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Meeting of Fair Fees Working Group to go ahead today despite ban

A meeting of the newly-formed Fair Fees Working Group is to go ahead today.

Separately, the Office for Budget Responsibility has said that the ban could lead to higher inflation – but that it won’t know until it sees the detail.

The Fair Fees Working Group was put together two weeks ago at the first meeting of the Fair Fees Forum, an initiative of the National Approved Letting Scheme.

The Group’s original brief was to explore alternatives to an outright ban.

NALS chief executive Isobel Thomson confirmed that the meeting will still be held, despite the out-of-the-blue ban on letting agent fees announced by the Chancellor on Wednesday.

Thomson warned only weeks ago that the industry was “sleep-walking” into a ban.

Thomson said: “We called it right and put our heads above the parapet.” She said she had received some hostile reactions as a result.

The Fair Fees Forum was held earlier this month, and was attended by agents as well as bodies such as Shelter and Crisis, plus two of the redress schemes although not TPO.

Today’s meeting will also be attended by agents, the same two redress schemes, the Residential Landlords Association and the Department for Communities and Local Government, which specifically asked to attend.

Thomson said: “The first meeting of the Forum was genuinely positive, with general agreement in the room that agents should be able to charge – reasonably – for services that benefit the tenant.”

She said that while today’s meeting may find itself with a different purpose to that first intended, she believed it important that representatives of the industry should meet and discuss issues, and keep the DCLG informed of their views.

Meanwhile, the fall-out continues from Wednesday’s announcement.

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook document, published with the Autumn Statement, said that the ban could lead to higher rents and general inflation.

The document says: “The Government has … announced its intention to ban additional fees charged by private letting agents. Specific details about timing and implementation remain outstanding, so we have not adjusted our forecast.

“Nevertheless it is possible that a ban on fees would be passed through to higher private rents. If this is the case, it would also affect measured inflation, as CPI and RPI inflation both include rents but do not include the additional fees charged by letting agents.

“We will return to the implications of this policy for inflation once firm details are available.”

Industry veteran Harry Hill tweeted that in his experience, “Government intervention into the housing market almost always is a disaster”.

Meanwhile, Generation Rent hailed the ban as a victory for it and other organisations.

It said the ban was good news for tenants, as their agents “won’t have an incentive to try and replace you”.

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