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The Tenant Fee Ban 1st June – Advice for Landlords

By Michael Alan Sears   MNAEA   MARLA   ANAEA (Comm)   HIDip   NDea

On 1st June 2019 the Tenant Fee Ban becomes Law. Essentially it means that Landlords and Letting Agents will no longer be able to charge any fees to tenants which include reference fees, agreement fees, key fees, inventory and check-out fees etc. It also limits a deposit to five weeks and is retrospective, meaning all current levels of deposit held over a five week total may need to be repaid to the tenant.

It is essentially a piece of consumer driven legislation that is long overdue. Certain agents have been charging the bulk of fees to tenants – sometimes fees upwards of £700 – and understandably this was a measure the government was always going to be pressurised into taking by consumer lobbying groups.

The current average length of an assured shorthold tenancy in England is around 26 months, but Landlords should expect this to dramatically shorten in the next few years. The reason to date why tenants have not moved more often has been the cost. With the tenant fee ban, suddenly as of 1st June tenants will far easier be able to afford the costs associated with moving and, to this end, the standard of accommodation and speed with which a Landlord and his agent carries out repairs and maintenance will determine how long that tenant stays.

In all of this there is a hidden very real RISK to Landlords, potentially far more damaging than the length of average tenancies shortening. The risk is in using an unregulated estate agent or letting agent. If you choose one that is regulated by either ARLA (The Association of Residential Letting Agents), the NAEA (The National Association of Estate Agents) or RICS (The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) you can rest assured that these agents have independently audited client money accounting systems in place with client money insurance protection.

The RISK is in not choosing a regulated agent. Imagine an unregulated agent suddenly losing its tenant fee income and, in addition, having to pay back all deposits held of more than five weeks rent. To make up the shortfall in lost tenant fee income either the agent would need to magically muster up a huge new volume of property to let – or substantially increase its Landlords fees, potentially alienating their existing client base. All of this is the slippery slope to this agent borrowing against client monies (ie Landlord rents) and eventually going out of business.

In the past five years in Gravesend three agents have gone out of business – two of which took all client monies with them including Landlord’s rents and deposits. I spoke to one Landlord who, having lost six months rent, also had to pay the tenant their deposit back (even though the agent had held it) because he was party to the tenancy agreement. My advice to Landlords who are receiving rent late is to consider switching to a fully regulated agent and, in fact, my own agency has already seen several new Landlords coming over to us and the safe haven of an ARLA agent in recent months.

 

Sealeys were the first estate agent in Gravesend to not charge fees to tenants in April 2019, ahead of the tenant fee ban on 1st June. Sealeys are a fully regulated agent as members of ARLA and NAEA. Sealeys celebrate 26 years in business in May this year.

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A good relationship with all the team and would happily recommend their services

I have over the last five years utilised their services for Light Industrial Lettings (B1 and B8) in a rural area between Meopham and Wrotham.  Michael Sears and his staff have been very prompt in producing documents for both the tenants and the solicitors.  I have always had a good relationship with all the team and would happily recommend their services.

Ivor Stoneham

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Incorporating a great deal of knowledge about the locality

Both Debbie and Catherine were helpful and professional in marketing our property. All negotiations were carried out in an efficient manner incorporating a great deal of knowledge about the locality for buyers coming from outside the area. The team managed all viewings and were quick to provide quality feedback. Once an offer on the property was secured Debbie liaised diligently with all parties to ensure a smooth completion, keeping us regularly informed on the progress. I would certainly recommend Sealeys on the service provided

Jill Blunden

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Delighted with their performance

Edinburgh House Estates appointed Sealeys in 2014 to be joint agent on the St Georges Shopping Centre in Gravesend. We are delighted with their performance as they have delivered numerous tenants to the centre in a very challenging market. They have delivered innovative solutions to complex leasing issues and are clearly very well connected in the local market

The 7,500sq ft letting to Venesta was a great example of this, where Sealeys identified a local tenant with a requirement for modern office space in the town centre. We secured planning to redevelop a vacant store room combined with void first floor storage units to create a new state of the art office with views over the church yard, Sealeys had already agreed an agreement for lease with Venesta on a new long term lease.

Ross Campbell

Senior Asset Manager, Edinburgh House Estates

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Diligence and customer service is second to none

We have been using Sealeys for 10 years now as letting agents for our commercial properties, and we have got to commend them on their efficiency, professionalism, and friendly staff.
Michael Sears leads from the front and has high standards and he expects the same from his team. We have recommended Sealeys to a number of acquaintances who have not had such positive experiences with other letting agencies locally, we would like to thank Sealeys for your continuing diligence and customer service which is second to none. Keep up the good work!

Ron Nash

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Very grateful to them for their guidance and reassurance in dealing with the sale of our house

Mr Sears of Sealeys was recommended to us, he is a charming man who put us at ease whilst discussing the sale of our home talking us through what would happen and how Sealeys promote the properties. Once we had decided to put our house on the market we had regular viewings and feedback, the staff we have dealt especially Mrs Bannister have been very helpful answering any queries we have had and keeping us updated on how the sale procedure is progressing, they also have given us advice when needed. We are very grateful to them for their guidance and reassurance in dealing with the sale of our house.

Denise Pearce