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Hackney welcomes government’s ban on letting agent fees but says it ‘does not go far enough’

PUBLISHED: 16:35 01 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:06 02 November 2017

Hackney Council has launched a crackdown on rogue landlords. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images

Hackney Council has launched a crackdown on rogue landlords. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Hackney Council has welcomed the government’s long-awaited draft bill to stop letting agents ripping off renters with huge fees and charges – but said it “does not go far enough”.

Cllr Sem Moema (L), Hackney's mayoral advisor for private renting and housing affordability, launching the borough's Better Renting campaign earlier this year - which aimed to help people in private rented accommodation. Picture: Sean PollockCllr Sem Moema (L), Hackney's mayoral advisor for private renting and housing affordability, launching the borough's Better Renting campaign earlier this year - which aimed to help people in private rented accommodation. Picture: Sean Pollock

The ban was first announced in last year’s autumn statement and was today finally introduced to parliament.

It will see agents banned from charging a fee to rent a property and from “double-charging” tenants and landlords for the same service. Deposits will be capped at six weeks’ rent, which could still be thousands of pounds.

Introducing the bill, communities and local government minister Sajid Javid said tenants were paying “hundreds of pounds in fees that are far from transparent, substantially raising the costs involved in renting, and causing nasty surprises for new tenants who think they’ve found a home that suits their needs and budget.”

Earlier this year the town hall launched its own #BetterRenting campaign looking to ban fees while the government worked on its bill.

Cllr Sem Moema, mayoral advisor for private renting, said there had been an overwhelmingly positive response from responsible letting agents, landlords and renters forced to pay extortionate and unwarranted charges.

Speaking after the draft bill was introduced, she said: “While this legislation does address some issues, the proposals still don’t go far enough in creating a simple, transparent and fair system for renters. It requires them to go through a convoluted county court process to reclaim unlawful fees, rather than placing legal obligations on letting agents to repay the fee or face a fine.

“And Hackney’s 30,000 private renters will rightly question whether capping deposits at six weeks’ rent – upwards of £2,500 for a two bedroom property in the borough – will really create the “housing market that works for everyone” which the communities secretary describes.

“The government must now take on board views from parliament and ensure the letting fee ban is implemented as quickly as possible without further watering down. Renters have already waited long enough.”

Hackney has also announced plans to dish out on-the-spot fines og up to £30,000 to landlords and letting agents who fail to comply with orders to sort out their property, let out overcrowded homes or fail to meet licensing conditions.

The orders allow the town hall to take immediate action to help tenants as an alternative to lengthy court proceedings, though the worst offenders will still be prosecuted.

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