In 136 days, tenant fees will be banned
In less time than the duration of many tenancies, our industry faces a major change. In the House of Lords yesterday, on a day when eyes might have been focused on other political events, the Government’s housing spokesman named the date for the fees ban implementation. It’s June 1, 2019, and that date will arrive in a flash.
We’ve been saying ever since the ban was first proposed that preparation for its arrival should start as soon as possible. Many agencies have substantially restructured their business model already. They’ve adopted new technology, developed new – legitimate – ways to generate income and streamlined every process to eliminate cost and drive up efficiency. Often these are the larger agencies, but that’s not always the case. Smaller firms have been capitalising on the aspect of personal service and forging genuine partnerships with landlords. Those that accepted the inevitability of the legislation, will be likely to survive. Others, who continued to protest, may not make it through the year.
With the potential of business failures, the Government will be keen to settle other outstanding matters in advance of the June date. The last thing they want is for agencies to become insolvent and for tenants to lose any chance of getting their deposits back. Compulsory client money protection is on the cards and provisions are being made to establish rules regarding interest payments on late returned deposits. We can only hope that the details of the consultation that relate to the legitimate interests of landlords and agents will also find a sympathetic ear. We shouldn’t, however, count on it.
Our industry doesn’t have the best image with the general public. Our reaction to this change could have a massive influence on how we are perceived. If we try to invent increasingly convoluted ways to circumvent the intentions of the legislation, we do ourselves no favours. I believe it’s high time we accepted, with good grace, that this particular battle has been lost. Once that’s done, we can move on and develop an industry that serves the interests of tenants, landlords and agents. Yes, there will be casualties. Yes, some very fine and respectable agencies will close. It is bad news that jobs will be lost, but I believe that in time, we will have a better sector and won’t be the Government’s preferred scapegoat for all the country’s housing problems.
And now, with just 136 days to go, it really is time to act.
I’ll leave you to get on with it.