ARLA has called on the Chancellor to introduce licensing of letting agents in England.
Wales already has mandatory licensing of all letting agents under its Rent Smart Wales scheme, while Scotland has a law in place making it mandatory for all letting agents to sign up to a register by the end of September next year.
Agents in Scotland will also have to abide by a new statutory code of practice and fulfil certain minimum requirements on training, and some have already signed up for the latter.
The ARLA submission, ahead of next week’s Budget, also calls on Philip Hammond to reverse the Government’s tax assault on private landlords.
In its submission to the Chancellor, ARLA calls for both the 3% Stamp Duty surcharge on the purchase of second homes to be scrapped, along with the mortgage interest changes.
It says: “If the Government wants landlords to act as professional businesses, then the Government must treat them as such and provide landlords with the same reliefs and incentives that all other businesses receive. From April this year letting property will be the only business where it is not possible to offset total costs against income before being taxed on profit.”
The submission continues: “Inability to offset finance costs against tax liabilities combined with increased mortgage regulation in the buy-to-let sector may deter small investors reliant on buy-to-let finance from entering the market.
“Furthermore, in order for individual landlords to be able to afford a buy-to-let property, tenants may begin to see these additional costs passed on to them, which means they could see less money spent on maintaining their property and also an increase in rents.”
ARLA warns: “If the supply of buy-to-let property falls as a result, it will place added stress on a market where demand already outstrips supply in many areas.
“This will put additional upward pressure on rents, squeezing household budgets and putting the goal of home ownership further out of reach for more people. “
The submission says: “We think the Government should ban upfront fees to tenants”, but then argues that fees should be payable over the first six months of the tenancy.
On regulating letting agents, ARLA urges that this would be a quick and effective method to eliminate unqualified and unethical agents from the rental market.
So far this week, and it is only Tuesday, we have carried three reports on letting agents – one that you can read above, a similar although separate case reported yesterday, and the sentencing of a letting agent who stole tenants’ deposits.
While in the past it might have seemed unlikely for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to intervene in the lettings industry, in his Autumn Statement Hammond announced a ban on letting agent fees charged to tenants.