Another Private Rented Sector related Bill to pass through Parliament in recent months, this time to make provision for the “rights of renters” was introduced by Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Olly Grender on 23 May 2016.

It is a Private Members’ Bill which was started in the House of Lords. The Bill is making progress and had its Second Reading debate on 10 June, where all aspects of the Bill were discussed, and a line by line examination of the Bill took place during committee stage on 18 November 2016. Amendments discussed covered clauses 1, 2 and 3 of the Bill.

The controversial Renters’ Rights Bill aims to reduce the ability of letting agents to levy charges on tenants and instead shift them to landlords. It will now goes on to the Report Stage on a date to be announced.

Democrat peer Baroness Grender has amended her original proposal wording specifying a ban on charges to tenants for reference checks, credit checks, administration fees and inventory fees, as this would “would leave too many options for newly named fees to be charged.”

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Report stage – further line by line examination of the Bill – is yet to be scheduled. The Renters’ Rights Bill proposes:

  • Tenants’ access to the database of rogue landlords and property agents
  • Ending of certain lettings fees for tenants
  • Mandatory electrical safety checks
  • Prevention of rogue landlords from obtaining an HMO licence
  • The Act will affect England only

The debate by Baroness Grender was opened by her saying, “…the natural consequence of the chronic lack of social housing and the prohibitive cost of buying a home means that we now have a growing number of people who live in the private rented sector.

“The law needs to change to make renting cheaper, safer and more secure for tenants. The Bill will reduce the costs of moving for renters by banning letting agents charging fees to tenants, a practice already outlawed in Scotland.”

Government Peer Viscount Younger of Leckie had said,

“…the Government have some reservations about the Bill” and “The Housing and Planning Act 2016, recently before this House, introduces a strong package of measures that will enable local authorities to do more to improve standards in the sector and ensure that rogue landlords are forced to either improve or leave the sector.

“Banning letting agent fees would not make renting any cheaper for tenants. Tenants would still end up paying, but through higher rents. That is why the Government believe that ensuring full transparency is the best approach, by requiring letting agents to publicise a full tariff of their fees, giving consumers the information that they want and supporting the majority of reputable letting agents.”

The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has said it thinks any database of rogue landlords and letting agents should be publically available but does not agree with the proposal to end certain lettings fees for tenants. ARLA agrees with the concept of introducing mandatory electrical inspections in all private rented property but as there are extra responsibilities involved in letting and managing a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) any landlord is on the database should not be granted an HMO licence, it thinks.

“We believe that there is a need to ensure that emphasis is placed on the practical implementation of any new rules particularly around the introduction of mandatory electrical inspections against the working practices of letting agents and the capacity for the local authorities to enforce the rules…”

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