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Ex-housing minister says tenants' charter will not end fees 'scandal'

Ex-housing minister says tenants' charter will not end fees 'scandal'

A former Labour housing minister has attacked the tenants’ charter proposed by Eric Pickles.

John Healey says that it will not stop the “scandal” of “rip-off fees” charged to tenants, and will continue to give “free rein to rogue letting and managing agents”.

Healey says that Pickles’s plans for a model tenancy agreement and a tenants’ charter are toothless.

He said: “Absolutely anyone can set up as a letting or managing agent. There are no rules on agents, so people are often hit by up-front fees and no rights for tenants, not even the right to a written tenancy agreement.

“No voluntary measures can correct this market malpractice. Regulation is required to make the market work more fairly, efficiently and transparently.

“That is why I have put a Bill before Parliament to stop the scandal of rip-off fees and sharp practice by letting agents in the private rented sector.

“We know that the average upfront fee that agents charge tenants is now £350 on top of rent and deposit, and that complaints to the property ombudsman about letting agents last year were up 50% when compared with just four years ago.”

Healey’s Bill is called the Letting Agents (Competition, Choices and Standards) Bill 2013-2014. It is due to have a second reading next week on October 18. However, it was introduced as a Ten Minute Rule Bill and these often make no progress.

The Bill sets out to establish a mandatory licensing scheme for letting and managing agents, and to ban fees.  

Also next week, on October 15, another private members’ Bill is due to have a reading.

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn also wants regulation of letting agents, and to outlaw discrimination by landlords against tenants on benefits.