When being offered a 12 month tenancy, the landlord or letting agent may include a summer concession through the form of a rent free period or half rent (usually for July and August), or a summer retainer. Adverts on the LSH website will show if the landlord or letting agent has offered a summer concession.
If you have been offered a rent free or half rent summer concession, then you have a legal right to access the property from the start date of your tenancy, and many students choose to store belongings in the property until they return to commence their studies in September. If you wish to live in the property over the summer months, then you may be asked to pay full rent.
A retainer is a charge requested that allows students to move into a property at a later date. Although not exclusively, typically a retainer has been charged at the equivalent half rent for July and August. However, it is important to note that unlike half rent, if you are paying a retainer you have no right of access to the property, whereas the landlord has complete access until your move in date.
Since the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act 2019 there have been concerns raised as to whether a retainer might be considered a Prohibited Payment. The Property Redress Scheme has recently expressed a view (see in red below) that rent or a retainer should not be charged where access to the property is denied. On this basis, in July 2022 we have advised LSH Accredited landlords and letting agents to have any relevant clauses in their tenancy agreements assessed. The Redress Schemes only relate to letting agents and any consideration of clauses within the agreements of landlords would need to be taken through Trading Standards. This decision does not constitute legal precedent but should you be offered such a clause we can offer support in addressing the issue with your landlord/agent.
Proposed Early Resolution
I have been assigned this complaint to try and resolve it at this early stage and reach a mutually agreeable solution.
My understanding is that the complaint relates to the level of service provided by agent, being that the complainant was charged half rent of £216.50 for July 2021, when they did not have access to the property.
Within telephone conversations with a different case assessor, it was explained to the agent that the amount paid by the complainant for July 2021 should be returned to them, unless the agent can provide evidence to show that the complainant did have access to the property during July 2021. Our system notes suggest that the agent agreed to this and the agent has not provided evidence to show that the tenant did have access to the property during this period.
Therefore, the agent should return the amount paid to the complainant.
I have considered the evidence fairly and impartially, I propose that the agent pays the complainant £216.50 in compensation, being the amount they paid in July 2021 when they did not have access to the property.
It would be in everyone’s best interests to consider this proposal. If this case continues to the next stage, a proposed decision is likely to reflect this recommendation.