Wales politics

Call for Welsh letting agency fee ban after England move

Monopoly pieces on coins Image copyright PA

Letting agency fees for tenants should be abolished in Wales as soon as possible, a Labour AM has said.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced the fees will be banned in England.

Jenny Rathbone, AM for Cardiff Central, said she was frustrated the "English government" seemed to have "stolen a march" on Wales.

Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said the context in Wales was "completely different", and he wanted to see how a ban on fees in Scotland worked first.

Tenants can be charged fees for a range of administrative reasons, including for credit, reference and immigration checks.

In Scotland, lettings agency fees to tenants have already been banned.

Image caption Jenny Rathbone said fees can be "money for nothing"

Ms Rathbone said many of her constituents were private tenants "and are subject to really quite extortionate letting agency fees".

The backbench AM said agencies could charge fees for properties to be taken off the market, which she described as "money for nothing".

"I just feel a bit frustrated really that the English government seems to have stolen the march on us," she said.

Ms Rathbone said the Welsh Government should take action as soon as possible, "otherwise Wales is protecting tenants in this regard less than in England and Scotland".

If the government does not move on the issue, Ms Rathbone said she would apply to create a private member's bill in the assembly to do so.

Ms Rathbone had voted against a Plaid attempt to allow for a ban to be implemented last year, but she said she did this after being told by the Welsh Government it did not think the assembly had the power to ban the fees.

But she said she had since found out the "best legal advice" was that the assembly does hold that power.

'Steep charges'

John Puzey, director of housing charity Shelter Cymru, said people had been coming to its housing advice services saying they were having "great difficulty" getting the money together to enter into the private rented sector.

"Not only do they have to come up with rent in advance, deposits and all that sort of stuff, but they also had to pay quite often really steep charges," he said.

But Residential Landlords Association chairman Alan Ward, who has spoken out against the proposed ban in England, said: "Agent fees have to be paid by somebody.

"If any additional fees are passed on to landlords, tenants will end up paying them forever as market rents will increase."

Image caption Mark Drakeford says some organisations have warned the changes in England will result in higher rents

Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales the Welsh Government had already committed to exploring the evidence from Scotland, and would "look at the fine print" of the proposals for England.

He said some housing organisations had criticised the chancellor's plans, saying they would "simply feed through into higher bills for tenants in rent and will cost them more in the long run".

"If there is a good idea here, and using the experience elsewhere, then we will certainly study it," Mr Drakeford said.

"But the context is different in Wales. We have a different legal framework already. We have a different set of arrangements in place."

In Wales, a new regime requiring landlords to register came into force on Wednesday.

'Division'

Plaid Cymru housing spokesperson Bethan Jenkins accused Welsh Labour of "hypocrisy and division" over the issue.

She said Labour AMs had voted against a Plaid amendment to the Renting Homes Act which would have scrapped the "punitive" fees.

"While the Labour Welsh Government contradict and undermine each other in public, we will continue to fight for a fair deal for renters in Wales," she said.

Welsh Conservative AM David Melding said: "Sadly, Wales now lags behind the rest of Britain when it comes to letting agent fees.

"It is time that the Welsh Government moved to protect tenants from additional costs."

Related Topics

More on this story