I messaged OpenRent with some concerns regarding the wording on the Rent Now page. After receiving a rather perfunctory reply, I thought that I would post to this forum for further comment.
My message was as follows.
Hi, I’ve been swotting up on the Tenant Fees Act 2019 and I think that you may have some inaccurate information on the page after you click ‘Begin Rent Now’.
In the paragraph, ‘Place your Holding Deposit’ you state to tenants that “you will get your deposit back if the landlord rejects your application for any reason”.
The Act clearly states that a holding deposit (or part of) can be retained if a tenant “provides false or misleading information which it is reasonable for a landlord or agent to take into account (this can include the tenants action in providing it) in deciding whether to grant the tenancy (e.g. affects their suitability as a tenant)”. Also “fails a Right to Rent check” and “fails to take all reasonable steps to enter into a tenancy agreement when a landlord or agent has done so”.
I feel that it is important for tenants to know this in advance of an application. I have previously wasted money on reference fees because tenants have not been truthful regarding income and credit worthiness.
Landlords and agents are also obligated to advise tenants of the minimum requirements, before an application is started. I hope this information helps.
Hi Anthony, thanks for raising this. We’re looking at improving this page now.
Just to reassure you, our terms and conditions explain how the holding deposit is treated, and all tenants must confirm that they agree to this when using our site. The Tenant Fees Act applies to all holding deposits placed after 1st June and our terms say that clearly.
And of course we always uphold the right of the landlord to take the HD as forfeit when the conditions to do so are evidenced as obtaining.
We always want things to be as clear as possible, however, so we’re taking your email on board and will be making things crystal clear for tenants.
Returning to my perennial ‘tenants with pets’ topic, I don’t think your TA wording regarding tenants paying to have the property professionally cleaned (or doing it themselves) will stand scrutiny. I can’t find our earlier conversation on this, but you felt it is robust as it is an optional cost. My legal advice is that once the landlord has accepted the risk, then they should expect the property to be returned in a condition that reflects that risk. I’m not a lawyer and I guess we’ll only know when it gets tested in court or the TDS refuse to withold a deposit. In the meantime, I’m just increasing the asking rent for tenants with pets and not imposing other charges.
I’d invite readers of this thread to go in and read the above thread for the full context.
To reiterate, though, the clause mentioned describes an optional cost. Tenants can either do the cleaning or pay for it to be done professionally. We believe that is in keeping with the word and spirit of Tenant Fees Act — an Act which we contributed to with supporting evidence.
You’re right that only a court can decide such things. But we think that this wording is fair. The fact the clause can exist helps tenants with pets find homes, because without it landlords must accept that tenants with pets will cost them ~£200 more than those without. Many landlords in this case would just not accept tenants with pets. From the tenant perspective, they can simply clean the property themselves (which most tenants do anyway as a matter of courtesy!) and avoid the cost. And the landlord is then protected from their property being in a bad state due to their willingness to accommodate tenants with pets.
So I think this term of our AST ticks all the boxes.