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Tenant fees: enforcement and sanctions

This content applies to England

The penalties and sanctions against a landlord or agent who has charged a relevant person a prohibited payment.

For information about who is protected by the outlawing of prohibited payments, see Tenant fees. The provisions came into force on 1 June 2019.

Restriction on section 21 notice

A landlord cannot serve a section 21 notice to end an assured shorthold tenancy until any prohibited payment or unlawfully retained holding deposit has been:[1]

  • repaid, or
  • with the relevant person’s agreement, credited towards their rent or tenancy deposit.

Form 6A (the prescribed form for section 21 notices) has been amended to take account of the provisions of the Tenant Fees Act 2019.[2]

There is no similar sanction restricting the service of a notice to quit on licensees or tenants who are not assured shorthold tenants.

Enforcement authorities

Local trading standards are responsible for enforcing the Act. District councils (that are not trading standards authorities) also have the power to take enforcement action against a landlord or letting agent that has:[3]

  • required a relevant person to make a prohibited payment
  • breached the requirements relating to holding deposits.

Financial penalties

Where an enforcement authority is satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that a landlord/agent has committed a breach of the Act it can impose a civil penalty of up to:[4]

  • £5,000 for an initial breach of the Act
  • £30,000 for any subsequent breach within five years.

A subsequent breach is a criminal offence and a banning order offence.[5] The enforcement authority can either prosecute the landlord/agent or impose a civil penalty.

A landlord/agent cannot be:

  • subject to a civil penalty if they have already been convicted or acquitted of an offence in relation to the conduct, or criminal proceedings for the offence have been commenced[6], or
  • convicted of an offence if a civil penalty has already been imposed in respect of the same breach[7].

An enforcement authority cannot impose a financial penalty for failure to repay a holding deposit if the landlord/agent decided that the tenant did not have the right to rent as a result of incorrect information provided by the Home Office.[8]

An enforcement authority can require a landlord/agent who has committed a breach to repay to the relevant person the amount of any prohibited payment or holding deposit that has not been repaid, unless the relevant person has already made an application to the First-tier Tribunal to recover the payment.[9]

Notice of intent

Before the enforcement authority imposes a civil penalty or requires the repayment of any amount to a tenant/licensee (or other relevant person), it must serve a ‘notice of intent’ on the landlord/agent.[10]

The notice must set out the:

  • date on which it is served
  • amount of the proposed penalty (ie the civil penalty and/or the amount to be repaid to the relevant person)
  • reasons for imposing the penalty
  • information about the right to make representations.

The notice must be served within six months of the authority having sufficient evidence that the landlord/agent has required a prohibited payment or breached the requirements relating to holding deposits.

If the breach is or was ongoing, the notice must be served while the breach is continuing or within six months of the last day on which the breach occurred.

The landlord/agent has 28 days from the day after the date of service of the notice to make written representations to the authority.[11]

Final notice

After the end of the period for representations, the enforcement authority must decide whether or not to impose a civil penalty and, if so, the amount.[12]

If the authority decides to impose a penalty or require the repayment of a prohibited payment or holding deposit, it must serve a ‘final notice’ on the landlord/agent.

The notice must set out the:

  • date on which it is served
  • amount of the penalty (ie the civil penalty and/or the amount to be repaid to the relevant person)
  • reasons for imposing it
  • details of how and when the penalty must be paid
  • information about rights of appeal
  • consequences of failing to comply with the notice.

The final notice must require payment of any civil penalty within 28 days, or repayment of a prohibited payment or holding deposit within 7 to14 days from the date of service.

Landlord/agent appeals

A landlord/agent can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against a final notice.[13]

An appeal can be made against the decision to impose a civil penalty or the amount of the penalty.

If appealing against a financial penalty, the appeal must be brought within 28 days from the day after the date of service of the final notice. If appealing against an order to repay a prohibited payment or holding deposit, the appeal must be brought within the repayment period specified in the notice.

Action by tenant/licensee

Any term of a tenancy/licence agreement (or agreement between a letting agent and relevant person) which requires making a prohibited payment is not binding.[14] The remainder of the agreement will continue to apply, so far as practicable.

Where tenant/licensee has paid a prohibited fee that was demanded by the landlord, s/he can take direct action to recover that money in the First-tier Tribunal. An enforcement authority can assist, for example by providing advice or by conducting proceedings.[15] This may be an option where the enforcement authority does not take enforcement action.

[1] s.17 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[2] Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/915.

[3] ss.6 to 8 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[4] ss.8(2) and (3) Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[5] s.12 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[6] s.8(4) Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[7] s.12(4) Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[8] s.8(5) Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[9] s.10 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[10] para 2, Sch.3 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[11] para 3, Sch.3 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[12] para 4, Sch.3 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[13] para 6, Sch.3Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[14] s.4 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[15] ss.15 and 16 Tenant Fees Act 2019; rule 5, Tribunal Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2019 SI 2019/925.

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