ARLA Propertymark has been criticised for continuing to oppose the tenant fees ban as legislation to prohibit charges to tenants passed the latest stage of the House of Lords this week.
The Tenant Fees Bill passed its second reading as peers debated whether agents and landlords should have to keep a paper trail of holding deposits and whether this charge should be capped at three days rent or £50 rather than the one week proposed.
Baroness Hayter questioned why ARLA was still arguing against the Bill.
She said: “I am sad to see ARLA, which represents letting agents, still arguing against the Bill, claiming that it will harm the private rented sector.
“In fact, it will do the opposite, partly, as I have said, by keeping funds within housing, rather than with agents, but also, vitally, by increasing tenant trust in the private rented sector.
“David Cox, the chief executive of ARLA, really ought to know that distrust in agents is not just apocryphal. It is based on hard evidence.
“He should also recognise, as I have long argued to him and his members, that the inherent conflict of interest within tenant fees is unethical and unprofessional.
“No service provider should have both parties to a transaction as clients.”
Baroness Grender also addressed concerns that the lettings industry will be jeopardised, citing online agent OpenRent which has never charged tenant fees.
She highlighted research from OpenRent showing that 64% of landlords support the tenant fee ban, adding: “That begs the question: why are those who represent landlords lobbying against this Bill when most landlords want to do the right thing?”
Sam Hurst, spokesman for OpenRent, said: “The letting industry has fought this policy all the way, but now it’s clear that in doing so, they do not represent the sector’s real stakeholders – landlords.
“Anyone could predict that tenants support a ban on fees. But this survey shows that a large majority of landlords do, too.
“Various groups have warned that a ban on tenant fees will be ‘bad for business’. But OpenRent has grown to become the UK’s largest letting agent without ever charging tenants these huge admin/agency fees.
“All the key players are ready for positive change in the sector. Government, tenants and landlords are all behind a tenant fee ban.
“Lettings companies can’t ignore this.”
The Bill will now move to the committee stage next month.