In the wake of the recent criticism over Foxtons’ attempt to charge a landlord £616 to repair a light fitting and the threat of around one hundred landlords coming together to sue them for a reported £42 million, we thought it might be an idea to ask the question ‘What’s wrong with Letting Agents?’.
Let’s be honest, there are some very good letting agents. But let’s also be honest there are some simply awful letting agents whose activities border if not cross into criminal behaviour. In between these are a lot of letting agents who simply don’t seem to know which of the two camps they want to be in.
In fact it’s probably true to say that it seems the majority of letting agents fall into that middle ground, they’re not awful but they’re not very good either.
Before we say anything further let’s also be honest there are good landlords and there are bad landlords, just as there are good tenants and bad tenants. We’ll look at these two groups in future posts, but today we’ll just stick with letting agents.
Landlords and tenants consistently raise the same issues with us, asking us who they should turn to help them. Both feel that letting agents overcharge them and they get little in return. When problems arise landlords and tenants often tell us that their letting agent simply doesn’t want to know or will buck pass at every opportunity. Communication with the landlord and tenant is often very poor, and so on.
Let’s look at a couple of examples that are neither extreme nor uncommon. A tenant recently contacted us to ask if the following charges were fair or unusual. To let and manage the property the tenant’s landlord was being charged a set up fee of £150 plus VAT plus 10% of the gross rent. The landlord was told that for this the letting agent would complete the referencing, inventory, tenancy agreement and property inspections.
However, the tenant herself was also required to pay £75 for credit checking and another £75 if a guarantor is required (surprisingly one was required despite the tenant having a stable job as a nurse). In addition she had to pay a staggering £150 just to sign the tenancy agreement.
Between the landlord and the tenant the letting agent received £480 plus 10% of the gross rent of £525 per month. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that most of these charges have been banned in Scotland and will soon be banned in Wales.
As we said, this is by no means the worst example of excessive charging but it highlights a real problem. We believe that no tenancy gets off to a good start when both landlord and tenant feel they have been ripped off even before the tenant is handled the keys.
We were also recently contacted by a tenant who told us about this gem of communication they had received from a letting agent. The tenant was interested in a property they were marketing and rang the agent’s office for more information. All they got was a recorded message telling them that the office was open between 10am and 5pm. There was no facility to leave a voicemail and no-one answered the call despite it being 2pm when the tenant called.
The tenant was treated to a bounce back text message which is worth repeating in full:
Hi, sorry I can’t take your call right now. Please can I ask you about the area of the property you are interested in, how many people are looking to move in and what everyone does for a job?
Once I get this information I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.
Needless to say the tenant didn’t get back to the agent with any information and the landlord concerned lost the opportunity to let their property.
If you are either a landlord or tenant and you have examples of good or bad letting agents please email us at email@example.com with your story and we will publish the best of them on this News section. Don’t worry, we won’t publish any names but please include your name and telephone number in case we need to speak to you.
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