Is Shelter on the right track trying to ban tenant fees?

It’s hard to miss the increasing number of reports suggesting that a combination of spiralling house prices, a rising population and a lack of house-building (and in our opinion, a lack of empty home regeneration), will force many young people to spend the majority of their lives renting privately.

So, with the news the private property rental market looks set for substantial growth, Shelter’s ‘Letting away with it’ campaign, calling for the banning of all fees to property tenants should, in our opinion, come under increased scrutiny.

Shelter’s campaign is seeking a strict abolition of any tenancy fees aside of rent and a deposit for the setting up, maintaining or ending of a tenancy. In our opinion, the problem with this arrangement can already be seen in the Scottish rental market, where the Scottish Government has strict rules against the charging of tenant fees, alongside a system whereby landlords and letting agents must pay significant property registration fees.

The problems with the Scottish system are evident to many. As well as increased bureaucracy and pocket-lining council fees, their system places too much power in the hands of tenants, who cannot be charged for late payments or any damage caused to property, amongst other clear wrongdoings.

Furthermore, the results of the current regulations in Scotland are that some agents are having to ask new tenants to provide their own references (not the most reliable form of endorsement!), as well as sizeable rent increases being imposed as a last-resort guarantee against potential tenant malpractice.

Whilst we agree that any letting agent charging exorbitant fees for services like tenant referencing, inventories and “holding”, needs to be challenged, lessons learnt from North of the border suggest Shelter’s campaign may well be misguided, especially if the campaigns success forces the implementation of rent increases across the board by hard done by English landlords.

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