Tenant Fees Act (2019): An overview

The Tenant Fees Act will come into force on 1st June 2019. At the centre of the new law is a ban on all tenant fees, including agency and any third party fees.

tenant fee act 2019

The guidelines from the government will come soon, but here’s what we know so far about the Tenant Fees Act (2019).

What does the Act comprise of?

Here are the key parts of the Act:

tenant fee act 2019

All Payments Are Prohibited Except Rent, Utility Bills, Deposits (and 2 Exceptions)

Tenants will no longer be responsible for any costs except: the rent, the tenancy deposit and a holding deposit (more on these below).

This means it is no longer possible to ask tenants to cover the cost of their own referencing. Tenants will not be able to be charged for check-in, inventory or set up fees. These fees will be deemed prohibited by law

The only two exceptions are two forms of ‘default’ fee. These fees are chargeable during the tenancy in the following circumstances, provided the relevant clauses are written into the tenancy agreement.   

a) Late Rent Fees

Fees will be charged for rent payments that are over 2 weeks late. The fees can be up to 3% over the prevailing Bank of England base interest rate. Because this is an annual interest rate, the amount will need to be calculated for the pro rata interest accrued on the outstanding rent.

For example:

The tenant is 30 days late for one £1,500 rent payment.

The base rate of interest is currently 0.75%, therefore the amount the tenant can be charged for is the outstanding rent plus a fee of 3.75% of outstanding rent, pro rata for the 30 days. (3.75% of £1,500 is £56.25.) 30 days is 30/365 of the yearly rate. Therefore, the pro rata amount is calculated by multiplying £56.25 by 30/365, which is £4.62.

Landlords will of course still be able to serve Section 8 notices for late payment of rent provided the rent is 2 months or more in arrears.

(b) Lost Keys

Tenants can be charged for losing their keys (or other security device) but the charge must be a reasonable amount for which evidence must be provided.

Both default fees will need to be included in the tenancy agreement to be able to charge them, and previous rules about fair clauses will still apply.

It has also been advised that landlords shall be able to charge up to £50 for a change of tenant, and with regards to an early surrender request by a tenant, a landlord shall be able to charge the tenant for the remaining unexpected void period.

tenant fee act 2019

Cap on Tenancy Deposits

The amount of security deposit that can be requested is being reduced to 5 weeks for AST’s (Assured Shorthold Tenancies) and licences where the rent per annum is up to £50,000, and up to 6 weeks for those tenancies over £50,000 in rent per annum.

This applies to all tenancies regardless of the reason a higher deposit was taken previously. (ie: if there was poor credit etc.)

The ability to request a higher deposit due to the applicant having a pet has also been removed, however, if landlords will consider a pet, when marketing the property, it can be advertised at 2 rental amounts (ie: £1,500 p.c.m. or £1,550 p.c.m. with 1 x pet)

tenant fee act 2019

Cap and New Rules on Holding Deposits

Holding deposits will be limited to one week’s rent.

The holding deposit can only be held for 15 calendar days unless another ‘deadline’ date is agree in writing subsequently by both parties.

After the deadline, the holding deposit must be repaid within 7 days.

The holding deposit must be returned to the tenant via a refund or by being put towards the first rental payment if agreed in writing.

There are some exceptions. In these cases the holding deposit shall be forfeited  but a reason must be given in writing to the tenant within 7 days:

  • The tenant withdraws
  • The tenant doesn’t take all reasonable steps to enter the tenancy in the required time
  • The tenant fails a right to rent check
  • The tenant provides misleading information which materially affects their suitability to rent the property
tenant fee act 2019

What Are the Penalties to Landlords Who Charge Tenant Fees?

Any person,  landlord (or agents) or any third parties who charge fees to Tenants could face paying huge fines.

The first offence would be a civil offence, with a fine of £5,000.

If the offence is repeated within five years, this would be deemed a criminal offence and levies a fine up to £30,000.

Local Trading Standards organisations will enforce the ban.

The unknown, or a property market that bucks the Brexit fears?

estate agent sold board

The Market 2018

Let us start with 2018, which was peppered with challenging market conditions for residential property sales.

Because our trading year runs January to December we can report on the full picture for 2018, which may indicate the direction of travel for 2019.

Surprisingly, some branch productivity levels for house sale revenue was at or above 2017 levels, especially in the village locations. That outcome however doesn’t for one moment disguise the fact that during the first half of 2018 we saw one of the poorest levels of house sale transactions for some time, however, buyer positivity surfaced in the summer and remained reasonable through to December despite the increased chaos around Brexit.

When we say house sales were up in the second half of 2018, we are talking about house sale volumes not prices. Large house price gains are gone for a while, but like all markets when they rebound from a low they come back with a sharp and fast uptake.

The rental market performed extremely well in 2018, with a notable uplift in activity for high end rentals outside of London, especially in our core area of operation on the Berkshire / Hampshire borders.

Properties taken to the rental market in the £7,000 to £10,000 p.c.m. sector frequently saw rental offers from multiple tenants. This was driven by high end house buyers deciding to pop into a property rental for the next year or so, using some of the stamp duty funds they would have allocated on a property purchase around £2.0m. or £3.0m., and then wait and see how property values shape up post Brexit.

house let
High end rental activity compensated for house sales

One certainty

One thing that is certain, is that uncertainty impacts on the property market especially around the times of a General Election or a Referendum. How this uncertainty works its way into tangible outcomes for 2019 is not straightforward and varies in different house price sectors of the property market.

