Problem Letting Agent

by Readers Question

10:44 AM, 11th September 2012
About 8 years ago

Problem Letting Agent

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Problem Letting Agent

Problem Letting AgentsLinda has written in to share her problem letting agent story and to ask the Property118 community for their opinions, guidance and advice. The remaining content of this post is Linda’s:-

“I purchased properties about four years ago as a cushion for retirement.   It has proved a disasterous undertaking and now that retirment is upon me I have used almost all my savings to redecorate flats left in a disgusting state by tenants.  

It took over 8 months to evict the tenant in Dover who caused considerable damage.  The legal fees were heavy as the tenant appealed everything including the bailiff.  I have recently twice in succession had very bad experiences with two properties.   The Estate Agent in London had clearly not vetted the tenants or managed the property which was handed back to me in a deplorable state.   They claimed that they were required to hand properties back in a tenantable state and not in the same condition as given to them.   Since they made the judgement about what was tenantable, they agreed only to provide a topcoat of paint for the flat.   Weeks of communication achieved nothing and I either took legal action or used the money to redecorate the flat.   I decided on the latter and I am now waiting on a suitable tenant.

My current concern is  a property in Dover which is being handled by a local Estate Agent.  I gave clear instructions for no DSS tenants and no pets.  There were some teething issues, but then the tenants seemed to settle.  Ten months into the tenancy, I was requested to pay for reputtying of a window in the loft which I knew had been in good condition as all the windows had been fixed and repainted.   Sbortly after there was a request for replacement of underflooring in the bathroom as the carpet had become saturated and this had seeped through and rotted the underflooring.  I couldn’t understand how this could happen in such a short space of time.  With both these requests, I questioned “normal wear and tear”.  In the various exchanges of e-mails, I became aware to my horror that a family with 7 children had been placed in my 4 bedroom house and this had never been disclosed to me.  As the house had been redecorated and recarpeted, I would never have agreed to this letting.   The inspection that I requested showed that the house was dirty, smelly and the carpets were grubby.   The Letting agents agreed to 3 monthly inspections.  As various warning bells were going off, I asked whether the family were on benefits and received no response to my question.

I suspect that the letting agent, knowing that I am not local, had ignored my instruction for no DSS and had placed a large family on Housing Benefits in the property and is claiming a substantial rental for 7 children in a five bedroom house (they incl the basement).   In the interim I am being pressured to pay for the excess wear and tear.

I have contact Dover Reveneues, but am not hopeful that they will provide information because of data protection even though I am asking about council tax and housing benefits being paid against my property.

Are letting agents able to negotiate directly with Housing Benefit to accommodate claimants without permission and contrary to the instructions of the landlord?  Is it fraudulent for the Letting Agent to do this?   The Letting agent is registered with the Property Ombudsman and from what I read, they seem very protective of Agents.   What can be done about the situation as I am sure that this cannot be an isolated incident?

Any advice/help that you can give will be greatly appreciated.

Thanking you.

Linda “


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Comments

Mary Latham

13:24 PM, 12th September 2012
About 8 years ago

To get the information that you need from the Housing benefit dapartment quote

Section 35
of the Data Protection Act specifically states that all the restrictions and
requirements imposed by the Act restricting disclosure of personal data do not
apply when the disclosure is for the purposes of legal proceedings
(including prospective legal proceedings).

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/29/section/35
When you have the information send it to the Ombudsman along with any written instructions that you gave to the Letting Agent about not wanting people on benefits and copies of your emails about inspections and the number of occupants.
I am really sorry that this has been your first experience of letting property, especially since you paid a Letting Agent to do the job for you and had the right to expect them to do as you requested. I hope that this has not put you off but you do need to find an good Letting Agent and I hope that someone who knows the area will post to help you with that.
I know its being wise after the event but in my experience a rented property should never have carpets in "wet" areas like bathrooms and kitchens, it may be fine for an owner occupier but tenants often treat a rented property as the owner would and we need to take precautions to ensure that if their housekeeping is not good they will not cause the sort of damage that you have suffered. Good quality vinyl, that has been sealed around the edges with silicone, usually prevents water damage.
I use basic cord carpet in my rented properties, it may not look as smart as an expensive carpet but it does look nice and takes a lot of wear, if it is badly damaged it does not cost much to replace it. I have seen three adults do a lot of damage to floor coverings but 7 children would no doubt be much worse if the parents do not control them and clean up after them.
I hope that you find good tenants next time because I can count on one hand the number of really bad tenants I have had over 40 years and in the current market landlords and Agents can usually choose from a lot of applicants. Good luck

Mark Alexander

15:26 PM, 12th September 2012
About 8 years ago

Hi Linda

Is your letting agent a member of any other trade bodies such as ARLA, NALS, RICS and SAFEagent? If so you should also complain to them.

If not, I suggest that you only deal with SAFEagent members in your future dealings as this provides maximum protection.

Regarding floor covering I agree with Mary's comments about wet areas. For carpets I recommend an inexpensive felt backed bleach cleanable polypropylene. It's hard wearing, easy to clean and looks very good. I have in on my own hall, stairs and landing.

