June 1st has been and gone, but the dust has barely settled on the Tenant Fee Act and the changes that are now in place. There’s a certain amount of confusion over the issue, especially surrounding what tenants are still liable for when taking out a new tenancy, but fear not...we’re going to answer that for you in today’s post!
Landlords and letting agents can still ask for a holding deposit to essentially reserve a rental prior to the necessary checks being made. This, however, is a fully refundable charge providing you, the tenant, do not:
- Fail the Right to Rent checks
- Use false or misleading information on your tenancy application
- Delay the contract being signed (must be completed within 15 days of landlord/agent receiving the holding deposit)
Holding deposits are now capped at a maximum of one week’s rent. If an agent or landlord tries to demand more, alarm bells should start ringing.
Like holding deposits, tenancy deposits still apply under the new rules. There is a major change, though.
Tenancy deposits are now capped and split into two camps: annual rental charges that exceed £50,000 and those that fall below this threshold. Landlords and letting agents will not be able to ask tenants who have to pay under £50k per year in rent for any more than five weeks’ rent as a deposit, while those over the £50k threshold will be expected to hand over six weeks’ rent at most.
This deposit is also refundable, so long as you do not contravene your tenancy agreement.
Late rent (default) fees
A fee can be charged by letting agents and landlords to tenants who have not paid their rent for 14 days or more past the due date (this can be found in your tenancy agreement if you’re unsure). Under the new legislation, any agent or landlord who tries to charge for late payment before a fortnight has passed is acting unlawfully.
The fee charged for late payments can vary, but it must not exceed 3% of the Bank of England’s base rate for every day the rent remains unpaid. Once again, large, daunting fees for late payment should set alarm bells ringing as it’s likely that your landlord or letting agent is not following the new guidelines.
Early tenancy termination
Ending your tenancy early will land you with a fee and this can still vary greatly, despite the new legislation. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to stump up any rent that is currently outstanding and a fee from the letting agent on top. The amount payable is agent dependent and not currently covered by the June 1st changes, so there’s scope for shenanigans!
If possible, check what these charges will be before signing a new tenancy agreement. Better yet, don’t end your tenancy unless completely unavoidable.
Tenancy agreement changes
Naturally, there are administrative costs to cover when changes to a legal document such as a tenancy agreement have to be made, but the new legislation aims to make this much fairer to tenants by capping the amount charged.
Prior to June 1st, it wasn’t unusual for renters to incur huge fees for what amounted to little more than switching a few minor details, but that’s now a thing of the past. The new rules cap this charge at a maximum of £50 (inc. VAT) for most changes, but agents and landlords can charge more should their costs run considerably higher.
Should you be liable for an additional charge, something like replacement keys or having new locks fitted to the property, letting agents are no longer able to charge over the odds for the service provided. Under the new rules, charges must be ‘reasonable’.
While the wording is a little woolly, tenants will be within their rights to ask for proof of the amounts paid to conduct the work or provide a replacement. Anything extortionate will now be easily spotted and deemed unlawful.
That said, it’s important to point out that ‘reasonable’ works both ways. Should, for example, you lose all the keys to the property, it would be both appropriate and fair for the landlord to insist that the locks be changed. This would be dealt with under the damages clause in the contract, which means the tenant can be charged for the replacement costs.
Obviously, if you are liable for the bills payable to run your rental you will still need to pay these, but those taking out tenancies with ‘bills paid’ may need to do a little homework to ensure they are not being unreasonably charged for the privilege. Thankfully, this isn’t too difficult to do.
Many of the main property portals will provide details of an area’s average rent and what you can expect to pay for the services required to run the home - things such as utilities, TV charges, broadband, and the like.
Once you have both figures, simply add them together to get a rough idea of what a rental with bills paid should cost in order to make a general comparison when searching for your next home. Anything way above this average figure could be the result of a rogue landlord trying to recoup losses from the June 1st changes and, naturally, best avoided.
As reputable, fully accredited agents, we’re always happy to see new, fairer legislation put in place, and the new Tenant Fee Act is no different. While the change has been difficult to manage, it is our hope that the industry will be fairer for all as a result.
Naturally, many will still have questions about the new rules, but you can rest assured that all of our agents are well-informed and here to help. So, should you be looking for a new tenancy in or around East London and West Essex, look no further than Petty Son and Prestwich.