Last week’s news that the lettings fee ban is unlikely to materialise before next spring was perhaps to be expected.
Ever since it was announced, it was laden with an air of will-they, wont-they.
While it had been the subject of much media attention, the consultation that sought input from interested parties, garnered relatively little.
I put this down to apathy. Quite simply, whether you’re a landlord, a letting agent or even a tenant, all the legislative changes, whether implemented or simply mooted, have left us languishing with a certain ‘so what’ attitude.
I’m using this realisation, however, to take stock and consider what’s really important in the rental market as we embark on a new year…
And that’s the thing. From the government’s perspective at least, it appears that the Buy-to-Let market no longer commands importance. The government has been too focused on reducing investment into the sector in favour of home ownership via the Help to Buy scheme and this means that the rental market is now over-regulated and unfairly taxed.
Consequently, real pain is being experienced within the sector and it is tenants, in fact, who are being most acutely affected.
The government’s intention was to target landlords with punitive taxation and additional Stamp Duty Land Tax. What it has created, however, is a dire shortage of stock which is now pushing rents up.
Tenants may well have lamented the delayed introduction to the fees ban, but the legislative changes aimed at the landlords, will mean that the increased rents paid by tenants far outweigh the administrative fees they stand to ‘save’ in the future.
It’s a crazy situation, but it’s exactly what over-interference creates.
When the ban does come in, administration and referencing fees may well be passed on to the landlords. What will they do? They’ll pass them on in the form of increased rents and tenants will lose out again. It’s not necessarily fair or right, but it’s the reality of what happens when a government loses sight of what’s important.
The private rented sector has a vital role to play in the housing make up of this country and I fear that has been forgotten by those in power.
*David Westgate is Group Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group