NLA In Action
Article Posted - 13th December 2018
Find out the latest on the Tenant Fees Bill, and how we're working with the government to mitigate the damage of their latest u-turn on security deposits
The issue: The Tenant Fees Bill U-turn
The Tenant Fees Bill was introduced into Parliament in May and has since completed its journey through the House of Commons and moved into the House of Lords for further scrutiny. The Government had previously reassured landlords and letting agents that the deposit cap would be set at six weeks, until it made yet another U-turn on 4 December, capping security deposits at a maximum of five weeks rent.
The NLA view:
Except for the almost unbearable uncertainty, landlords have been mostly untouched by the mass-hysteria concerning Brexit. Most landlord and tenant legislation has little regard to the European Union, and the regulations that do (predominantly safety and energy performance) already have the commitment of all of Westminster's main players.
As such, it was quite a shock to find that private landlords have become the latest bargaining chip to be used by the Government to secure some modicum of unity from their own benches.
After months of hard work winning and then defending a concession in the Tenant Fees Bill to extend the permitted security deposit to the equivalent of six weeks (up from the Government's originally intended four), we find that ministers in the House of Lords have traded away one of those precious weeks for some sort of as yet undefined Brexit favour.
In addition to amending the bill to reduce the value of security deposits, the Government has also tabled an amendment to clarify exactly what constitutes a ‘default charge' during a tenancy.
In summary, the amendments amount to:
- Capping security deposits at the equivalent of five weeks' rent
- Limiting default fees to the replacement of keys (or similar security devices) and in relation to late rent.
However, it also provides an option for landlords to be able to claim damages for a breach in the tenancy agreement, leaving scope to recoup losses that do not relate to keys or late payment. Inevitably, it will be up to the courts to decide which of the breaches merit damages, but until then even more attention will no doubt be given to the exact terms of landlords' Assured Shorthold Tenancies.
The NLA policy team, while disappointed to have been at the receiving end of a blatantly political U-turn, is working with officials and MPs to find ways to mitigate the damage of these amendments. With all eyes on Theresa May's Brexit deal, and her personal future, the prospects of a positive outcome are poor for the time being, but there may still be opportunities to claw back some flexibility.
The only real positive is that with all of the activity surrounding our EU exit and the finite time available to ministers, there is a fairly good chance that implementation of this bill will be delayed.
The issue: Government's housing courts consultation
Summary: Real-life experiences of regaining possession through the courts are vital to the NLA's lobbying work.
The NLA view:
Away from tenancy deposits but very firmly within Whitehall, we also need your continued support of our efforts to submit as much evidence to the Government's housing courts consultation as we possibly can.
The reaction to our last call to action was fantastic, with a number of really good case studies being submitted, but we need every example of real landlord experience we can get.
We don't need you to write a novel, but we do need as much detail as you feel comfortable providing about your experience of regaining possession through the courts. Tell us what process you used and why, how long it took, and how much it cost to finally get vacant possession.
All it takes is an email, and if you're not comfortable writing why not record yourself using your phone and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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