It was only a simple piece of paper, but it made me bang my head against the wall. Perfectly ordinary text - casual and everyday, but it made me whine and scream and punch myself in the face as there was no else around to punch.
It’s all Molly’s fault. My friends know I am not keen on letting agents, which is putting it mildly, and that I pass on details of their transgressions to ‘the appropriate authorities.’ Molly is currently house-hunting, and was keen for my opinion regarding a document passed on by her letting agent - basically a menu of charges. Just another piece of paper, then.
But what was written down was outrageous. There were fifteen conditions: one mentions a holding deposit of £150 (supposedly keeping the place off the market for two weeks). Amongst the usual rubbish about a deposit etc. is a £95 ‘check out’ fee (the latest wheeze for cheating new tenants.)
There was also a £30 tenant assessment fee and a short lease premium. Amazingly: they charge £150 for a lease of less than six months. Please remember, this is in Scotland, where all tenant premiums are illegal. That’s right – they can’t lawfully charge for any of this.
But these villains make everything worse by demanding written proof of contents insurance (none of their business frankly, since landlords must have their own insurance and the property is unfurnished.)
What made me scream, lash out and wail is the a mandatory annual rent increase of 3.5% per annum, no matter what. No wonder rents are rising: there is no need for this - none whatsoever. Rents in certain cities are increasing so fast that tenant’s faces wobble with G forces as if riding in rockets headed to space. Rents race onwards and ever upwards because agents demand that they should (and agents earn a percentage of the monthly rent.)
Now, Shelter Scotland are raising awareness of the illegality of these charges, encouraging tenants to reclaim. But Molly didn’t get that far: she calmly questioned the legality of the proposed fees. Her letting agency had compounded their offence by trying to charge both Molly and her partner separately (it’s joint tenancy for a one bed flat, and not exactly Versaille.) The agency agreed to clarify their facts, but rang back saying that entirely by coincidence, they had let the flat to another couple. How odd.
When there is a mass extinction event for letting agents, I truly hope this lot go bust early and with extreme prejudice. They are often conning money from students and first time renters, who know no better and are too scared to use the simple procedure of reclaiming their fees.
When people move home, they are vulnerable. Tenants must leap through flaming hoops to get as far as signing a tenancy agreement and letting agents circle, drooling over the scent of desperation. Vultures, pure and simple. Vultures is what they are.
Who will charge agents with extortion? Letting agents who demand illegal fees in Scotland, or extortionate fees in England (where fees are lawful) could - and must - be jailed.