Estate agents trying to steamroll busy students?

by Readers Question

9:00 AM, 3rd December 2018
About 2 weeks ago

Estate agents trying to steamroll busy students?

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Estate agents trying to steamroll busy students?

My name’s Luke, I’m a student living in rented property in London and am currently experiencing significant problems with my LL, his estate agents AND his representatives.

On the 11th of August, me and my flatmates commenced our move into our new home, signed our contracts and moved in. The house was filthy, unprepared and had a multitude of problems. From an oven that has melted it’s plug and socket, old socks, leaves and dust under the beds, even poo stains in the toilet!

Whilst a nuisance it’s only a situation that required cleaning. I did this and emailed QP (LLs estate agents) to inform them off the problems, raise my concern with the state of the house, and state that the standard cleaning fee taking out of our deposit at the end of the year be waived, as why should we pay to clean when the property was not cleaned for us?

A few weeks pass and a sign appears outside our house “For Sale”, through an Estate Agent company. I, believing it to be for another house, think nothing of it and move on. The next day, 9pm, me and my partner are relaxing in bed, all my house mates have gone back home for a bit and the house is empty. I hear a set of keys to in the door, all of a sudden, 3 voices are heard walking into the house. I charge from my bed, expecting a break in, run downstairs and kick the door shut much to the complaint of whoever was behind it. After a stifled complaint, I open the door to reveal a man in a suit with two strangers. He informs me he’s with the estate agents and is here to do viewings.

I am obviously completely shocked, with no idea the house was for sale. Further information reveals that’s the fourth time he’s entered our property today. He very cheekily tries to complete the viewing, I tell him to leave, return his key to whoever he gave it to and I’ll deal with it in the morning.

Morning comes and I contact QP, who inform me that the estate agents are the landlords representatives in the selling of the “lease” of the house, including the contract of our tenancy. I am, quite fairly, enraged at the miscommunication and the idea that strangers are just being let into our house.

Eventually, I understand the situation and demand to be given 24 hours notice in future if they wish to continue viewings. As 2nd year Politics students, we are incredibly busy students. We all also work part time teaching English over Webcam in our rooms, meaning at times we cannot be disturbed. This begins a month of chaos.

Estate agent employees, would turn up daily without warning to carry out floorplans, and ‘attempt’ to take pictures. I refused the pictures, as I ‘believe’ is my right. It is we who have decorated the house and fully cleaned it. They now wish to come round and take pictures of our rooms now that we have filled them with our personal belongings, even though they have pictures from when we bought the tenancy agreement. The first time they turned up, I turned them away and rearranged for them to come the next day, which they did. They then try to come the day after this to do the floorplan again, I have to remind them they already did it yesterday.

They then tried to arrange a viewing for that week on the Wednesday. I got up early, tidied and cleaned the entire house for the viewing to be cancelled and us to not be informed. They then try to arrange one for another day, but don’t attempt to inform us till an hour before the 24hour mark, as no one picked up. They frantically peppered us with texts, calls and voicemails so we could confirm.

This continues as such for a while, I have countless more examples, but I think you may get the gist. The final straw came when they wanted to arrange a viewing and they rang each one of us, multiple times. One flatmate at a funeral, the other on a beach in Spain, and me and the other at work.

It seemed by this point they were taking advantage of us, I believed from the start that I had absolute no legal obligation for this to occur. So I started to fight back, I contacted our property managers at QP and informed them we will be hosting no more viewings. Citing our country with QP that states we are not liable for viewings until 2 months before the end of our tenancy and accusing them of infringing on our rights of “Quiet Enjoyment”.

Things go quiet for a few days until I’m contacted by our “new” property manager at QP, our case had been reassigned. This guy is adamant on being my friend and phoning me, despite my request that all forms of contact be in written form (for legal evidence). He explained that the contract with QP is not relevant to the Estate agents (LLs representatives) and the LL is allowed to have representatives view the property. I ask him if the strangers viewing the house are his representatives to which he replies “No”. He then makes veiled threats that the landlord ‘could’ attempt to find us in breach of contract. I find this unusual how the contract doesn’t affect the estate agent, but upon our involvement with them then the contract affects us. I ask him for time to discuss with my flatmates and come back to him.

In this time, I seek legal advice from a property lawyer who informs me that it is indeed a difficult situation but, ultimately, QP would have difficulties finding us in breach of contract as the estate agents have entered our property without our permission, and QP are infringing on our quiet enjoyment. I go back to the property manager and, believing his threats a bluff, I call him on it and say I wish him luck and if he wants to continue, to put everything in official documentation.

Things go quiet again until today, the property company have to schedule an emergency EPC? My knowledge of LL commitments are vague so I’m unsure to the legitimacy of this thought it does seem suspiciously timed. At the time of this EPC, the letting agent would like to come round to clear the air with us as well (enter suspicion).

The basic summary of this is that we are incredibly busy students and the letting agency are taking advantage of us with the viewings! We don’t have time to keep dealing with them, I’ve got mountains of work to do but they don’t seem to want to leave us alone and it’s driving me crazy! Is my argument valid, or am I fighting a losing battle?

Any help would be greatly appreciated! Anything to point me in the right direction and alleviate my stress!

Kind regards
Luke



Comments

Paul Shears

17:59 PM, 3rd December 2018
About A week ago

This is utterly outrageous! This is total arrogance by the agent and you need to continue to fight back. I suggest a visit to citizens advice for a start followed by seeking advice from the students union.
You have a right to undisturbed occupation and it seems to me that in view of the behaviour of the people involved, you should look into your rights to changing the locks. Additionally put a bolt on the doors!
Source from Ebay. These people are ruthless and arrogant. It seems unlikely to me that they are not in breach of contract themselves so research the details thoroughly. Were you issued with a copy of the governments "Right to rent" by the agents?

