Can anything be done if Agent has given wrong advice for the past 3 years?

Can anything be done if Agent has given wrong advice for the past 3 years?

by Readers Question

Guest Author

9:52 AM, 6th November 2023, About 8 months ago 11

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Hi all, I need some help here and any advice will be much appreciated! My agent has given me the wrong advice in the past 3 years+ that it’s against the law to charge a tenant rent arrears fees (Whereas the Government’s How to Rent Booklet clearly stated rent arrears can be charged with 3% fees).

As such, the tenant has paid late monthly for the past 3 years without any consequences and eventually the tenant has stopped paying with rent arrears total over 3,000 now. I’ve no choice but to serve Section 21.

When I asked the Agent why they did not act according to the Law, I was told that it’s not their practice. Basically, the Agent denied everything and told me if I’m not happy with their service I can leave the agent.

Somehow don’t think my Agent has acted the right way here? As if they’ve charged tenant rent arrears fees in the first place then it could have prevented my tenant from late paying and now they have stopped paying rent.

Anyone with experience or legal professionals can you advise here? It will be much appreciated.

Thanks,
Kin


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Comments

Easy rider

10:07 AM, 6th November 2023, About 8 months ago

You can charge up to 3% above Bank of England Base Rate but only IF your AST says so. That means you could charge 8.25%.

If rent of £1,000 is paid one month late, you could charge of £6.87.

DPT

10:42 AM, 6th November 2023, About 8 months ago

That's not a fee, it's compensation for lost interest and it will amount to peanuts and probably not worth the hassle. Your agent is right about not charging fees.

chris

11:11 AM, 6th November 2023, About 8 months ago

Sorry but you should be serving a section 8 notice using sec21 like confetti is why the people like shelter what them band and hides the real problem with rent arrears

Tessa Shepperson

11:20 AM, 6th November 2023, About 8 months ago

The Tenant Fees legislation in 2019 limited the fees that landlords and agents could charge to tenants.

As Easy Rider correctly states, you now cannot charge more than 3% above bank base rate on unpaid rent (other types of penalty are now illegal). This can be charged on unpaid rent if it is unpaid for a period of 14 days or more. If the rent is unpaid for 14 days, then the interest is chargeable from the day the rent fell due until payment.

However, this has to be in your tenancy agreement, so if the agents did not include it, it cannot be charged.

In the past, the interest rate was so low that there was little point in collecting it. The interest rate has now risen, and so the interest chargeable is no longer negligible, particularly for high arrears.

I think your agents should have included this in the tenancy agreement (you might want to just check to make sure it is actually missing) even when interest rates were low, and it is arguably negligent of them not to have done so.

You may have a claim against your agents for the lost interest. However, they may be able to defend on the basis that the chances of you actually being paid the interest is remote, as if the tenants cannot afford the rent, they would not be able to pay any interest either. There is also the point that the cost of collection could exceed the interest money gained (if any).

I think it is also questionable to blame your tenants failure to pay rent on the fact that they were not charged interest on arrears. It's more likely to be because they are in financial difficulties.

The most important thing with rent arrears is to action it immediately the tenant stops paying. There are a number of steps you can take to help tenants. I have a guide for this on my Landlord Law site which you can read about here: https://landlordlaw.co.uk/the-landlord-law-rent-arrears-action-plan/

Freda Blogs

12:44 PM, 6th November 2023, About 8 months ago

“ As if they’ve charged tenant rent arrears fees in the first place then it could have prevented my tenant from late paying and now they have stopped paying rent”

The interest issue has been addressed by others, and I won’t add anything more. However I think to suggest that the lack of interest on rent arrears could be responsible for the current lack of rent payment is clutching at straws and that specific cause and effect cannot be proven. The bigger picture is to address the arrears and seeking payment/ getting possession as necessary - and that may be easier with your agent’s cooperation rather than getting in conflict with them.

Kizzie

14:29 PM, 6th November 2023, About 8 months ago

I’d be wondering why the Agent had not pursued the tenant when they stopped paying. Is OP saying the tenant realised the agent not competent by not adding on late interest payment and took advantage and stopped payment altogether. Sounds like agent negligence and OP should read contract OP has with agent and the contract between agent and tenant

16:18 PM, 6th November 2023, About 8 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Easy rider at 06/11/2023 - 10:07
Thanks Easy rider for your reply and advice.
Yes it's stated in the AST.

16:20 PM, 6th November 2023, About 8 months ago

Hi all, thanks for all your advice and is really helpful. Seems like best thing now is to work with Agent to resolve the issue first i.e to resolve tenant matter regardless of Agent's negligence here in the meantime. Thanks once again and will keep you updated if any changes.

10:56 AM, 7th November 2023, About 8 months ago

Hi all, one more question that since tenant is not responding to Agent at all even though with Section 21 served. Since the Agent has send tenant email with me copied in, therefore wondering shall I contact tenant directly here? Any advice will be much appreciated.

Regards,
Kin

White Collar

10:56 AM, 7th November 2023, About 8 months ago

If the advice you have been given is negligent then you may bring a claim for professional negligence or at the very least a claim for breach of contract in that the services provided have not been provided with reasonable care and skill.

Any claim would be for the loss that you have suffered as a result of the negligence and/or breach of contract. It is not clear cut in your scenario whether you have suffered any loss. It is not as simple as saying if the agent did this, the tenant would not be in arrears.

Tessa also gives good advice.

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