In the short term, house buyers generally will be more cautious and slower in their decision making. This doesn’t mean house prices will fall, because buyer demand remains steady and employment levels are excellent. There is the prospect of a flat market in respect of property prices, however, discerning house buyers are seeing the current market conditions as an opportunity to move whilst prices remain static. House sellers will sell successfully in the 2019 market, but they can’t expect a fancy or inflated price and must engage with the reality that over pricing will fail in a market where buyers are cautious.

Different sectors, different outcomes in 2019

Different market sectors will have different outcomes in the forthcoming months ahead. Buying decisions on property sales from around £250,000 to £1.5m. are mostly made by very localised factors such as schooling, access to work, general employment levels and family situations ranging from the three D’s (death, divorce and debt) through to the three N’s (new job, new baby, new beginnings). Decisions around such matters of day to day life will continue to be made by house buyers against the backdrop of political uncertainty, so house sales will be maintained at the current level with price sensitivity being the watchword.

Further up the property price sector, and especially in the £2.0m. to £6.0m range house buyers will be more influenced by global and political factors so we could see further negative price impacts in this sector. Savvy top end buyers are playing a waiting game, but they are there on our books and will respond to excellent marketing and a competitive price strategy.

House sellers and buyers should approach 2019 with realistic expectations, engaging positively with the new beginnings for the country and house moving opportunities and, who knows, there might well be some pleasing outcomes to report at the end of 2019.

We wish you a happy Christmas and the very best for 2019.

 

John Holden – Chairman and Managing Director McCarty Holden

POST BREXIT IMAGE LEAP

Bank of England Warns of No-Deal Brexit House Price Crash

Property Hampshire Warning Bank of England
Governor of the Bank of England Dr Mark Carney leaving Downing Street, London yesterday, following a Cabinet meeting.

Was this a forecast?

The Governor of the Bank of England has warned ministers that house prices could crash by more than a third in the event of a disorderly, no-deal Brexit, according to a report by Gavin Cordon, Press Association Whitehall Editor.

Yesterday, Mark Carney briefed Theresa May and senior ministers on the Bank’s planning for a “cliff edge” break with the EU at a special Cabinet meeting on Thursday to review the Government’s no-deal preparations.

It is understood he warned house prices could fall by up to 35% over three years in a worst case scenario, as sterling plummeted and the Bank was forced to push up interest rates.

“What could be lost in the alarmist headline is that Carney wasn’t making a forecast,” says John Holden Chairman of McCarthy Holden.

We’ve been here before

“And hang on, haven’t we been here before?” Holden continues.

Back in May 2016, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne warned that following a leave vote house prices would drop by 18%. Around the same time US President Barack Obama said Britain would go to the “back of the queue” for trade deals with the US if it votes to leave the European Union.

“So again today we read headlines which could damage confidence further in both the wider economy and the UK residential property market.” continues Holden.

Understanding the context

Fortunately, some leading economists have stepped up and put Mr Carney’s comments in a framework of context.

Take BBC’s economic editor Kamal Ahmed, who stated today that it appears that the Governor wasn’t providing the Cabinet with a forecast of what the Bank believes would happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit. He was briefing the Cabinet on what preparations the Bank was making if that does happen, including last November’s stress test.

It was not a forecast.

It was an apocalyptic test where the Bank deliberately sets the parameters beyond what might reasonably be expected to occur. The major banks all passed the test, giving reassurance that the financial system can cope with whatever happens next year.

The Governor believes that a ‘no-deal’ scenario would be bad for the economy. But not as bad as the headlines today which are based on a doomsday scenario that is not actually forecast to happen.

The market insight from John Holden is  that “On the shop floor at McCarthy Holden the first half of 2018 saw one of the poorest levels of house sale transactions for some time, however, since July positivity was in the wings because house buyers began surfacing again with intent.”

“Right now, discerning house buyers are seeing the current market conditions as an opportunity to move whilst prices remain static. The news for house sellers is that you can and will sell successfully in today’s market, but don’t expect a fancy or inflated price.”

“Large house price gains are gone for a while, but like all markets when they rebound from a low they come back with a sharp and fast uptake. Savvy buyers know this and are taking care of business now” concludes Holden.

John Holden - Chairman McCarthy Holden

Below are samples of fine homes that have SOLD (exchanged or completed) during 2018

Plight Of Refugees Explored Through Their Clothing In Cathedral Artwork

refugees-cathedral-artworkSuspended by Arabella Dorman is a collection of hundreds of items of refugee clothing found mainly on beaches on the Greek island of Lesbos and garments left behind in the camps of Calais.

The illuminated artwork hangs from the nave of Canterbury Cathedral and appears to hover around three metres from the ground. The work was unveiled on Thursday and is on display until May 16, a cathedral spokeswoman said.

First shown in December at St James’s Church in London, Ms Dorman’s work attracted international attention. She said: “My interest lies in the men, women and children behind the headlines, the individual stories behind the politics. I attempt to illuminate and to reveal the human face of conflict, and to find light in the darkest corners of existence.”

The cathedral’s Canon Treasurer, the Reverend Nick Papadopulos, said: “In Lent Christians remember the days when Jesus was driven into the wilderness; in Holy Week we remember his suffering at the hands of imperial power.

“Arabella Dorman’s Suspended is a powerful call to us to remember – and pray for – those driven from their homes and those who suffer at the hands of power today.”