Binkie

20:07 PM, 3rd December 2018
About A week ago

I’m so sorry Luke, that really sounds like a nightmare for you and an extremely bad agent
and by extension landlord - I’d never employ an agent that treats people like this! Gives us good landlords a bad name. There are so many things to say here, but I’ll just make a few points. Entering your home without your consent is forced entry and you’d be within your right to report the agent for harassment. That’s a criminal offence and should be your best bet to mention that to put the agent in their place. The only time entry without permission is allowed is in (a true) emergency, such as a gas leak. Certainly not an emergency EPC - there is no such thing. Related to that, you should have been given an EPC at the start of your tenancy (I’m assuming you and your friends have a joint assured shorthold tenancy agreement for you shared house). The landlord/agent are obliged to give you an EPC, gas safety certificate and a copy of How to Rent booklet. The first two are particularly important and if they have not been given to you they are on very thin ground legally. They were also obliged to protect your deposit within 30 days and provide you with a certificate. Check whether all this has been done. From your description it also very much sounds you are not getting the quiet enjoyment that you are entitled to. I’d advise you to keep a detailed diary of what’s been happening and continue to insist on communication in writing. Viewings when landlord is selling with tenants in situ is always tricky, but normal practice would be for the agents/LL to be sensitive and courteous to their tenants - I’m sure if you were asked politely to start with and was proposed some sort of reasonable schedule, that you’d have come to an understanding. Clearly your agents like to resort to baseless intimidation. Get in touch with Citizens Advice Bureau, you can call or have a chat online if you don’t have any nearby. I’m sure you’ll also get more useful info on here. Good luck!

Paul Shears

21:04 PM, 3rd December 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Binkie at 03/12/2018 - 20:07
Very well said.

Martin Thomas

9:39 AM, 4th December 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Binkie at 03/12/2018 - 20:07
Hear! Hear! While we aren't a tenant forum, it is quite right and proper that the good landlords stand up for what is right and this catalogue of events is dreadful. I really hope the Citizens Advice Bureau can help you, particularly if as seems likely, the agents haven't got all your paperwork properly sorted.

Yvonne Francis

11:20 AM, 4th December 2018
About A week ago

I am sorry Luke you have had such a bad deal. It sounds as if your house is a HMO and although different Councils have different policies, if your house needs a license then a copy of your license should be displayed in the hall along with the name and address of the owner. This would also entitle you to having a Inventory and a lease as well as a host of other requirements too numerous to mention. There are severe penalties for Landlords if they fail to have a licence. It is very suspicious if they rented to you without an up to date EPC which under all lettings should be supplied before you sign up.

You have probably done this but the first thing I would do is look at my lease. You may have to let in an estate agent but you should have 24 hour warning in writing which if the agent is reasonable should be negotiable.

It may be worth a try to contact the Environmental health department of your Council who issue Licenses and ensure standards are maintained including the right to quiet enjoyment.

Simon M

11:51 AM, 4th December 2018
About A week ago

Agree this is appalling. If you didn't sign an inventory to describe the condition of the property at the start, you can use this to ensure the landlord can't win a claim against you for its condition when you leave - particularly if you report damage, faults etc by email now. I agree with Binkie's advice, in particular I would record everything in a diary, take photographs, and make sure you complain to the agents about breaches of the tenancy agreement. Make sure everything is by email and you keep copies. If the agents don't reply within 7 days, chase them again by email. Find a legal student willing to help you - cheap advice for the price of a few drinks.
Personally, if my son had told me this story, I'd ensure he'd collected the hard evidence to show breach of the tenancy agreement and failure to serve the documents listed by Binkie. I'd go to the agent's office when other customers are present and politely but firmly make my case. If they won't listen or change you may have to find somewhere else, but I know that's hassle too.

Luke P

13:09 PM, 4th December 2018
About A week ago

I'll keep it brief, Luke. All of your housemates need to make it clear that you do not give your permission for anyone to enter at any time. Change the locks. As students, I assume you're on a yearly (certainly longer than six month) tenancy, in which case a S.21 Notice would be useless before you're ready to leave at the end of your tenancy. Any attempt to use S.8 for breach of tenancy for changing locks or refusing access will be thrown out of Court once you present the above to a Judge.
Separately, there should be no 'standard' cleaning fee taken from a deposit, especially as they do not know the condition in which it will be left.

ahloughlin@gmail.com

13:47 PM, 4th December 2018
About A week ago

The EPC status can be freely checked on the register.

Seething Landlord

14:51 PM, 4th December 2018
About A week ago

What a disgusting state of affairs, this sort of behaviour tarnishes the reputation of the whole private rental sector and needs to be stamped out. As others have said, get some proper advice and nail them before they cause any more problems or distress.

Darlington Landlord

18:06 PM, 4th December 2018
About A week ago

Hi Luke
I find the melted oven plug and socket very concerning, this sounds unsafe. Did it get fixed? if not you should point it out in a complaint to your councils environmental heath department. Any request to access the property should be in writing with at least 24hrs notice and you have the right to refuse this access and arange a more convenient time. As others have said if you were not given a copy of the current EPC, gascheck certificate (if there is gas in the property) and a copy of the curent how to rent booklet before signing the tenancy then the landlord and agent cannot issue a section 21 notice to leave at all. If you paid a deposit and this was not protected (you should have been given a certificate as proof) you could legally claim against the landlord and could use that to get them to back off.
It sounds like you have a very unprofessional agent and landlord of the type who are damaging the reputation of good landlords everywhere.
I hope you get some peace and quiet and can let us know how things went

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