Lobbying organisation Shelter is calling on the Government make sure that the forthcoming ban on letting agent fees is outright, comprehensive and unequivocal.
Shelter says it is vital that are no loopholes for agents to exploit.
Any exemptions, it says, would make the ban meaningless.
In a new blog on its site, Shelter says: “While sensible agents will act to get ahead of the ban, we expect many to attempt to lobby for it to be watered down, drawing obtuse distinctions between unfair fees and nebulous ‘charges’.
“From behind the scenes activity, we know some seem stuck in denial and are persisting in their defence of rip-off fees to tenants.
“The experience of Scotland shows why the Government will set itself up to fail if it goes for anything other than a clear cut ban on all upfront fees to set up or renew a tenancy.
“Scotland is sometimes mistakenly described as having ‘banned’ letting agent fees to tenants in 2012. In fact, so-called ‘premiums’ had been illegal since 1984.
“But the law was widely flouted, with agents charging for things like reference checks, inventory fees and check-in costs.
“Following a Shelter Scotland campaign, the Scottish Government was forced to clarify the law in 2012, setting out that all such up-front charges to tenants were illegal.
“Even with the clarification and resultant publicity, awareness and compliance in Scotland is still less than perfect – allowing a minority of agents to continue to rip off tenants.”
The blog continues: “Given that even the unequivocal ban in Scotland has been met with compliance problems, we would expect any attempt to carve out exemptions in England to make a ban here positively meaningless.
“Compliance will hinge on renters knowing their rights and feeling confident in challenging rogue agents. It will be incredibly hard for them to do so if some fees and changes are left out of scope by the legislation.
“Picture a tenant desperate to secure a flat and attempting to negotiate with an agent who insists that they are a professional and their particular fees are legitimate. If the Government really wants to fulfil its pledge to ban unfair fees, then it must do so in black and white and not legislate for harmful grey areas.”