Mayor of Newham brands Tenants Fees Bill "completely inadequate"

4 September 2018 in Housing and Mayor
Newham Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz OBE has blasted the government’s Tenants Fees Bill - which goes to report stage tomorrow (5 September)  - as far too little, too late.
The London Borough of Newham has one of the largest number of people renting privately in the country, with nearly half of all properties in the borough in the private rented sector.

he council has led the way in protecting tenants through its pioneering private rented sector licensing scheme, which has led to the prosecution of over 1,200 criminal landlords.  Newham Council has also introduced a Letting Agents Rating Scheme, providing 0-5 star ratings to all residential letting agents in the borough.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has slammed the Tenant Fees Bill, which was supposed to protect private sector tenants from rip-off fees and exorbitant deposits, for not going far enough to help the 51,000 Newham households who rely on the private rented sector.

The Tenant Fees Bill proposes to limit upfront fees and cap holding deposits at no more than one week’s rent (this is the deposit you pay to take the property off the market – it’s re-payable at the start of the tenancy). It will also cap the amount that can be charged for a change to a tenancy to £50. However, it has been widely criticised for failing to cap tenancy deposits (the amount that is held until the end of the tenancy) at between 3-4 weeks rent or less, despite the fact the majority of responses to the to the Government’s own consultation backed this change. The watered down Bill, which MPs will discuss at report stage tomorrow, recommends that the limit for deposits is set at six weeks.

Newham Council is calling for the deposits to capped as low as possible, ideally at three weeks or less.

Mayor Fiaz said: “While we welcome the introduction of limits to upfront fees and holding deposits, for the 51,000 households renting in Newham, this Bill is too little, too late. By failing to address the enormous sums tenants have to find for deposits, the Government has missed an opportunity to protect millions from the worst effects of the broken housing market.”

“For the average Newham resident, a six week deposit works out to an eye-watering £1,902, which on top of sky-high rents, presents an enormous  barrier for people on low incomes.”

In addition to a 3-4 week cap on deposits, Newham Council is also calling for other amendments to the Bill, including:

  • Powers to enable local authorities to licence letting agents, similar to Newham’s successful private rented sector licensing scheme
  • Adequate central government funding to enable councils to pay for effective trading standards services to police the legislation
Councillor John Gray, Cabinet member for housing, said: “Newham has led the way in tackling rogue landlords through its private rented sector licensing scheme. We think by extending licensing to cover letting agents we can defend residents from the worst excesses of the housing market. Together with these new powers, Government must also ensure that trading standards, which has fallen victim to Government cuts, is properly funded so we can police this legislation and ensure that vulnerable tenants are protected. ”