The government needs to do more to better enforce existing regulations designed to improve transparency around letting agent fees before looking to ban them outright.
That’s the call being made by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) as MPs debate plans to ban fees.
Since May 2015, the law has compelled letting agents to publish details of the fees they charge.
Agents breaking this law can be fined up to £5,000.
Figures published earlier this year by the National Approved Letting Scheme found that after two years of the law coming into effect, 93% of councils had failed to issue a single financial penalty to a letting agent for breaching the law.
Only three penalty notices had been served across England for failure to display all relevant landlord and tenant fees.
Around 59% of councils admitted that they do not consider the displaying of fees to be a high property for the allocation of resources within Trading Standards and 45% said they only undertake reactive enforcement activity.
Instead of banning letting agent fees paid to tenants, the RLA is calling for immediate action to better enforce the law as it currently stands.
This includes the government using powers it has so far failed to use to force agents to display the fees they charge in more prominent positions and specify them in much greater detail.
The RLA is calling also for letting agents found guilty of breaking the transparency laws to be fined much more than they can at present – suggesting fines should be up to £30,000.
RLA policy director, David Smith, said: “Laws without proper enforcement serve only to let tenants and good landlords down.
“Rather than pressing ahead with plans for more legislation in the sector to ban letting agent fees at an unknown time in the future, ministers could achieve greater and earlier impact by using the powers they already have to improve transparency and introduce far tougher penalties for agents found to be breaching the law.
“This would send a clear message that enforcing bodies will not tolerate any letting agents flouting the law.”