Tenant Fees ban act - new laws and new problems for landlords!

#1
Hi all.

Something has come up and I am a tad worried about it, as I am not sure that I have correctly complied with the new laws.
Prior to the new legislation, I always asked the tenant to pay the small fee (only £20) for their reference checks, making it clear that I wouldn't entertain renting to them without them being fully reference checked (i.e. their choice). I would of course sell this to them by rightly saying that it not only protected me but the tenant too, since its an HMO and its a way of trying to ensure that all the tenants are more likely not to be a problem to each other. This seemed to work well and I never really had any complaints, as most reasonable people understood that it was them that needed to be checked out.

I decided to have a break with no tenants for a while as I was doing work upgrading the property so my last tenant left a couple of months before the new law came into force. I read up about the law as much as I could at the time it came in, and I thought that it was reasonably straight forward, that in future I would not be able to ask for the £20 upfront to reference check them. No problem I thought I will just ask them to get the references explaining that I was no longer able to do this on their behalf. Well that is what I thought!

I have had a situation recently, whereby someone paid a deposit and despite many requests for them to get references done and sent to me, they simply ignored me. After a month I have just been asked for the deposit back, despite it being partly for reserving a particular room that they wanted, and since having to tell other possible tenants that it had been reserved. I have since read up a little more on this because I wanted to know if I was able to make deductions for basically being messed around and having potentially losing out on other tenants who also wanted that particular room. It turns out, apart from the maximum 5 weeks deposit (mine was much less than that) the maximum holding deposit is now ONLY 1 weeks rent, in this case just £75. The deposit paid was £200, which I feel is fairly low and I only ask for it to give myself minimum protection, more of a good will gesture by the tenant to show willing and that they are serious about taking up a tenancy. Had this person come forward with satisfactory references I would have simply made it a normal deposit and as I am a resident landlord banked it, as you don't need to do the government deposit scheme in such circumstances.

My concern is that I asked this person (who I now believe to have something to hide hence no references supplied) to apply to my normal referencing company for the references, believing that as I am not taking any money from them that is was fine. However, I have now read a guide (produced since the law came into effect) on their website which states 'This means you will no longer be allowed to ask tenants to cover the cost of their own referencing. You also won’t be able to charge check-in, inventory or admin fees'. Obviously this was news to me and I have asked them to obtain references and referred them to the website.

It’s a real mess and another kick in the teeth for landlords. What am I supposed to say to them, I want references but cannot in any way tell you how to obtain them, but here is the list? It's ridiculous. Like any landlord I don't see why I should be lumbered with paying out for reference checks to make sure they are a good tenant, if you had 4 people going for one room are you supposed to shell out £80? I only ever ask for a reference after meeting them face to face and getting a good gut feeling about them (albeit I obviously got it wrong with this last one!).

So, has anyone else come across this problem and what are you all doing? Personally there is no way I would ever let anyone into my property without being fully reference checked as I made this mistake many years ago, similar to this latest one, she paid a deposit and avoided being checked out and the only money I received was the deposit, it took me 6 months to get her out, thankfully the house wasn't too bad and I never let it again, I sold it due to the bad experience. Obviously I learned a hard lesson, but I am now concerned about how to actually ask for a reference! I cannot even say look on the internet because there might be an inference that you are pushing them towards referencing companies. I am really not sure what to do for the next person who comes to view and starts asking me questions, other than to send them an email and say this is what I need, up to you how you go about getting it! These stupid politicians who decide on these laws have no idea the problems that they cause!

Anyway, I hope I have helped make Landlords aware of this problem and look forward to your experiences and suggestions.

All the best...Tony

PS:

I just read elsewhere on this forum someone saying the Tenant Fees Act does not apply to lodgers, as I am a resident landlord and that has always been the case, do I still have anything to worry about? Just to be clear, we got nowhere, no references no contract zip...I was just waiting on her all the time and just left it in the end as I don't have time to keep chasing people not responding, obviously I now know that I should not be asking them to pay for a reference so won't be doing that again!
 

Jeffrey Shaw

Member
Staff member
#2
Much too long for a detailed reply, I regret, but certainly you should obtain references re any prospective tenant.
It's just that you cannot make that person pay your fees for them. The fees must be seen as just a landlord's overheads.
After all, the Agency Agreement is between L and the Agent. T is not party to it and therefore cannot be bound by it.

For the new Act, see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2019/4/contents
For advice from SHELTER on this, see https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/private_renting/letting_agent_fees_for_tenants
 
#3
Hi Jeffrey, thanks for your reply. There was no agent involved, just myself and the tenant who was a waste of space.

That said I have now found out all I need to know about this and the way forward in future but thanks anyway for your advice.

Regards,

Tony
 

Jeffrey Shaw

Member
Staff member
#4
I just read elsewhere on this forum someone saying the Tenant Fees Act does not apply to lodgers, as I am a resident landlord and that has always been the case, do I still have anything to worry about?
On that last point: a resident landlord IS within the Act's coverage: yes, even though the letting does not confer Housing Act 1988 rights.

See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2019/4/contents , where s.28 of the 2019 Act says this- inc. my underlining:

“landlord” includes:
(a) a person who proposes to be a landlord under a tenancy,
(b) a person who has ceased to be a landlord under a tenancy,
(c) a licensor under a licence to occupy housing,
(d) a person who proposes to be a licensor under a licence to occupy housing
, and
(e) a person who has ceased to be a licensor under a licence to occupy housing;
...
“licence to occupy housing”:
(a) includes a licence which is granted to a licensee by a licensor who resides in the housing
unless it is an excluded licence;
(b) does not include a licence to occupy social housing;
(c) does not include a licence to occupy housing the purpose of which is to confer on the tenant the right to occupy housing for a holiday;
...