Socialist Party
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28 November 2018

The Tories' letting fee ban is full of holes - we need rent controls and council homes!

Hannah Davis, Birmingham Central Socialist Party

The Tories have recently announced a bill to end letting agency fees, as well as capping deposits at a maximum of six weeks' rent.

While looking for a flat this year, I was stunned at a list from one agency quoting 497 for administration fees. This was excluding the deposit, first month's rent, and a 48-hour holding fee - which would have added over 1,000 to that total.

This is only one example of the money-grabbing reality of renting in Britain today, with 11.5 million people renting private homes in England alone. One in four households will be renting privately by the end of 2021, says estate agency Knight Frank.

The Tories' bill pledging to tackle these kinds of fees is a desperate attempt to claw back votes under the pretence of doing something about the housing crisis. This shows how vulnerable they are on this and other issues.

However, the bill fails to ensure the loss in fees is not passed on to tenants in other ways. For example, landlords and agents who only ask for a month's rent as deposit could raise this to the six-week maximum. And there is nothing to stop them raising rents in response, meaning even more unaffordable homes.

As well as this, the bill does nothing to stop the shocking fees landlords and letting agents can charge during tenancies and when you leave the property. For example, Shelter reports that some landlords have been charging 20 an hour for maintenance, and an anonymous letting agent says it's about 50 just to come out to the property!

The Socialist Party supports banning letting agency fees - but we mean all fees. This should be linked to compulsory landlord registration to ensure standards, and rent controls to end the landlords' and bankers' racket.

Nationalisation of building companies and land would allow us to build quality homes for all. But local councils can - and must - build council homes now. By using reserves and borrowing, they could start tackling the housing crisis and build a campaign to win the needed funds from central government.

Tories out! For affordable homes for all, and an end to privatisation of social housing and gentrification!