Peer trying to scrap letting fees says tenants' rights greater buying a fridge

Upfront costs for renters in London total an average of £1,500

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Tenants have more consumer rights when buying a fridge than when renting a property, a peer has warned while launching proposals to ban letting fees.

Baroness Grender wants renters in England to be spared from paying registration, administration, reference check and tenancy renewal charges - among others - to letting agents.

Peers heard upfront costs for renters in London total an average of £1,500, with some people facing charges amounting to several thousands of pounds.

Lady Grender also called for tenants to be given access to the database of "rogue" landlords and property agents, plus guarantees of mandatory electrical checks in properties every five years.

So-called "rogue" landlords would also be prevented from securing a house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence to enable three or more people to live in a property where they share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities under the Renters' Rights Bill.

Some of the proposals seek to change the controversial Housing and Planning Act, which saw the Government suffer a series of defeats at the hands of peers earlier this year.

Speaking during the second reading of her private member's bill, Liberal Democrat Lady Grender said: "The natural consequence of the chronic lack of social housing and the prohibitive cost to buy a home means we now have a growing number of people who live in the private rented sector.

"Sometimes it would appear that this ever-growing customer base - almost one in five of the population, a third of them families with children - have more consumer rights when they buy a white good, such as a fridge, than they do when they rent the home to put the fridge in.

"This cannot be right. This Bill aims to address that current imbalance."

She added: "The law needs to change to make renting cheaper, safer and more secure for tenants.

"This Bill will reduce the cost of moving for renters by banning letting agents from charging fees to tenants."

Government spokesman Viscount Younger of Leckie voiced reservations about the Bill.

On letting fees, he said: "The Government is clear that the vast majority of letting agents do provide a good service to tenants and landlords and that most fees charged do reflect genuine business costs.

"I note (Lady Grender) did acknowledge this briefly in her comments. I do not believe a blanket ban on letting agent fees is the answer to tackling the small minority of rogue letting agents who exploit their customers by opposing inflated fees for their service."

He said existing laws prohibit landlords and letting agents from "unfair terms or fees", adding they are required to publicise tariffs.

Labour offered its "full support" to the Bill, which received an unopposed second reading.

The Bill will undergo further scrutiny at committee stage in the Lords although it is unlikely to become law without Government backing.

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