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Ask The Expert By Charlotte George MARLA

I have a cottage and a farmhouse which are likely to become available to rent in the next twelve months. I hear an Act has just been passed restricting what landlords can charge. Is this the time to hand over to an agent?

You are correct; the Tenant Fees Act 2019 comes into force from the first of this month, June, 2019. The Act controls what payments a landlord or letting agent can demand of the tenant or third party guarantors “in connection with a tenancy of housing in England.”

The Act states that all payments are essentially prohibited unless the payment is expressly listed and “permitted” under the Act.  The following are listed as permitted: Rent, deposit, holding deposit, replacement key or alternative security device, payment in the event of a default, and changes to the tenancy which are requested by the tenant. Also payment in respect of council tax, utilities, TV licence, communication services. However each one listed has restrictions and limitations.

This means the landlord, or agent, can no longer charge to assemble references, or for general administration relating to the tenant, or the guarantor.

Bureaucracy has indeed reached something of fever pitch; I haven’t even mentioned the other regulations introduced this March, listing 29 hazards on a rating system to ensure a property is fit for human habitation.

I have a theory and that is that if my car needs servicing I take it to a garage. They are doing their dedicated job day in day out, not only are they more efficient than me, but I would expect them to get it right. That means long term less expense and greater peace of mind.

Getting it wrong when letting property can result in fines of up to £5,000 for the first landlord/agent breach and up to £30,000 for the second, plus resulting difficulties in serving a section 21 giving notice to the tenant to vacate. In this increasingly bureaucratic environment, it may be both prudent and cost effective to employ a reputable letting agent to let your property.

I am pleased to report a strong demand for let property in rural areas, particularly now summer is upon us. This must surely be due, in part to farmers and landowners who take a pride in the countryside and their rural rented accommodation.

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