Letting agents' fee ban consultation gets icy reception from industry bodies

The timing of the consultation on the ban on letting agent fees in England, announced out of the blue in the Autumn Statement, has been given the chilliest of receptions by the industry bodies.

The consultation will take place in March/April, an exchange in the House of Lords yesterday confirmed.

David Cox, managing director of ARLA, said: “After almost two months of silence we are glad that we have greater clarity on timescales.

“The minister [Lord Bourne] has acknowledged the importance of a detailed consultation into the proposed ban on letting agent fees and that an impact assessment will be carried out.

“We cannot stress the importance that an assessment must look at the ban in a wide context which includes tenants, landlords, agents and the wider housing market.

“It is essential the Government is completely aware of the full range of practical implications the ban on fees would have both in the short and long term.”

Isobel Thomson, chief executive of Safeagent, said: “We’ll have to wait to see the detail of the consultation, but we would urge the Government to think very carefully about the unintended consequences of the ban.

“Safeagent believe it is crucial to have an independent review into the impact of a ban on fees, to ensure that ultimately any ban does not impact negatively on the consumer.

“We think the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are best placed to carry out a review, and with the backing of the Fair Fees Forum we will be requesting this is conducted as part of the consultation.”

Yesterday’s announcement of the consultation dates, in the House of Lords, follows a story earlier this week in the Telegraph.

Headlined “Don’t abandon letting fees ban, say tenants”, the story claimed that growing numbers of tenants were worried that the Government would quietly delay or drop its promise to “end the scandal of arbitrary fees charged to tenants in return for . . . often nothing”.