18:30 PM, 12th September 2012
About 8 years ago

This is exactly why we urge people to join us at Landlord Referencing Services.
Not only do we offer (free) Lifestyle Referencing, which would have given you the opportunity at the outset to reference your potential tenants yourself (in order to double check that your agent was doing their job properly) but also deals with the whole issue of referencing and what landlords should do IN THIS EXACT CIRCUMSTANCE.
I would recommend that you join our (completely free) service, register this nightmare tenant to warn others in your area and make sure that you or your agent Lifestyle References all of your future tenants.
Good luck!
https://www.landlordreferencing.co.uk/join/

Antony Richards

21:46 PM, 12th September 2012
About 8 years ago

Mark, as a member of RICS, NALS and CAVA (Central Association of Agricultural Valuers) I strongly object to your assertion to only deal with SAFE agent members. The RICS regulations are far more onerous than SAFE requires. The RICS has clients money protection so that in the unlikely event of a chartered surveyor defaulting on clients' money, the clients are protected. For these reasons I have not joined SAFE, it is below the standard I aspire to. I suggest to steer clear of such recommendations

22:46 PM, 12th September 2012
About 8 years ago

Hi Linda, as a lettings manager i am horrified by what your agents put you through. It is difficult to find suitable tenants for a 5 bedroom house, but if your instructions were clear ( written too) that you do not accept DSS, the letting agent is supposed to - at least- consult with you.

I suggest you make sure next time you read the reviews of the agent you intend to use and demand interim inventory reports with photo evidence.

Do not ignore hiring an inventory clerk, it proves very useful in disputes.

Before accepting any tenants, ask to see their references ( work, etc) than you are sure they are employed. The agent will not disclose their financial situation, however their work references such as job description, salary and length of employment can be disclosed.

Also, very important, take rent guarantee insurance. If they don't offer you this, something is not quite right with the tenants.

Good luck!

Mark Alexander

23:51 PM, 12th September 2012
About 8 years ago

Hi Antony, I have a lot of respect for RICS and I accept that along with ARLA, NALS, Law Society and NAEA these organisations and their members offer a lot more protection than just Client Money Protection "CMP". As you will be aware though, it is not possible to be a member of SAFEagent without being a member of one of these other five recognised trade organisations too. I have a very simple view which is that the other organisations have tiers of membership and it's difficult for landlords and tenants to know whether their client money protection, PI insurance etc. has been kept up to date without seeing a current SAFEagent sticker in the window of their business premises. I have no affiliation to SAFEagent and I am not retained by them in any way. This is just my personal view and one which I shall continue to share in my recommendations. I'm sorry it offends you. My suspicion is that the agents Linda has chosen to engage are not members of any of these organisations. If they are I think she has very strong grounds to make a complaint don't you?

Antony Richards

0:58 AM, 13th September 2012
About 8 years ago

And another thing. I started studying in 1989 and got my final qualification in 1996. I continue to keep abreast of relevant legislation as required by RICS CPD regulations. To be a SAFE agent, all I need do is complete a form and sign a cheque for £50. No proof of knowledge, no proof of keeping up to date.

Mark Alexander

3:35 AM, 13th September 2012
About 8 years ago

I disagree. If you were not a member of ARLA, RICS, Law Society, NALS or NAEA you would not be eligible to be a member of SAFEagent not matter how much their membership fees were. I'm not the only one who looks for the SAFEagent logo when deciding which letting agents I should use to manage out of area properties I'm sure. Why not pay your £50 and see if it brings you more business? Apart from £50 it seems to me that you have very little to lose and everything to gain. That said, it's your money, your future, your choice. If I were you though I'd pay the £50 if only to ride the crest of the wave of the media attention that SAFEagent have had. Look at how much media time they have commanded and how many members have signed up to them already, especially bearing in mind they only celebrated their first year in existance a month or so back. That has a value. I'm not the only forum owner who's decided to support them either. Nevertheless, as I said in my last post, I continue to have massive respect for the established trade bodies and I am very happy to support them too by offering them as much free exposure here on Property118 as they want both in terms of engaging in discussions and contributing articles to share with our community.

Puzzler

4:43 AM, 13th September 2012
About 8 years ago

Hi Linda
Sorry you have had such a bad experience but even owner/occupiers would not carpet a bathroom nowadays (not in vogue for at least a decade also inevitably gets wet and rots however much care is taken). Agree with Mary on that. I buy cheap twist in a stone colour with a view to replacing whenever. A new carpet always looks good and they last well and given a professional clean I haven't had to replace any in over 5 years.
As regards to your agent, I receive a copy of the tenancy with occupation on it from mine, if you are receiving such bad service you should look for a good one, ask some other landlords local to your area. Bear in mind tenants are people too, before I started letting a colleague of mine who had inherited a small block of flats with her sister told me that if they are let in nice condition there is a better chance of tenants looking after them. I have adopted this philosophy plus I have great agent and (touch wood) no significant problems. I don't have any DSS but I have had former bankrupts who were model tenants as they desperately were trying to rebuild their lives. I do keep an eye on them though myself as I have heard and know people who have had horror stories adn I always keep that at the back of my mind. I would not rule out DSS but would consider on a case by case basis only and if Iam in doubt I ask to meet the tenant.
I think it's a pity you decided to do this "as a cushion for retirement" as, like any business, it does require some attention and effort. However all is not lost. Go down there (I assume you are not local which does not help) and interview some agents (ask what they charge and what they do for their fees, check the Ts & Cs suit you) and try to speak to some of their landlords. If all is well, there should also be happy tenants. Happy tenants will stay longer and look after your property.

Puzzler

5:50 AM, 13th September 2012
About 8 years ago

So what do they do for the £50 that the others don't? Why join them as well? I haven't heard of them. What is your connection as you're plugging them so strongly?

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