Yep – letting agents again. I’ve written before about these mythical monsters and wondered if I’d been too harsh. Then I thought: what if I’ve been unfortunate, only encountering the worst examples. Somewhere in the solar system, jovial, informative, honest, helpful letting agents must exist. Don’t they?
But the examples I’ve encountered recently have been horrible. They also seem to have gathered up all the properties in all the world in order to control them. Furthermore, some of them are weird.
One company in particular monopolises the flats in one of the best areas, leaving me with little choice: I had to deal with them. But these days prices aren’t too bad (rents really are falling) and so I arranged a viewing via their prickly and officious receptionist.
The apartment block in question was enormous and had been cunningly converted into a maze. I’d been given short notice of a viewing, and called to say I was on my way. The agent greeted me sharply: “I wondered where the hell you were.”
I did call to say I was lost, I said.
“Hmmm…” came her reply.
She looked me up and down with an armour-piercing squint. No small talk, no patter - just a disdainful, frigid absence of words.
“I have the keys,” she said as we approached the flat.
“Good because I don’t.” I joked lamely. Silence and another cyclopean death stare.
I asked about references. She ignored me. I asked about the landlord. More silence. The flat was okay - there was even some storage (yay - cupboards!) which I noticed was packed with half-empty paint tins, which, I was tetchily informed, I’d be obliged to hold on to (“…just in case.”)
I saw another flat. It was furnished bloke-style: matt-black and everything made of what the inventory will refer to as faux leather, with fake designer chairs. It smelled of damp. The wallpaper was peeling off in places; underneath I noticed blackheads of emerging mould.
“Does the roof leak?” I asked, quite reasonably.
“It smells of damp – I think the roof leaks. Would you know anything about that?”
Silence, and another baleful squint.
I asked all questions I’ve learned from previous bad experience to ask, like does the owner have an official buy-to-let mortgage, but there was no reply, just another squint, this time paired with a terrifying sneer. Her face was so contorted by now that she looked like a life-model for Francis Bacon. Tenants who ask awkward, albeit pertinent questions are clearly not wanted round those parts
Another firm imposed complex, arcane rules on tenants, so strict that only the blessed Sir David Attenborough, or another modern saint would suffice. They advertised one flat as ideal for students, but operated a no-students policy. Get out that, if you can… I questioned this, but all the agent said, repeatedly was: “Those are company rules, and rules are rules.”
The thought of meeting letting agents has made me feel sullied by association. Seriously, how can I wrestle free of these vampires? And landlords, why do you associate with them?