Is my letting agent treating me fairly?

by Readers Question

10:09 AM, 25th February 2013
About 6 years ago

Is my letting agent treating me fairly?

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Is my letting agent treating me fairly?

Is my letting agent treating me fairlyMy partner and I have been renting a flat through a letting agents for the last 2 years. They charge us £150 to renew to lease every 6 months, the latest contract was signed in November 2012 for a further 6 months.

Shortly after we signed the new contract we were offered a larger and cheaper place with the local housing association which we have now moved into.

What I want to know is, as we are still paying the £400 a month rent until the end of the tenancy or until a new tenant takes on the existing lease, can they actually charge us the £295 finders fee that they are saying we are liable for?

There was nothing in the tenancy agreement and they’re not losing out on rent because we are stuck paying both rents until May if they don’t find anyone to move in sooner.

I also want to know whether we have any legal grounds to contest it as they did not repair or supply a broken fridge when the fridge that was there broke down, which meant we had to go out and fork out £500 for a fridge of our own. They also never came out to repair the leak in the bay window roof which ruined a lot of our possessions when we came home to find it was raining in the flat, there was also a lot of black mould Adonis the walls which effected my asthma, we used mould killer on it and reported it numerous times and nothing was ever done.

Any advise you have would be great

Thanks

Gillian



Comments

Mark Alexander

10:11 AM, 25th February 2013
About 6 years ago

Hi Gill

It seems to me as though you are contracted to pay rent until May, have I got that right?

What is the £295 for?

Regards

Mark

10:13 AM, 25th February 2013
About 6 years ago

Yes we signed the new contract until May and we are still paying the £400 rent on it even though we have moved out, as well as the rent on the new place, however they are saying that even though we are still paying the rent, if they find a new tenant to take over the place before our contract runs out in May they will charge us a finders fee of £295. We\'ve checked through the tenancy agreements we\'ve had from them every time we renewed the lease and there\'s nothing in there that mentions this fee. RegardsGillian

Mark Alexander

10:16 AM, 25th February 2013
About 6 years ago

Hi Gill

Just suppose they find a new tenants today and charge you £295. Wouldn't that be a good deal for you? They can't have it both ways, i.e. charge both you and the new tenant rent at the same time. In order to let the property to a new tenant they would have to have you surrender your rights of possession. Sounds to me like they are trying to do you a favour to help you save money and get out of the contract. Am I missing something here?

Mark Crampton Smith

16:20 PM, 25th February 2013
About 6 years ago

As an agency, we do not charge on this basis; our thinking here is based on simple principles of good business; we must look after the best interests of our client, and we would want you, for whom we have a duty of care, to leave feeling good about us as an agency (you might even write a positive Google or all agents review) and tell ever-one you know how helpful we are. We would, having put the tenants request for early release to our client, and secured agreement, ask you to pay the rent until the day the new tenants move in, but no "finder’s fee". There is some discussion in the industry at the moment about fees and transparency……. You might ask the agent where the finder’s fee is documented in the literature you received on or before signing the agreement. If they cannot produce anything, you could pay it in order to get the property let quickly, and then send a letter before action to recover it, and go to small claims if you have no luck. I do believe that reviews will be increasingly important in this industry.

Mark Alexander

16:30 PM, 25th February 2013
About 6 years ago

@mark - interesting comment, who would pay your re-letting fees then?

In the event of a tenant wanting to terminate early I can't see that it would be fair to charge the landlord for re-letting. Perhaps you re-let the property for no fees at all and just make your money from referencing and set up fees charged to the incoming tenants as most letting agents in England and Wales do? If that's the case then good on you, you deserve to get more business and good reviews 🙂

16:34 PM, 25th February 2013
About 6 years ago

The £400 a month rent we don't mind paying until they find a new tenant, we can understand that as we signed another 6 month lease, it's the fact that they said that once they do find a new tenant they would charge us the £295 finders fee on top of any rent up to the date the new tenant moves in. Like I say the rent we don't mind because we accept that we are responsible until they do find someone, it's just this so called 'finders fee' that is not mentioned anywhere in any of our paperwork that has angered us.

Mark Crampton Smith

16:47 PM, 25th February 2013
About 6 years ago

@mark alexander - yes you have it....... only incoming tenants pay referencing and set up costs (which include inventory up-date and accompanied check-in) Our thinking is that there is no extra work for us....... we are going to have to terminate a tenancy and start another one at some point…….and as long as our client continues to receive rent (in the case of an early leaver there is no void at all) then it would be morally questionable to charge for what amounts to an unforeseen change in circumstances.

Mark Alexander

16:58 PM, 25th February 2013
About 6 years ago

Hi Gillian

Let's look at this another way.

Just suppose you were the landlord and you had paid your letting agent to re-let the property in November. The agent calls a few months later and says the tenant wants to move out.

Landlords first response is "no problem, it's up to them, they've contracted to pay my rent until May so why should it bother me whether they live there so long as the tenant pays what they are contracted to pay me?"

Letting Agent says "well do you want me to look for a new tenant now?"

Landlord replies, "I'm not bothered so long as I get my rent"

Letting Agent thinks, "mmm, if I do nothing landlord is happy until May tenant isn't
happy. I know what I'll do, I'll find a new tenant, charge the outgoing tenant my £295 finders fee, outgoing tenant will get out of the deal quicker and they will think I'm great, landlord will also think I'm great as the property will be lived in and will not pose such a big insurance risk".

You could push this Gillian but it sounds to me like the Letting Agent is trying to do you a favour.

HOWEVER, let's look at this another way. You say nothing was done about the problems you reported. Could these have affected your health? If so, maybe you should make a complaint to your local Environmental Health Officer. If he agrees with you and condemns the property to be unfit for human habitation you may get away with paying nothing further. However, the risk is that the EHO might not agree with you and you will have alienated both the landlord and the letting agent who will not want to do you any more favours. You may need a reference in the future and paying £295 now seems a lot better than paying £400 a month up until May if you ask me.

Only you know how bad the problems really were though Gillian so only you can make the decision on which way to go with this.

I hope that helps.

Mark Alexander

17:05 PM, 25th February 2013
About 6 years ago

@ mark - Modern thinking and I like it. However, I do sympathise with letting agents operating the more traditional model, as per my response to Gillian above. Those letting agents have had their T&C's and business model established for years and whilst you and I see the need for these need to be updated for them to remain competitive, many are yet to make that leap.

Antony Richards

17:26 PM, 25th February 2013
About 6 years ago

First £150 per renewal is a rip-off. This is one of the reasons that Shelter et al are trying to do away with agency fees. It is power to their elbow and causes me concern as an agent who belives his fees to be reasonable (not all here would agree).Since we do not do renewals, the only time this happens with us is if a tenant wishes to vacate within the first 6 months. At this point common law kicks in. The tenant is liable for the rent until such time as the property is re-let. However the landlord has a duty to mitigate the loss by trying to find new tenants. As agents we would have to charge a share to the landlord but in this case we would advise the tenants that they should pay the landlord\'s costs - equivalent to one week\'s rent. If it was not re-let until after the end of the fixed term, the tenants would not be charged. So in this case, I believe the agents are on the make. Technically they are correct because you are in a fixed term. However if was me and you had been there two years I would, on the face of it, not insist on the fee.Corporate agent by any chance??Take the fridge with you, its yours

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