Wales politics

Calls for a tenancy fee ban made by AMs

Key in house door

Calls to ban tenancy fees by letting agents in Wales have been made in the Senedd by opposition AMs.

The Welsh Government has faced criticism that it is lagging behind after the UK government announced it would ban the fees.

UKIP held a debate on the issue on Wednesday, where Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives also called for the fees to be abolished.

The Welsh Government said it was considering evidence.

A proposal from ministers for a consultation with other assembly parties looks likely to get more support.

Plaid Cymru has criticised Labour for not banning the fees at an earlier opportunity. First Minister Carwyn Jones said he was actively considering banning them.

Labour AM Jenny Rathbone, who also spoke in the debate, has previously said she would consider a private members bill to abolish the fees if the government does not act.

Gareth Bennett, UKIP AM for South Wales Central who led a debate on the issue in the Senedd on Wednesday, said: "It's absolutely unacceptable that Wales lags behind the rest of the United Kingdom when it comes to these huge fees.

"The Welsh Government need to take urgent steps to protect tenants and make it easier for people to rent their own home."

Image copyright Media Wales
Image caption UKIP AM Gareth Bennett is backing the ban bid

Plaid Cymru's Sian Gwenllian said: "We have always argued that these are punitive charges which should be scrapped at the earliest opportunity.

"Unfortunately, our efforts to do this with an amendment to the Renting Homes Bill last year was scuppered by Labour."

Ms Gwenllian told Wednesday's debate that the only party that had not committed to abolishing fees was Labour.

David Melding, for the Conservatives, said the fees should be abolished.

But Carl Sargeant, the communities secretary who is responsible for housing, said evidence was now emerging from the application of the ban in Scotland.

"We need to look very carefully at the evidence presented," he said, saying that although research from Shelter showed little impact, anecdotal evidence had suggested rent had gone up and that there were agents still charging tenants.

UKIP's motion in the debate called on the Welsh Government to bring forward legislation in this assembly term to ban renters' fees, ensuring costs cannot be passed on to tenants or private landlords.

However this was unsuccessful. Instead UKIP joined Plaid Cymru, the Conservatives and the governing Labour group to pass a motion backing government calls to consult on a way forward, and consider how legislation might work in light of the evidence from Scotland.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman earlier said: "As the recent introduction of Rent Smart Wales demonstrates, the Welsh Government is committed to getting a fair deal for tenants.

"We have already said we are actively considering the evidence from Scotland following the ban there and we will be looking very closely at the proposals in England.

"We do not believe the proposed amendment last year was based on evidence or consultation and it contained no mechanism for enforcing the ban."

More on this story