Tenant Fees Act 2019: What Fees Can You Be Charged As A Tenant?

Daniel McAfee
Daniel McAfeeHead of Legal Operations @ Lawhive & Practising Solicitor
Updated on 7th June 2024

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 was introduced to make renting more affordable and transparent for tenants in England by limiting the fees that can be charged.

As a tenant, you might wonder which fees are lawful and which are not. Perhaps you've already encountered unexpected fees and want to know if they comply with the law.

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In this article, we will explore the key aspects of the Tenant Fees Act 2019, detailing which fees are banned and which are permitted. We'll explain the types of charges landlords and letting agents can still impose, the penalties for non-compliance, and what steps you can take if you've been charged unlawfully.

Table of Contents

What is the Tenant Fees Act 2019?

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 is legislation introduced to make renting more affordable and transparent for tenants. It limits the types of fees landlords and letting agents can charge to tenants in England.

What fees are banned under the Tenant Fees Act 2019? 

Under the Tenant Fees Act 2019, the following fees are banned:

  • Administration fees

  • Credit check fees

  • Inventory fees

  • Tenancy renewal fees

  • Viewing fees

What fees can landlords and letting agents still charge? 

Landlords and letting agents can charge the following permitted fees:

  • Rent

  • Refundable tenancy deposits

  • Refundable holding deposits

  • Payments for defaults (e.g., lost keys, late rent)

  • Fees for changes to the tenancy agreement

  • Utilities and council tax

  • Early termination fees if the tenant requests to end the tenancy early

Who does the Tenant Fees Act 2019 apply to? 

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 protects tenants in the private rental sector, licensees, and prospective tenants. 

It applies to private landlords, accidental landlords, professional and independent letting agents, licensors, and providers of purpose-built student accommodation. 

All parties must ensure that only permitted payments are charged to tenants. 

What is considered a breach of the Tenant Fees Act 2019? 

Landlords and letting agents are in breach of the Tenant Fees Act 2019 if they charge tenants:

  • For administrative tasks such as paperwork or setting up the tenancy

  • For credit checks on prospective tenants

  • For creating an inventory or carrying out check-ins and check-outs

  • For renewing or extending the tenancy agreement

  • For viewing a property

  • More than the allowable amount for lost keys or late rent payments

  • More than £50 (or reasonable costs if evidenced) for making changes to the tenancy agreement.

It is also considered a breach if a landlord or letting agent asks for a deposit that exceeds the stated cap, a holding deposit of more than one week’s rent, or fails to refund the holding deposit in certain circumstances. 

How much can be charged for a tenancy deposit? 

The maximum amount that can be charged for a tenancy deposit is:

  • Five weeks' rent for properties with an annual rent of less than £50,000

  • Six weeks' rent for properties with an annual rent of £50,000 or more

Can a landlord or their agent take a higher amount of tenancy deposit from me if I have a pet?

Landlords and letting agents are prohibited from taking a higher tenancy deposit beyond the statutory caps, even if the tenant has a pet. The deposit taken must not exceed five or six weeks' rent, depending on the annual rent of the property.

Landlords may, however, adjust the rent to account for the presence of a pet. For example, a landlord might charge a slightly higher rent if a tenant has a pet, as long as this is agreed upon upfront and clearly stated in the tenancy agreement.

What is a holding deposit?

A holding deposit is a payment made by a prospective tenant to a landlord or letting agent to reserve a rental property before the tenancy agreement is signed. 

This deposit demonstrates the tenant's commitment to renting the property and temporarily takes the property off the market while the tenancy arrangements are finalised, usually for up to 15 days. 

What is the cap on holding deposits?

Holding deposits are capped at one week’s rent. This deposit is refundable and is used to reserve the property while the tenancy agreement is finalised.

When should a holding deposit be refunded? 

A holding deposit must be refunded if:

  • The tenancy agreement is signed and the tenant moves in

  • The landlord decides not to proceed with the tenancy

  • The landlord fails to take reasonable steps to enter into the tenancy agreement

When can landlords or their agents retain a holding deposit? 

Landlords and agents can only retain a holding deposit if: 

  • You decide not to go ahead with the tenancy after paying the holding deposit

  • You provide false or misleading information that affects your suitability as a tenant, like income details or employment status 

  • You fail the Right to Rent Check

A holding deposit can’t be retained if you provide accurate information but your references from a previous landlord are poor, or your credit check reveals issues. In this case, the holding deposit should be refunded. 

Can landlords charge for late rent payments? 

Landlords can charge for late rent payments. However, the charge is limited to interest at a rate of 3% above the Bank of England's base rate for each day the payment is late.

Can your landlord charge you if you lose your keys?

If you lose your keys, landlords can charge you a reasonable fee for replacing the keys or locks. However, this fee must reflect the actual cost incurred by the landlord.

Can landlords charge for changes to the tenancy agreement? 

Yes, landlords can charge a fee for changing the tenancy agreement. However, this fee is capped at £50 or the reasonable costs incurred by the landlord if they can provide evidence of higher costs.

When can landlords or letting agents charge a default fee or damages payment?

