Monday, 2 April 2012

Meeting A Reasonable Letting Agent (I Know!!!)

The other day, something so amazing happened, my flabber was totally gasted. I had a long conversation with a nice, personable, reasonable letting agent (no this doesn’t end with: ‘…and then I woke up.’) We began to discuss how landlords and tenants should be friends, and how it is that letting agents can get in the way of that friendship.

We agreed that the worst problems are often caused by new landlords with unrealistic expectations of tenants, and also how much money they will make by renting out a flat. How they can snipe, be nervous and find it hard to accept that what was perhaps their own home is no longer theirs.

She stuck to a newly established party line: that tenants should scrub the carpets (hiring professionals – not with a Vax!) and that they shouldn’t really decorate, but should put the place back to exactly how it was, not a trace remaining of their habitation.

Except for reasonable wear and tear: where she said that on training courses, she would insist that landlords must accept a few marks, and stresses to her trainees that they must not consider the check out as an opportunity to make money. Now that was a breakthrough moment.

She said that fear makes many landlords behave unreasonably, but stuck to the mantra that tenants can be a nightmare: this we know, but give people a chance before you start treating them as criminals. Happy tenants stay longer. And then I mentioned retaliatory evictions: yes she said - many landlords just don’t understand that they must do repairs as soon as reasonably possible, and they will lose out if they chuck out tenants on a whim for a tiny misdemeanour.

We didn’t agree on everything - rent capping for example, but then, they would say that wouldn’t they. I am again reminded that the entire system is adversarial. Tenants are customers, and landlords are providers. Many act as is they old style medieval lords, and start by eyeing all renters with malice and suspicion. Tenants, especially young tenants might even view their landlords as ‘parents’ and dutifully obey all orders (I’ve seen this myself) and believe everything they are told. They don’t want to make a fuss even when deposits are not saved properly, or repairs not done.

Unfortunately, many agents I’ve encountered have been hostile, rude, ill-informed, spending many hours inventing new ways to charge tenants for what should either be free or paid for by the landlords. Many agents don’t understand the law about renting, and since they are unregulated and untrained, go unpunished when they mess up.

But still, having spoken with a nice letting agent, who was practical when wear and tear is perhaps the most contentious of all issues between both parties, I realised she was realistic and even reasonable, I think; they’re not all bad, and some of them are even helpful. Why can’t it always be this way?


Jeff said...

Reasonable letting agents are out there. They're just hard to find. Ours have always been very prompt with repairs etc. which I guess makes us lucky. Recently, on moving the sofa to vacuum under it we discovered little bare patches on the carpet where carpet moths had eaten it. On reporting it to the letting agents, they had someone out to spray the carpets the next day. We were worried that we'd have to foot the bill as our tenancy agreement says we're responsible for pests. I asked our letting agent and she said "no that's fine, it's not your fault so I've told your landlord he should pay".

Surprised? You bet!

Ben reeve-Lewis said...

I must say I meet loads of decent agents and landlrods all the time and I try to build links with them whenever I can and keep things going. Its a far better solution to me running around with a blue light on my head all the time dispensing injunctions..

But at its core Penny you are dead right when you say its an adversarial system. As one whose job it is to enforce landlord/tenant law I have long thought that the law often gets in the way of what is really a matter of relationships.

When you buy a computer in PC world the relationship ends when you walk out the door, but landlrods and tenants are welded together for the next couple of years and it is the quality of the relationship that deteremines how it goes. When I am talking to an angry landlord and quoting section this and sub-section that, its like talking Japanese arithmetic for all the relevance it has.

Rent arrears aint just figures on a page, they are signs of disrespect in a landlord's eyes and repairs not being done or general shoddy conditions colour the way a tenant feels about their landlord's attitude to them, a sign of disregard.

Its all about feelings and perceptions, not laws really.

RenterGirl said...

In a comment here, someone mentioned ACAS. I wish they coul dbe involved in such disputes as condensation, where the landlord says the tenant has to leave the window open in a freezing flat and turn up the (inefficient) heating instead of installing vents, or when they haven't protected the deposit, or give notice when tenants ask for reasonable repairs.

Anonymous said...

After taking on a six month shorthold tenancy & treated horrifically by the agent (cutting a long story short) this idiot writes to me wanting me to pay over a hundred pounds to 'share' legal expenses with the landlord for... nothing as the 'new lease has all the same conditions & just gives me the option of giving one month's notice & the landlord 2 months.

So the lease is a 'nothing' agreement as both me & the landlord would have to give each other the same notices anyway and there was a clear agreement that at the end of the first six months I could just stay until either I or the landlord gave notice.

So, my point is this: the agents are doing absolutely nothing and the lease is a meaningless sham because it already exists and al the whole thing is is the agent inventing an excuse to charge £250 to the landlord & tenant to print out a load of garbage and get it signed by the tenant.

It is a fraud.

Can any one put me right here as I have never been a tenant in my entire 64 years of life and when I was a landlord for thirty years never employed a lawyer or an agent & never had problems as a result. In fact any tenant problems I did have would have been made much, much worse by any agents & lawyers I employed.

RenterGirl said...

My advice? Don't sign. Don't use Letting Agents like that.