Ian Narbeth, solicitor at DMH Stallard, says that letting agents are grappling with the Tenant Fees Act, which from 1 June will outlaw fees for referencing, check-in and check-out. He added: “The Tenant Fees Act throws the baby out with the bathwater. All payments are prohibited unless expressly allowed. If landlords don’t follow the rules, they could for example be fined for not returning a holding deposit to a tenant who withdraws without reason. Forfeit the holding deposit of a prospective tenant who has told blatant lies, and the landlord could be punished if he doesn’t follow precisely the Act’s procedures.
“If landlords overcharge, accidentally or otherwise, by even a penny they may commit an offence. Even repaying the tenant as soon as a mistake is spotted does not prevent liability. Councils are tasked with enforcement and some tenants, especially those with large rent arrears or the ‘tenant from hell’ whom every landlord fears, may try to enlist over-worked councils to threaten landlords with £30,000 fines and being placed on a ‘rogue landlords’ register. Landlords may have to spend thousands on legal fees or even sell up if they cross with crooks who know their way round this Act.”