Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Newspaper column 8 November - Changes to letting and service charges

Last week was a busy one for me. In Parliament I spoke in a number of debates, including leading one on proportional representation via my role on the Petitions Committee, and also contributed to the tax on beer and pubs debate, which with St Austell Brewery a major employer in Mid-Cornwall is particularly important to us ahead of the upcoming Budget.

Following this, I came back to Mid-Cornwall for a packed few days, including meetings with Cornwall’s leadership board, filming my slot on BBC’s Sunday Politics, a busy constituency advice surgery in St Austell and selling poppies with the Royal British Legion ahead of Remembrance Day this coming weekend.

Meanwhile last week also saw the introduction to Parliament of a new draft bill to ban letting fees.
While the Government is taking many positive steps to increase and encourage home ownership, it is also crucial that we protect those in the rented sector, which has long been under regulated and has not provided enough protection of both tenants and landlords alike. Whilst many letting agents provide a good service, it is clear that there are some who do not.

The draft Tenant Fees Bill will set out the Government’s approach to banning letting fees for tenants, helping millions of renters by bringing an end to costly upfront payments.

Evidence shows the level of fees charged are often not clearly or consistently explained, leaving many tenants unaware of the true costs of renting a property.

This latest action will help improve transparency, affordability and competition in the private rental market. It will also prevent agents from double charging both tenants and landlords for the same services.

As well as these changes, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid last week announced plans to crack down on letting and management agents who make tenants, leaseholders and increasingly home owners on new estates, pay overpriced service charges.

Government data estimates that services charges paid to management companies total between a staggering £2.5 billion and £3.5 billion a year, a vast amount of money.

Many leaseholders and home owners share the cost of maintenance and repairs, including for open spaces, paying service charges. I have had many complaints about landlords and letting agents arbitrarily increasing service charges.

The Government is in the process of bringing measures to protect consumers from unfair costs and overpriced service charges as well as providing ways to place more power in the hands of consumers by giving leaseholders and owners more say over their agent.

As ever with Parliamentary Bills, its passing through Parliament will be a lengthy process and the devil will be in the detail. I will be closely monitoring this Bill as it proceeds to ensure concerns that have been raised with me by tenants and landlords in Mid-Cornwall are reflected in the finished legislation.

My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or contact me on either 01726 829379 or Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: