Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Value Consultants Up Against The Wall...

The late, lamented Douglas Adams wrote mockingly about the seemingly needless profession of telephone-hygienist. There are other jobs that make me wonder if the world would spin without them: colour consultants (FYI – I am a ‘Spring’) and obviously - letting agents. But here’s a new one: value consultants.

Value consultants are employed by developers to assess the spec of newbuild homes, shaving off any ‘extras,’ the theory being that previously, architects and builders decked buy-to-let flats with platinum flooring, marble walls (or crazier: long lasting carpets, bathrooms that saved energy and water, kitchen cabinets and appliances that didn’t break, etc etc, oh I promised I’d be good but I am compelled to mention this again.)

I still debate how dovecots came to be so horrible, since nobody in their right mind would scan a list of things you really in a home and with a sharp red pencil cross off ‘cupboards’ and ‘that surplus five feet of lounge which uses up all those costly bricks you know.’ This isn’t about minimising waste. This is about mean-spirited and cruel downward trends in size, space, and fittings, which have eroded quality of life in new developments until life is becoming unbearable. Blame the value consultants. It’s all their fault.

I thought standards had been shaved to bone, but what’s next? All walls – even the bathroom wall? In some new flats, they even miss out doors. Then there are the flats supposedly one bedroom with a separate kitchen and open plan lounge-diner, where there is no corridor. I’m just waiting to hear of newbuild with the toilet in the middle of the kitchen (crapper/diner?)

And many balconies are actually caged windows. I’ve mentioned previously the developers who omit double-glazing, as the fine is cheaper than the thicker windows. People will do anything to slice a pound from the cost, as they don’t own the building – they just design and finance it. Somebody else builds it, another firm manages it, another lets it. This unwieldy, fractured chain ends with the tenant at the bottom, victim to vicious cost-cutting, with no input and no voice.

Another dovecot, slightly further along the way (grey fittings, no extras) exemplifies these mean-spirited ‘economies.’ The balconies (a decent size) stand on a metal frame, stuck on the outside like meccano, with floors made of thick mesh, which drains easily during a downpour. On the top of this bolted on extra, someone had the presence of mind to put on a roof. When I first saw it, I thought it might be solar panels, or protection from the deluges that frequently descend upon this city. But no. They erected the frame, but left out the glass, and so anyone standing on the balcony will be subject to some horribly inclement weather. How spiteful is that?

Inhabitants of Douglas Adam’s planet that had exiled all the useless telephone hygienists, died of an illness spread by germ-raddled phones. However, if we were to storm the value consultants brandishing torches and pitchforks and run them out of town, life for tenants (and let’s not forget – property investors) would improve. To the value consultants then! And after that - onwards – to the letting agents!


Anonymous said...

As a letting agent myself I have been reading your blog with interest/annoyance for some time. However I am starting to become increasingly frustrated at your obvious hatred towards an entire profession. (Quote: floating below pond life – lower even than the slime at the bottom of the pond.")

I actually work very long hours including weekends and bank holidays, helping tenants that are rude, abusive and generally unhelpful to 'enjoy' living in a property.

I agree that some agents are dodgy - but you get that with every profession. Maybe you should check the agent you are using to rent through are actually regulated and qualified (yes beleive it or not we can actually sit exams) before using them.

May I suggest that after you have ridded the world of value consultants and lettings agents you also move on to estate agents, mechanics, plumbers, electricians and every other profession that the "world would spin without". I wonder who will help you move next and put that contract in to place for you, show you round the flat you want to view at an awkward time - and wait for you because I bet you'll be ten minutes late, if you turn up at all.
I also wonder if you will still have a job left as I presume your profession are full of glowing angels who have never upset anyone and you are so important that without you the world would stop spinning....?
Rant over - thanks for reading.

RenterGirl said...

Yep - letting agents are the lowest - sorry - never met a good one. But it's nice that you're so... nice. And I believe that you are nice! I really do! Plumbers are great. as are mechanics and electricians. And asking if a letting agent is qualified when you are desperate for a house and possibly homeless? Comedy gold!

Anonymous said...

Would you not check a gas engineer was qualified if you were desperate for a new boiler if you had no heating and hot water? Presuming you would let anyone do it then based on your logic - comedy gold.

RenterGirl said...

It's funny isn't it? People assume that my blog is a discussion board. It isn't.

Anyway. I can ask for a what was a corgi certificate from a gas engineer. But when last I tried explaining to a letting agent that their charges were illegal - the response was - pay the fees, or you don't get the flat. As emails today have said, that happens when you ask to see any other documents relating to professional qualifications in the letting industry. Even your own professional body admits that you lot need regulation. Comedy gold? No actually - not funny at all. Everybody hates you, but touchingly, you do seem to need out love. Dream on.

Anonymous said...

The difference is that gas engineers and other such professions are legally obliged to be qualified. Letting Agents aren't. Its essentially a non profession because literally anyone can set themselves up as one with no qualifications or checks (as the Agent I have to deal with is a testament to).

Landlords and agents should be regulated to the hilt (if they're allowed to exist at all once I become ruler of the known universe). Peoples' homes are too important to be left to the unskilled oversight of a cartel 'profession'.

RenterGirl said...

Beautifully put Rory.

Neil80 said...

The bare fact is; Letting agents are there for landlords. They have grown to service the whole buy-to-let sector of amateur landlords who don't have the time, knowledge or inclination to get their hands dirty. Tenants gain very little and bear the brunt of the costs which are pushed onto them by the agents. Most tenants would rather deal with a landlord direct if it meant saving several hundred quid on a £5 credit check, a 10 minute viewing and a photocopy of a standardised contract.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of value consultants and dodgy developers generally...friend of mine told me a story about new builds. Apparently the regs specify insulation standards, x cms thick. So calculate the floor area, order the rolls of loft insulation, and when you're ready throw the rolls, still wrapped, into the roof space and shut the hatch. The insulation is in situ so that's ok, then. You couldn't make it up.

As for letting agents, don't get me started. The fees. The "you're renter scum so take it or leave it". The fact that they don't seem to read let alone understand their own contracts. The fact that a non-negotiable contract breaks the laws for unfair terms in contracts, but it doesn't matter a t*ss as it's effectively non-negotiable.

Last time I moved the letting agent asked if they could show somebody round shortly before the end of the tenancy. I said OK, I was there in any case. The nasty little sh!t from the agency turned up with seven people to look round a small two-bed terrace. Yes, he couldn't be ars*d to show them round separately so he booked them all in at the same time. I opened the door and suddenly they all trooped in; I couldn't believe it. I can see more value in a phone sanitation officer than most of the letting agents I've had the misfortune to come across.

If I did my job as badly, incompetently and stupidly as most of the letting agents I've come across I'd be on benefits, except I'd have to get somebody smarter to fill in the forms for me.


Anonymous said...

Maybe you should check the agent you are using to rent through are actually regulated and qualified (yes beleive it or not we can actually sit exams) before using them.

The last letting agents I used were members of ARLA and were supposedly professionals - they were a bunch of thieving scum who made my life hell. My wife actually had a nervous breakdown because of them and was put on medication. This particular bunch were the worst letting agents so far, but not by much.

I reported them to ARLA and the trading standards agency for downright illegal practices and even contacted my MP. NOTHING was done.

Almost all letting agents are scum and there is nothing a tenant can do to get out of dealing with them. I personally am emmigrating because I've had enough of being treated like dirt.

That's right - your 'professional' industry is, at least in part, directly responsible for me leaving the country. Congratulations on being that awful.