Monday, 24 September 2012

They're Doomed! Doomed!

Such charming people, letting agents. Lovely, warm-hearted, honest and caring.

My friend is still looking for a place, and she’s getting desperate. I saw a ‘To Let’ sign outside a likely property, and called the number to ask about the flat. Now keep in mind that my friend had already called: she thought I had imagined the sign, so strenuously did the agency deny its existence. I thought the agency had re-let the place, but was told ‘they had no property in that area.’ I said forcefully that they might take the sign down. They kept repeating their mantra, and did not apologise for wasting my time, and that of countless others.

It’s that sort of casual, callous disregard for people that made me sort of glad in a way about this related story.

A friend contacted me to ask about his deposit: the letting agent had gone bust. Briefly I mourned the innocent jobs lost, then I got out the bunting: the joy was briefly unconfined. This is going to happen a lot more in the coming months. There are too many agents scrabbling for business, and they are already ‘surplus to requirements.’ Many landlords are using ‘portals’ (which still sound so sci-fi) and traditional agents are going under.

This also explains why they have dreamed up more cruel and unusual fees - aka a premium (officially declared illegal in Scotland – despite another agent telling yet another friend that this would all be settled in November. He paid up and will reclaim the fee in court. What a waste of time.)

My friend had paid his deposit just before the law enforcing the protection scheme in Scotland came in. His landlord is awol. The agency had done that new trick of listing themselves as the landlord, rather than naming the owner on the lease – very dodgy indeed. Anyone out there know why they do this?

My friend located the owner (hooray!) who’s ignoring his emails and letters (boo!) He’s going to the small claims court to take action against the landlord: if he sues the bankrupt agency he’ll be put on a list of creditors, and will be a very low priority recouping a fraction of what he paid.

I am glad that all deposits must now be protected everywhere – and the law was post-dated; it applies to all rental agreements no matter when they started.

The sad part is for those under the yoke of agents who were struggling before this, who have escaped with deposits, which can run to thousands. My friend is desperate for his money. He’s also worried about going to court, but I reassured him that it isn’t expensive and is very straightforward.

I’m left wondering how many agencies are endangered. They can’t run away with deposits now, but will go into liquidation - landlords suffering as incoming rent payments are eaten up. Hey-ho: no pain, no gain. We might be rid of this unnecessary layer of parasitical laziness, con-tricks and bumph quite soon. Seriously – if you work for a letting agency, look for another job.


space cadet said...

What portals, Penny???

Burbage said...

I guess the reason agents want to be named as landlord on the tenancy agreements is to stop the landlord from dealing with the tenant direct. If there's a suitable mismatch between the notice period of tenancy and agent's contract, it'll make it difficult for the landlord to ditch the agency, and impossible to avoid renewal fees.

sue gill said...

You might have seen this already in your twitterfeed - here's our latest update in the Shelter Scotland campaign against unlawful fees charged by letting agents:

RenterGirl said...

Rentlord is one, and it offers more vetting for landlords, not just tenants as the others do - see side panel. Other portals exist, but they only check out tenants, not owners, which I disagree with.

Burbage - that's interesting. I wonder if stating that if they don't tell tenants, who then pay to check with the land registry, this might be recoupable?

And thanks for that Sue. Great campaign. My poor deluded letting egants are yet to repsond to my request for a refund. They will have to pay it back. Just delaying the inevitable.

Seb said...

I am glad to see that this is being sorted out, I can believe that there is so much hassle in trying to get a place, you would expect that the agencies would want to get people to trust them and make it easier to get more clients. There are a lot of people out there that have been burnt by this, this is a bad reflection on our industry .