I didn’t want to do this, but I am writing about letting agents again. I was hoping that if I ignored them, they’d go away. It didn’t work.
First of all, they are rude, and their manners worsened as my flat-hunting progressed. I’ve been ordered to hurry up during phone conversations when I was obviously asking too many pertinent questions, airily dismissed through an audible haze of impatient sighs, sneered at (again) then mocked for checking the days date.
I called one agent to arrange a viewing. Now, in every city, there are areas where at one end of the neighbourhood, life is sweet. Let’s call that Easy Street. At the other end, life is dominated by burglaries and fear - let’s call that Death Row. You can’t always tell from the postcode or a map, and once you are seen to be an out-of-towner, agents will try and palm you off with a shack in Death Row.
I asked the agent: “The flat’s not in Death Row, is it?”
“No; no – of course not.”
“It’s not on the ground floor?”
“No; the very idea!”
“…and it’s definitely fully furnished?”
“I’ve seen some nasty places recently; please don’t waste my time.”
“It’s lovely – trust me.”
Fifteen minutes and one costly taxi ride later, I was viewing an unfurnished ground-floor hovel in a slum, with a view out onto the bins, after the neighbours had eyed me up like vultures circling a carcass. I didn’t take the flat, and the agent was incredulous: “…you mean you don’t like it? Do you mind if I ask why?”
The worst encounter so far involves that old letting agent ploy: lying. Where I am living, agent admin fees are illegal - a detail cheerfully ignored by them all. I visited an office. Briskly, they mentioned a fee. I said:
“I thought charging admin fees was illegal here.”
It was like the scene in Oliver where that brave little orphan asks for more gruel, but here with letting agents snorting with derisive laughter. Illegal – yeah right. I couldn’t work out if they were actually lying, or simply didn’t know. What do other readers think? Still, I really made their day.
Then they gathered their composure. Speaking to me slowly, as if I am an idiot, they said: you want the flat – we charge a fee – that’s how it is. They demanded a higher than usual deposit all the while looking me up and down like I had rolled around in dog muck and wrapped myself in cling film before visiting.
I know for a fact they haven’t followed up a single reference, which means they are charging both myself and the landlord a horrible amount of money for an online credit check, which costs about a fiver. The application form they gave me was badly spelled, poorly formatted and full of improperly used legal terms, which I kept quiet about.
Thing is, I’m really angry now. They shouldn’t have made me angry. This might well go further.