The Assembly finally introduced the letting fees ban – or Renting Homes (Fees Etc.) Bill – on 11th June. It’s a good Bill and we’re so pleased to see this policy finally making progress, although we don’t know when it’ll actually be enacted yet.
It seems it’ll be in tandem with other regulations the Welsh Government has been working on, the Fitness for Human Habitation Standards. These will hopefully make a big improvement to housing quality standards, so long as renters know their rights and councils have enough resource to do inspections.
The ban looks comprehensive, across all kinds of fees associated with producing, renewing or continuing your rental contract. We’re very keen to avoid loopholes which let fees continue however, as England’s parallel legislation has been far more favourable to landlords. Instead of a ban, it puts a cap on fees as £50 per person, and even then lets agents / landlords charge more if they think their ‘reasonable costs’ are higher. It’s the kind of loophole you could put a hula hoop through.
The Welsh Government also plan to give Ministers the power to cap deposits. This would be very welcome. Plaid Cymru have suggested going further on deposits, by having ‘passporting’ enabled. Let Down strongly agreed, having highlighted in our evidence the burden on tenants that are waiting long delays – sometimes through disputes – before their deposit is returned. Renters need two deposits when moving house, one for the new contract and one still sitting with the previous tenancy. This would be a fairly simple administrative change which makes drastic improvements for renters.
We’ll update on the Bill’s progress when it’s gone through Stage 1 and AMs start discussing amendments. But every day, we’re closer to having a ban!