New bill to save renters £160m
Citizens Advice said it has worked with those drafting the bill to close a number of loopholes in the bill, including a clause on ‘default fees’. This, it said, could have seen landlords and agents charging fees through the backdoor by adding unfair terms to tenancy agreements.
The group also urged legislators to reduce the amount of money required for a deposit from 6 weeks’ rent to 4 weeks. The final bill is a compromise at 5 weeks’ rent.
The Tenants Fees Bill is expected to become law from 1 June. At that point, renters will only need to pay a deposit and advance rent.
There was more good news for renters as the Deposit Protection Scheme reported that UK rents were falling for the first time in a decade. This is in spite of landlords exiting the sector as their profit margins are squeezed by higher taxes.
It showed the average rent falling by just over 1% from £774 in 2017 to £765 today. At the same time, an average UK tenant spent around a third (31%) of their net income on rent in 2018. This represented a drop of 0.5% over 2017.
There are now 4.7 million households in the private-rented sector, the second largest tenure in England behind home ownership. Citizens Advice said that in the past 12 months, it has helped 59,000 private renters. It dealt with 2,100 letting fee problems and 3,400 issues about the cost of a deposit or advance rent.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “This is a landmark moment for the millions of people who rent privately. For too long families and other renters have had to hand over hundreds of pounds on unfair and uncompetitive letting fees every time they moved home.
“We look forward to working with the government to do even more to strengthen the hand of the growing number of renters in a market where they have little bargaining power.”