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September 18

by Millie Wickens
Landlords must pay repair bills even if tenants are to blame

Tenants who have damaged the homes they rent can’t be charged letting agent commission for sorting out repairs, according to a leading lawyer.

This means that if, for example, a letting agent adds a handling charge to a repair bill for a blocked drain, the landlord cannot pass the charge on to a renter.

That’s because these charges are not included in tenant fee ban guidance for England or Wales.

Instead, landlords must bear the cost.

The trade body, the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) asked housing lawyer Erol Topal for an opinion as to whether the charge could be raised from the tenant.

Topal argues that the fee is against the spirit of the law aimed at minimising the costs renters should pay, but would not break the law if a clause was included in an assured shorthold tenancy agreement allowing the charges.

Speaking about the law in England, Topal said: “The Act very clearly defines those fees a relevant person may be required to pay – these do not include letting agency fees and so the additional fee/commission is not, on the face of it, recoverable.”

The lawyer also cautions that his opinion might change once the courts have decided some cases.

ARLA sought the opinion to investigate whether letting agents could earn some revenue from tenants following the fee bans.

“Such a clause may be subject to challenge under consumer protection legislation and, if successful, would be deemed an unfair term,” said ARLA.

“While agents must make their own commercial decisions on how to take this issue forward, ARLA is not recommending this course of action and as such will not be making any changes to its assured shorthold tenancy agreements.”

Read the full legal opinion