit negotiations with a tenant we employ contractors on their behalf.

· A letting agent should be able to deal with maintenance issues more quickly and efficiently than a private landlord because they have an office that is staffed throughout the day and they should have access to a team of tradesmen that can act quickly.  Where heating systems have broken down or there has been a leak we have often provided tenants with portable heaters, hot water urns and dehumidifiers.  We also provide a list of 24 hour contacts.

· We are often asked by tenants for advice on the most efficient way to heat a property and have setup time clocks and programmers for them. 

· We have also been involved in disputes with utility companies for unusually large bills, often checking through tenant bills to make sure meter readings are accurate and in the case of water bills checking water meters to make sure there are no leaks.

· We have replaced batteries and bulbs in difficult to reach lights and smoke detectors, bled radiators, re-pressurised boilers and unblocked wastes.

· We often have to give advice on controlling condensation and cleaning products and the operation of cookers and washing machines, despite user manuals being provided.

· We have also dealt with antisocial behaviour problems, advising tenants of the best course of action to take against antisocial neighbours and if the offender is one of our tenants we have taken more direct action from writing letters to remind them of their obligations towards neighbours to ending their tenancy.

· We often defend the case of a tenant when we believe one of our landlords clients is being unreasonable.

· With properties with communal areas we have been involved in disposing of tenants waste and sorting out parking issues.

· We have been called out to let tenants into their properties when they have locked themselves out.

· In addition to checks (right to rent, reference and credit), the tenancy agreement, schedule of condition and accompanying photographs - all of which are clearly in the landlord’s interests - tenants have to be issued with the latest copy of the guide ‘How to Rent’, the tenancy deposit scheme paperwork (prescribed information, certificate, leaflet/guide and terms & conditions), an energy performance certificate and a gas safety certificate.  All of this takes time and costs money.

If we are unable to charge them a fee we will have to advise them to seek advice elsewhere for many of the above points or employ contractors for gaining entry, replacing bulbs, batteries etc.

I don’t believe that tenants have a problem with paying a legitimate and reasonable fee, particularly if those fees are listed on the agent’s website and included in the property advert.  In Norwich I believe upfront fees in the region of £100 to £125 per tenant would be fair and provided the tenant is offered good service by their agent I believe they would be happy to pay the fee rather than the alternative of a fee ban and the unintended consequences of rising rents.

It’s also inevitable that jobs will be lost as agents look at ways of reducing their costs.

We believe that a fee cap is a fair, balanced solution to the problem of excessive fees.  An outright ban is completely the wrong approach and a step too far in discouraging buy to let investment.

Kind regards

James Whittaker

May 2018

 

Prepared 4th June 2018