Landlords and letting agents are limited in the types of default fees and damages payments they can charge tenants. They can charge: 

  • For late payment of rent if it is overdue by 14 days or more 

  • For the replacement of lost keys or other security devices

  • For requested changes to the tenancy agreement (e.g. adding a new tenant or permitting pets) 

  • To terminate the tenancy early

  • For utilities (e.g. water, gas, electricity), broadband, TV licenses, and council tax if specified in the tenancy agreement. 

Landlords and letting agents should clearly outline any potential default fees or damages payments in the tenancy agreement. 

Further, charges must be fair and reasonable, reflecting the actual cost incurred. Overcharging or imposing unreasonable fees is prohibited under the Tenant Fees Act 2019.

Can a landlord or agent ask me to pay for a deep clean at the end of a tenancy? 

Landlords can't include a clause in the tenancy agreement requiring tenants to pay for professional cleaning services.

However, landlords can request that tenants clean the property to a professional standard. If the property is not left in a clean state, the landlord can make reasonable deductions from the tenancy deposit to cover cleaning costs.

Can a landlord or agent ask me or my future landlord to pay for a reference?

Landlords and letting agents should not charge tenants for references. If you are asked to pay such a fee, you can refuse and remind the landlord or letting agent of the legal restrictions. 

If a future landlord or letting agent requests a reference from your previous landlord, any payment for this reference should not come from you, the tenant. It is a matter to be negotiated between the two landlords or agents. 

Can a landlord or agent ask me to pay fees through a third party?

Landlords and letting agents cannot circumvent the Tenant Fees Act 2019 by asking tenants to pay prohibited fees through a third party.

This means that any banned feesunder the Act can't be charged to the tenant, whether directly by the landlord/agent or indirectly through a third party.

For example, a landlord or agent cannot ask you to pay a third party for a credit check.

Can a landlord or agent ask me to pay for gardening services?

If gardening services are included in the tenancy agreement and the rent, then tenants are not charged separately for these services. The cost is effectively included in the overall rent payment.

If the tenancy agreement says that the tenant is responsible for maintaining the garden, then the tenant is expected to either do the gardening themselves or pay for gardening services themselves.

Landlords can't impose additional mandatory charges for gardening services not included in the tenancy agreement as a part of the rent or specified as a tenant responsibility.

What are the penalties for landlords who breach the Tenant Fees Act 2019?

Landlords and letting agents who breach the Tenant Fees Act can face: 

  • A fine of up to £5,000 for an initial breach 

  • A fine of up to £30,000 for subsequent breaches within five years 

  • Potential banning orders for persistent offenders

Who is responsible for enforcing the Tenant Fees Act 2019? 

Local Trading Standards authorities are the primary bodies responsible for enforcing the Tenant Fees Act 2019. They have the power to investigate complaints, conduct inspections, and take enforcement action against landlords and letting agents. 

The Lead Enforcement Authority for the Tenant Fees Act is the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team. This body offers resources, training, and advice to local authorities to help them effectively enforce the Act.

What should I do if my landlord is charging fees they shouldn’t?

If you have been charged fees that are banned under the Tenant Fees Act 2019, start by writing a formal letter or email to your landlord or letting agent requesting a refund of the unlawfully charged fees. Include details of the fees, why they are unlawful, and a request for a refund within a specified timeframe (e.g., 14 days).

If your landlord or letting agent refuses to refund the unlawful fees, file a complaint with your local Trading Standards authority. They will investigate the complaint and take enforcement action against the landlord or letting agent if necessary. 

You may also claim back unlawfully charged fees through the First-tier Tribunal. A landlord and tenant solicitor can support you with this type of claim and help with an application to the county court to enforce an order of the First-tier Tribunal. 

What should I do if my letting agent is charging prohibited fees?

If your letting agent is charging prohibited fees, you can apply to the relevant redress scheme. 

All letting agents must belong to a Government-approved redress scheme and display the name of the scheme they belong to in their offices and on their website.

If your letting agent does not belong to a Government-approved redress scheme, you should report it to Citizens Advice

How much does it cost to make a claim under the Tenant Fees Act 2019?

There is typically no charge for contacting your local Trading Standards authority for assistance or filing a complaint with a government-approved redress scheme. 

However, if you choose to issue claims at County Court, the cost of this will vary based on the amount you are claiming.

Further, if you choose to seek legal advice or hire a solicitor to represent you in your claim, the solicitor’s fees can vary based on the complexity of your case and the work involved. 

If you are considering engaging a solicitor to support with your claim, contact us today to get a no-obligation fixed-fee quote for the services of an expert landlord and tenant solicitor in our network. 

Can I claim compensation if my landlord charges fees they shouldn’t? 

You are entitled to a full refund of any fees that were charged in violation of the Tenant Fees Act 2019, as well as any interest. However, it is not possible to seek compensation for distress or inconvenience caused by unlawful fees. 

How can Lawhive help? 

If you believe you have been charged unlawful fees by your landlord or need help in resolving disputes, we are here to help. 

Our network of qualified and experienced solicitors includes expert landlord and tenant lawyers who can provide clear, straightforward advice on your rights and the best course of action. 

They can help you: 

  • Write a formal request for a refund and guide you through the process of reclaiming your money

  • Assist you in escalating the matter to Trading Standards or the relevant Government-approved redress scheme 

  • Represent you in claims to the First-tier tribunal.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation and quote for the services of a specialist lawyer. 

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