The tenancy security deposits that tenants leave with landlords or their letting agents will be capped at a maximum of five weeks rent, and not the six weeks that had been previously been agreed.
The details were included as part of the Tenant Fees Bill, which the government estimates will bring an end to ‘costly’ letting fees and save tenants around £240m a year, based on its own figures.
The Bill will also give tenants greater assurances that the deposit they pay at the start of the tenancy cannot exceed five weeks’ rent. The cap on security deposits was initially announced in November last year during the chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee‘s report into the government’s Draft Tenant Fees Bill had previously recommended that the maximum security deposits be set at five weeks, but the government had reassured landlords and letting agents that the limit would be set at six weeks, until yesterday’s U-turn.
David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), believes that landlords have been “badly let down by a government which says it wants to support good landlords”.
He commented: “The government had accepted that a cap of six weeks was the minimum many landlords required. This is needed to address the problem of tenants who fail to pay the last month’s rent and leave a property damaged.
“Ministers claim that they want to cut the cost of renting, yet this is another measure the government is taking that will further cut the number of landlords and properties available as demand continues to rise, so actually driving rents up.”
Around one in three renters who currently pay a deposit are set to benefit from the change - saving tenants £64m in the first 12 months, according to government data.
The new cap will apply to properties where the annual rent is less than £50,000.
However, a deposit of six weeks’ rent will continue to apply where the annual rent is £50,000 or more.
Housing and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “The amendments will make renting a home of your own more affordable, fairer and more transparent – enabling tenants to keep more of their cash and stopping unexpected costs.
“Everyone deserves a home to call their own. Yet for some renters, moving to a new house can be difficult due to high upfront costs and letting fees.
“This is unacceptable. I want to see a housing market that truly works for everyone, and one which provides a better deal for renters.”
Jon Notley, CEO & co-founder of Zero Deposit, is among those that welcomes any proposed changes to legislation that will enable tenants “to move more freely”, but believes that “it is not sensible” to impose a cap that - after a single month’s rent - leaves landlords with “very little protection”.
He commented: “The objective in terms of improving tenant affordability is both clear and necessary but there are already services on the market that offer the same protection as a traditional six-week deposit for the landlord at the cost of just one week's rent to the tenant.
“The rental market needs reform, but not in areas where solutions already exist to address its problems.”