Property News. From Moving In.

There will be no U-turn on tenancy fees ban – it is here to stay, says top civil servant

The Government is keen to hear feedback on the tenant fees ban but has ruled out ever scrapping the policy.

Speaking yesterday in London at an Islington Trading Standards seminar, Rosie Gray, the lead on the Tenant Fees Act for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said the department was keen to hear how the ban is developing.

However, her presentation slides stated there was no formal commitment to review the ban and said that it is here to stay.

She said: “The lead enforcement agency, Bristol City Council, will be collecting information on trends in the sector and will use it for how the policy goes forward.

“We want to hear about any issues from people on the ground, what is really happening and the problems the industry is facing.

“We know there will be challenges in year one.”

The question of how the ban will be policed was also raised yesterday after it emerged that the Government has failed to grant investigatory powers to Trading Standards officers.

This is despite its own guidance that it is up to the local enforcement bodies to police the changes.

Speaking yesterday, Gray said it was up to local councils.

But she was informed by delegates that Trading Standards have not been given the required investigatory powers that they usually have in other sectors such as to investigate a shop or car dealership for poor practices.

This means they can only ask rather than demand to see bank statements and cannot conduct interviews under caution.

Under the current guidance, Trading Standards officers have to prove beyond reasonable doubt, rather than on the balance of probabilities, that an agent has breached the fees ban or CMP regulations.

But Trading Standards officials say this requires criminal rather than civil powers, which they have been granted in other sectors but not to cover agency regulation.

Laurence Morton, another MHCLG representative, said the department was keen to hear feedback and would take issues on board.

He added that the department was also aware of issues agents were having in opening client money accounts for CMP protection since it was made compulsory in April.

Morton said: “There is flexibility for those making efforts and showing willingness to get CMP.

“The banking industry is working with the Government to ensure there is availability of client money accounts.”