UPDATE: THIS CONSULTATION HAS NOW CLOSED.
The much derided government consultation on the proposal to ban letting agent fees to tenants closes tomorrow (2nd June 2017).
Letting agents who haven’t already done so, and would like to air their views, can do so online here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/dclglet or by emailing the department responsible at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wasn’t that called off?
There is some understandable confusion about the status of this policy, and its consultation. You would be forgiven for thinking that it is fairly pointless to run a public and industry consultation during a general election campaign, during which time the officials running the exercise are forbidden from engaging with interested parties – or commenting on the potential policies of the parties vying for power.
But that’s government for you.
In reality, the engagement sessions (i.e. those few opportunities agents had to speak with policy makers and convey their point of view) were cancelled as a consequence of purdah, but the consultation remained quietly in place – regardless of the election.
Will the results bind the next government?
That’s an interesting question.
No future government can be bound by the commitments of their predecessor – so this process is purely informative.
However, all of the major parties have published commitments of sorts to enact similar policies. So although the election of a new government may ‘reset the clock’ letting agents are far from ‘off-the-hook’.
But what if it’s ‘the same government’?
Technically no two governments are the same, but I know what you mean. If the Conservatives are returned with Mrs May at the helm then there is no real reason for them to carry-on regardless.
Or is there?…….
Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Yes and no.
It is clear that no political party currently disagrees with regulating letting agents, and this is a widely accepted step in pursuing that goal, but the election and its associated period of purdah has thrown a spanner in the works, which could create a headache for a government trying to use the extant consultation as evidence to implement the policy.
In order to go ahead with such a policy, the government must be satisfied that it has met Cabinet Office guidelines on proper consultation of interested parties. This is generally pretty easy to do, after all they don’t really have to take any notice; just demonstrate that they listened to the right people for the right period of time.
Cancelling the consultation meetings may well be seen as a breach of this, and could open the department up to a judicial review of any future decision.
Given this state of affairs it is likely that they will return to the drawing board – at least in terms of re-running the consultation. At which point there is another opportunity to convince the government of the say to re-think once and for all.
To read UKALA’s response to the consultation click here.