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Lettings fee ban unlikely by next April but legislation coming ‘very shortly’

The tenant fees ban is unlikely to be in place by next April due to the legislative process, a Government official has indicated.

Speaking at yesterday’s  National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS) London conference, Rebecca Perks, the policy lead for lettings agents at the Department for Communities and Local Government, said the Draft Fees Bill would be published “very shortly”.

This will have been a disappointment for NALS chief executive Isobel Thomson, who while introducing Perks as speaker expressed the hope of a timeframe being given.

Thomson said: “There seems to be a logjam of regulation with the fee ban and client money protection.

“The sector wants and needs clarity.”

However, Perks declined to give a more detailed timetable. She did give a list of priorities for next April in her presentation, which included the introduction of minimum energy requirements for rental properties as well as enforcement of its recently launched database of rogue landlords, but the list failed to mention the fee ban.

Many had pencilled in the fee ban for next April, but when EYE pressed her on the likelihood of an introduction by then, Perks said the legislative process needed to start with the initial draft Bill, followed by the committee stage that can take a few months, and then any changes would need to be debated.

She said: “You can draw your own conclusions from that. I can’t give a definitive timetable.”

During a heated question and answer session, agents said the Government had failed to consider consequences for rents and that the market is already struggling with other changes such as Right to Rent and the extra Stamp Duty rates.

Perks said agents needed to understand that the landlord, not their tenant, was the client and should be happy to pay more for a decent service.

She said: “We understand you may not want the ban, but the reason it will be presented in draft is so any concerns can be fleshed out.”

Perks also said another consultation would be published on the introduction of mandatory Client Money Protection “shortly”.

The wide-ranging conference, which focused mainly on regulation and technology, also featured a talk from Newham Council, the first borough to introduce landlord licensing.

Sheila Roberts, strategic enforcement manager for the local authority, said compliance with legislation and regulations had increased from 24% of agents in 2013 to 79% when its star rating scheme was launched earlier this month.

Roberts said only one agent had complained about the scheme and said she hopes more councils will follow suit.