Failed by the letting agent

by Readers Question

3 years ago

Failed by the letting agent

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Failed by the letting agent

New to the forum so please bear with me….we have a property managed by a letting agent. The tenant breached contract by having cats. The agent was aware of this as we have some written evidence from them that demonstrates that they were aware. However, now the tenant has left (having given notice) and we have had to go through TDS mediation to right the wrongs of the flea infestation that the cats caused (plus other cat related issues). It transpires that the agent has NOT informed the tenant that they were in breach, when in fact the agent was aware all along. This is now going to adjudication but we have been left high and dry by the agent. Failed by the letting agent

I have written to the agent requesting ALL correspondence between them and the tenant and have so far received nothing. This is a well known high street agent, not a tin pot set up (although I’m starting to think that they actually are).

Does anyone have any similar experiences and /or advice, please?

Thank you.

Graham

Comments

Mark Alexander

3 years ago

Hi Graham

YOU as landlord are accountable for the negligence of your appointed agent.

HOWEVER, they are responsible to you are you are quite within your rights to sue them for compensation for your losses and damages caused by their negligence.

One upside of dealing with a National chain (there are very few in my experience) is that they don't want bad press as it is akin to hanging out their dirty laundry in public.

I suggest you have an initial chat with Mark Smith (Barrister-at-Law) to understand what can be done - see >>> http://www.property118.com/member/?id=1945

I wouldn't spend money on legal fees to fight the TDS issue, that's a job for your agents and the reason you've been paying them. However, I would speculate on a harsh letter from a barrister to the agent if I were you.
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Hi Graham,

The agent should have notified you when they became aware of the existence of the cats, and should have made the tenant aware that they were in breach of the terms of their agreement. So their service has fallen below the standard you could reasonably expect.

To be fair though, that's probably as much as they could have done.

I'm an agent myself and when this happens landlords sometimes demand that we "do something about it". To be frank there's naff all we can do. We can't shoot the cat. The tenant may have breached the terms of the tenancy but we can't fine him or take any sanctions against him, other than the ultimate one of ending the tenancy at the earliest legitimate opportunity.

You should claim damages caused by the cat from the deposit. It was a breach of tenancy whether the agent specifically pointed this out to the tenant or not, and so long as you've got firm evidence of damage that the cat(s) caused along with receipts to remedy those damages a TDS claim should succeed.

You could also find out the name of a manager at the agency and escalate your claim to him / her, suggesting a goodwill refund of some of their fees might be appropriate.

PS Mark A - you do seem to have become much more radical in your opinions. Do you really believe that employing a barrister to write a letter and ultimately pursuing a negligence claim through the courts is a better way forward?

Eviction Group

3 years ago

Hi Steve and others,
It may seem a sledgehammer and nut situation but as an agent you will no doubt be aware that many Landlords put their faith totally in the agent and do feel very aggrieved when this faith is misplaced.
Marks opinion is at one end of the spectrum yours at the other, however, there is more than one way of skinning a cat !!!!!!

Eviction group,

Fair point, and when people pay an agent they have every right to expect the agent to do the job professionally and diligently.

However, sometimes landlords (and indeed tenants) do have unrealistic expectations of what an agent can actually do in practice.

us agents can't make unauthorised pets disappear, nor can we prevent the tenant from using powder instead of liquid detergent in his washing machine or stop him putting the kitchen light on after 11 pm to avoid disturbing the old lady who sleeps in a downstairs bedroom next door (all serious requests from landlords).

Graham has a legitimate complaint. His agent hasn't done everything he should have done and Graham is understandably annoyed. But when offering him advice let's keep a bit of perspective about things.

Seeking redress through the courts really should be a last resort, not a starting point (I've actually had a judge use that phrase when throwing out a case brought against my own agency).

Eviction Group

3 years ago

Agreed, the Judge got it right there. IMO start at the bottom and escalate your response depending on the action or inaction of the other party. If you start at the top and de-escalate you run the risk of this being taken a lack of will to follow through or faith in your own case.

Mark Alexander

3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Steve From Leicester" at "27/10/2014 - 14:04":

Hi Steve

Yes I do believe that a barristers can help in situations like this, especially as the letting agent seems to have tried to wash his hands of his responsibility to deal with the TDS adjudication.

It's all very well telling Graham to claim against the tenants deposit but surely that's the agents job so why has this been left to Graham? I suspect the answer will be that they have screwed up somewhere along the line, either in terms of deposit protection legislation or producing a crap inventory on check in/out.

Fair enough, if the agent deals with the TDS adjudication and wins on behalf of his client then he's done a good job. However, if he refuses to deal with the matter professionally and tries to absolve himself of all responsibility to his client to represent him at adjudication, or indeed to accept responsibility for damages if the adjudication hearing is lost, then he deserves to have the book thrown at him. Why is that extreme?
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Mark,

First of all I confess that I'm now playing Devil's advocate to some extent, but its a fair observation that your suggestion Graham comes out with all guns blazing without knowing the full facts of the matter is open to debate..

Did Graham pay for an inventory and checkout as part of his service? If not, then its perfectly reasonable for the agent to leave Graham to argue it out with TDS. I bundle them in with my fees, but competitors often undercut me by offering them as an "optional extra" and some landlords can't see anything beyond the lower price.

In your final comment you seem to think the agent should underwrite the cost of the damage if the TDS find in favour of the tenant. The agent would have to have been seriously negligent to justify charging him for damage caused by a tenant (or the tenants cat).

Based on what Graham has told us the agent could have communicated better and for that reason the agent is at fault. However, its hard to see how he could reasonably be held responsible for damage caused by cats that he didn't introduce, didn't consent to, and in practice could have done little to prevent.

Mark Alexander

3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Steve From Leicester" at "27/10/2014 - 16:34":

Hi Steve

As you've probably gathered, I'm a sucker for responding to the taunt of a devils advocate.

I'm pleased that you include inventories as part and parcel of your full management service. Maybe I am quite extreme in my views but I think that if an agents doesn't consider inventories to be part and parcel of a full management service they should also come under scrutiny by advertising standards, or whatever they're called these days.

To my mind, failing to deal with deposit protection issues and check in/out inventories is tantamount to negligence, unless of course a landlord has given written instructions or otherwise signed a clear, fair and not misleading Terms of Business agreement stating that these are "extras".

If dealing with deposit protection issues and inventories isn't part of a full management service then surely the question must be "what is full management?"
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