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Fees ban implementation date of ‘after’ spring 2019 is confirmed for a second time

The ban on lettings agents’ fees charged to tenants will not come into force until “after” spring next year, it has been confirmed for the second time within a month.

Yesterday’s announcement by the National Approved Letting Scheme follows an earlier statement about the timing, issued to BBC Radio’s You and Yours programme before Christmas.

An actual date for implementation has still not been announced.

On December 20, the BBC programme was told in a statement by then DCLG (now the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government) that it was not expecting the ban to be implemented until “after spring 2019 at the earliest”.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said in his November 2016 Autumn Statement that the ban would come in “as soon as possible”. He may not have foreseen that it would not actually be implemented some 18 months and three housing ministers later.

While it had been thought that the ban could have been implemented in spring or autumn this year, either date would have realistically been impossible and would have relied on a significant speeding up of the Parliamentary process.

Not surprisingly, a delay until at least April next year had already been widely speculated even before the You and Yours programme – although ARLA at one point had told its members to prepare to the possibility of an autumn implementation.

Last night, David Cox, CEO of ARLA, told EYE that earlier implementation had come to look impossible: “The ban is currently in its pre-legislative scrutiny stage and the Draft Bill Committee only starting hearing oral evidence on Monday. The Committee still need to hear all the evidence and make their recommendations to ministers.

“The Government must then finalise the Bill before taking it all the way through the full Parliamentary process.

“Even after the ban passes Parliament and is signed into law by the Queen as an Act of Parliament, the Government will still need to put together the secondary legislation, which will need to go back before Parliament for approval before the ban actually comes into force.

“Therefore, when considering all these steps, at this stage April 2019 seems to be a likely date for the ban to come into force.”

After Hammond’s 2016 announcement, his “as soon as possible” dateline lurched into the lowest possible gear, sometimes looking parked and at other times in reverse.

A consultation was not announced until April last year.

At the end of it, the Government confirmed that the ban would be total.

The timetable remained as ‘slowly, slowly’.

The draft Tenants Fee Bill was launched last November, with an inquiry into the draft Bill now providing pre-legislative scrutiny.

The Bill itself has yet to be presented to Parliament.

Yesterday, NALS said that the newly re-badged Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had told it that implementation will not be before spring next year. However, this was not new information.

NALS CEO Isobel Thomson said yesterday: “While the Bill aims to create a fairer and safer private rented sector for all, NALS doesn’t believe this will deliver what the Government aspires to, and risks doing real damage to the private rented sector.”

Since Hammond made his announcement, at which point Gavin Barwell was housing minster, there have been two further housing ministers – Alok Sharma and now Dominic Raab, both of whom have been against the ban.

Raab has previously voted against it, while Barwell, now a special adviser to Theresa May, called it a “bad idea” which would cause rents to rise.

The first announcement on next year’s likely implementation of the fees ban can be heard on the December You and Yours link below – and is the last section.