Letting agents – time for a crackdown

 

I was interested to read that Citizens Advice has launched a campaign to get letting agents regulated. It says ‘private tenants are being badly let down by a system that allows letting agents to operate completely unchecked, routinely ripping off tenants by imposing unjustified and excessive charges and providing a poor or non-existent service.’

More on that in a moment. It struck me that as well as tenants feeling ripped off, I reckon there are lots of homeowners who feel the same way about letting agents. It really does seem to be a crapshoot as to whether you get a decent agency or not. And as with most businesses, even the good companies can have one or two dud staff. Friends of mine rented their house while they went abroad for two years. They are pretty flexible people and asked for non-smokers, no pets and that the study be kept as a study and not turned into a fourth bedroom. The house was let furnished. Just a few months into the let, they received a bill from their letting agent for a double bed. It turns out that this was sent by mistake as the agent had bought it to..you’ve guessed it… turn the study into a fourth bedroom. On a trip home they took the chance to make a pre-arranged visit to their house only to find it smelt of smoke and there was a large parrot in a cage along with evidence that it was not always kept in the cage.

OK so none of this was the end of the world. But why should letting agents be allowed to do what they want? They certainly took my friends’ calls much faster when the let was first being arranged than they ever did once it was set up.

But back to tenants. Citizens Advice is calling on the government to extend recently-announced plans to regulate letting agents, saying these must include a ban on the additional charges tenants often have to pay letting agents on top of their rent, usually for carrying out tasks that are no more than the routine business of letting and managing a property.

The Let Down campaign, is based on evidence from Citizens Advice Bureaux advising on around 6,000 problems with letting agents a year, an online survey completed by 1,300 tenants who visited the Citizens Advice website between August and November 2008 and a survey of 424 letting agents’ terms and conditions. This found that 94% of the letting agents imposed up to seven additional charges on tenants, not counting the tenancy deposit and rent in advance. In some cases these added up to well over £600. Charges included a non-returnable holding deposit, a deposit administration charge, a reference check charge, an administration fee, a check-in inventory charge, a check-out inventory charge and a tenancy renewal fee. The other big money-spinner for letting agents is the tenant credit check. CA reports some tenants being charged £250 every six months for this, which is outrageous. The report also uncovers considerable scope for double charging by agents, with tenants and landlords both being charged for the same service.

As with the experience of my friends, most tenants said the agent was very helpful initially but this changed completely once they had been signed up to the tenancy. One of the biggest problems was getting repairs dealt with. Many tenants reported difficulties getting through to the agent and said when they finally did, they were met with an unprofessional and uncooperative response. The way some agents handled money also led to tenants being left significantly out of pocket, and in some cases the agent simply disappeared.

Call me naive but I was slightly surprised to learn that anyone can set themselves up as a letting agent without any need for professional expertise or experience, any rules or controls over how they hold and manage the steady stream of money they handle between tenants and landlords, or any redress scheme for when things go wrong. Not good enough.

Have your say…. are you a letting agent with a response? Are you a tenant or landlord with good or bad experiences of letting agents or tips on how to choose one (if you have no choice but to use one)? Leave your comments below….

Share It

 del.icio.us   Digg   Facebook   Google 
 Live Spaces   MySpace   Newsvine   Reddit 
 StumbleUpon   Technorati   Twitter   Yahoo! My Web 
About these ads

11 thoughts on “Letting agents – time for a crackdown

  1. Sandwell Metro Council now use an "arm\’s length" charity to do their dirty work. Absolutely no improvement, simply a means of blaming each other for any form of foul play. Basicly duplicating the entire system is obviously costing twice as much, at our (tenants) expence. It also takes twice as long for any response. They are gutting the heat/light & water from all the accommodation, fitting all new doors, & double glazing, all new kitchens/bathrooms (identical to that which they are removing), trashing all rooms in the flat for several months, with the tenants in situ. They have absolutely no respect for the elderly or infirm, & possibly hope that the noise & general inconvenience will kill as many of us "burdens" as possible. Many of the elderly/infirm would commit harri-karri if it were possible.

  2. Ensure a well-spelt out agreement with specific clauses for possible eventualities.Breach of agrmnt is always punishable.Do not hesitate in making detailed agrmnt.Time&energy spent is worth the help it wud provide in a dispute.You may even be awarded cost of litigation apart from redressal of ur complaint.I am an estate agent since 1974.sultahir@hotmail.com

  3. Ensure a well-spelt out agreement with specific clauses for possible eventualities.Breach of agrmnt is always punishable.Do not hesitate in making detailed agrmnt.Time&energy spent is worth the help it wud provide in a dispute.You may even be awarded cost of litigation apart from redressal of ur complaint.I am an estate agent since 1974.sultahir@hotmail.com

  4. Only the same as most housing ass, & councils do the same they all over charge fees = add on,s and yet most of use dont get eney think done for the cost ?

  5. Speaking as a landlord, I can confirm that no only tenants have bad experiences with Lettings Agencies, so do we. I have just spent the past month dealing with two unprofessional, disrespectful lowlifes that consider themselves to be Lettings Agents – Phil Eldret and Phil Dockerill who both currently work at Time2Move in London. They have little respect or concern for their clients, they did not respond to my requests, I had to fight to get paperwork from them, I was given the run around for 3 weeks. Next time I\’ll do it myself.

  6. Can it please be noted that the Phil Dockerill noted in this thread is not the Phil Dockerill who lives in Herts and is connected with "Impact Interventions Ltd" and "debt Dr" and who has never been associated with letting or letting agencies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s