How do I get away from my awful letting agents?

by Readers Question

10:57 AM, 10th December 2019
About 2 months ago

How do I get away from my awful letting agents?

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How do I get away from my awful letting agents?

I’ve been using a letting agent on a fully managed service for over 2 years now. They’ve never been great – considering the service is fully managed I end up doing an awful lot of stuff myself, having to remind them of certificate renewals, dealing with leaks, chasing them to do their inspections etc. Recently my tenants had to vacate and the agency asked if I would like them to advertise the property again – normally I would have taken this as an opportunity to cut off ties with them, but I was going through the height of a very messy divorce and it seemed too much to find my own tenants and go through all the processes that I had never done myself.

Now the problem is that although my agents have found new tenants and they moved in. I chased them multiple times for an updated contract between the agent and myself as they had mentioned in an email that there were updated t’s&c’s. I never received this contract, and they have taken £1428 out of my first rent payment as a letting fee (plus the monthly management fee of £163). My issue is that at no point had they informed me there would be a letting fee. I had no idea I would be paying out that much and had I have known I definitely would have taken back managing the property myself!

Now I don’t know how to get out of this situation – I resent having to pay them so much money when the service they are providing is so poor and they haven’t been transparent with their fees at all. The tenants are already in the house and I would feel awful if they had to leave because of a dispute between myself and agent, I already charge quite low rent considering the property and location because I’m not really into making a huge profit – I just need the mortgage payments to be covered and any miscellaneous things that may need fixing etc.

What I really want to do is let the tenants stay, but get rid of the agency (if the tenants want to stay that is) – I do of course appreciate they have put in a lot of work with finding my tenants and doing all the checks etc. I feel as though the letting fee covers all of that, but imagine I should offer them more money by way of saying “thanks but see ya”. The fact that I don’t even have a contract with them at all means I have no idea on any t’s & c’s with regards to getting rid of them, but also means I have never agreed to any of their t’s & c’s which could work in my favour?

Short of paying a solicitor for advice I’m hoping that these forums will be able to provide some help with wording on my email to them etc.

Many thanks in advance.

Dru



Comments

Neil Patterson

11:06 AM, 10th December 2019
About 2 months ago

The TPO state:

The agent must provide written Terms of Business that confirm the services agreed with the landlord and clearly state and explain all fees and charges. Termination terms and the landlord's cancellation rights must also be included.

TPO complaints page >> https://www.tpos.co.uk/consumers/how-to-make-a-complaint

The agents may belong to a different redress scheme so you will need to find out if you want to make a complaint.

Making a complaint to the Agent
The Ombudsman must allow the Agent the opportunity to resolve the complaint themselves. It is only fair and reasonable to allow them to do so.

Tell the Agent why you are unhappy, setting out the act or omission you believe has occurred.
Let the Agent know what you would like them to do to resolve your complaint.
Follow up any conversations in writing, making a note of the date and time and who you spoke to. Keep copies of all correspondence with the Agent.

Tessa Shepperson

11:03 AM, 11th December 2019
About 2 months ago

If your agents have updated their terms and conditions without your agreement, the amendments cannot apply to you. A party to a contract cannot unilaterally amend the contract without the consent of the other party.

Take a look at your original management contract with the agents. If the agents have failed to do things which are set out in that contract, you may (depending on the severity of the non-compliance) have the right to cancel it for breach of contract.

For example if they have contracted to do a certain number of inspections but have not done any leaving you to do them yourself.

Note that we have guidance for landlords in this situation here: https://landlordlaw.co.uk/openaccess_trails/dealing-with-problem-letting-agents-a-guide-for-landlords/

Denise Riddy

7:57 AM, 12th December 2019
About 2 months ago

Doing your own advertising, letting, refence checks, etc, really isn't that difficult, all these services are available on OpenRent for a fraction of the price of an estate agent and you can chose which services you want. I've rented a property for 19 years, few times I used estate agents it was disastrous and hugely expensive. With OpenRent I usually find tenants within days and have all the paperwork done within a week. You can buy up to date written contracts and inventory packages on line for as little as £15.
Good luck!

David Lawrenson

12:07 PM, 12th December 2019
About 2 months ago

Some good advice there.

As Tessa says, you need to get out the original contract and check that and then take issue with the agent initially if they have failed in the service they promised to provide to you.

Also, if you are doing much of the work yourself, in the longer term you should indeed look to using an online letting agent and doing much of the work yourself. But you do have to know what you are doing - the days of the amateur "have a go landlord" are in the past. That said, it is possible to learn and understand the rules you need to comply with.

The eighth and latest edition of my "Successful Property Letting - How to Make Money in Buy to Let" book covers all you need to know. New Jan 2020 edition available to buy now.

Good luck.

Final thought - many old letting agent contracts, if not sufficiently clear did fall foul of Unfair Contract Terms rules.
See here: https://www.lettingfocus.com/blogs/category/foxtons-case/
David Lawrenson
http://www.LettingFocus.com
Unbiased, independent buy to let advice for landlords

Dru Patel

12:32 PM, 13th December 2019
About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Neil Patterson at 10/12/2019 - 11:06
Update - I sent a very polite but to-the-point email about how unhappy I have been with the service in the last few years and that this feels like the last straw. I said I am no longer comfortable with using them to manage my property. They've replied instantly saying they will refund my letting fee, I shouldn't have been charged it in the first place as I'm on a fully managed service etc.

Completely ignored the part where I said I don't want to use them anymore, and not to mention that had I have just taken this quietly (as I was tempted to in order to minimise extra stuff on my plate right now) they would have happily kept my £1400.

Even now, I had sent them photos two weeks ago of damage left by the old tenants and chased twice on what to do about it with no response.

I know that it may seem like a win that I've been refunded, but I didn't ask for that. What I really want is to just pay them a finders fee and be rid of them. Every interaction is excruciating - it feels like I'm paying £160 a month to be more stressed than if I just had direct communication with the tenants!

Christine Higgs

20:11 PM, 14th December 2019
About 2 months ago

Simply write a letter/email to your letting agent giving notice that you wish to end their fully managed services, and move to a tenant find service only. My agent requires 3 months notice, so check with your agent on theirs. This change does not affect your tenant, because the tenancy agreement created by your agent will actually be between you and the tenants. The arrangement between you and your agency usually have no bearing on the tenant. If you decided to change agent, the tenant simply moves with you. You will need to get the deposit moved into your name though (which is a straight forward phone call to the deposit organisation).


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