It’s the season of award ceremonies. Soon, confused nominees and winners will grin and gaze upon mystifying shiny thingamyjigs before weeping. I want to belong. I’ve borrowed a lovely dress and tiara (I looked somewhat incongruous in Wetherspoons) and am nominating a few of my favourite things. Best pie (my friend Austin’s macaroni offering is a cert to win) best sarcastic remark, and finally, finest acrobatic drunken stumbling and just (just) about regaining one’s balance (which I will not win owing to a sloppy dismount.)
Okay. You got me. You know me too well. Dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel created and endowed a prize for peace, please let me explain the inaugural Rentergirl Awards for heroic letting-agent endeavours/shenanigans.
Selecting winners was difficult. Competition was fierce. The field was so comprehensively, inventively and shamelessly vile I was at times left gasping in awe. The winners needed much more than simply charge fees so creatively expressed and yet so baffling they flummox even Sir Stephen Hawking. No. That’s ordinary business. The winners all went that bit further.
First: the Scottish agent currently claiming to be ‘Licensed by ARLA.’ How reassuring. The office windows contain several posters of dentists, doctors and lawyers, all captioned: ‘You wouldn’t use an unlicensed Doctor.’ And they’re right. Pretend doctors might kill, or cut off the wrong leg, but if convicted could be imprisoned, and bad genuine doctors are banned from practising, because they must indeed be licensed.
Except… except… ARLA doesn’t licence letting agents (I checked.) There is a voluntary code of conduct, meaning errant letting agents face lingering frowns and being tutted at sternly from a distance. Nobody I know has heard of a letting agent being ‘struck off’ by their own trade body, rendering this ‘licensing’ utterly meaningless.
Now for a group award to all the agents who compel new tenants to sign up for and accept their agents designated energy supplier or even contents insurance (companies all ‘chosen’ after agents have accepted a backhander.) This is restrictive and contravenes consumer choice, but probably unenforceable. And yet still they try.
The prize in this category is no shiny-baubly-gewgah. Winners must watch those amusing and highly entertaining comparison website ads! For all of next year! And nothing else! You’re all welcome. Those are tears of gratitude and joy, aren’t they?
Next: a special prize to the letting agent who charged my friend for returning his own money. Respect!
Here’s what happened: he gave notice, and when settling up, the agent invoiced for the wrong amount. My busy friend (he was moving, remember) asked for a refund, but the agency came right back with small print. They would deduct a fee even if it was their mistake. Which it was. Un-effing-believable. The small claims court awaits.
Now to the letting agent who charged several different tenants for the same damage, apparently over a period of years. They passed off estimated costs (think of a number/double it) as actual costs paid to repair the vandalism (their words.)
Only they had met their match. Somebody knew the contractor concerned, who was suspicious at being asked to provide yet another estimate. The tenant contacted the agent and landlord (who had no idea this was going on.) The tenant has yet to tell me how this ended, so maybe it ended with rueful tears, forgive-us flowers and a heartfelt apology delivered by winged, rainbow coloured mini-ponies.
Now, I’d like to thank the following (sniff!) for helping the last few years *cracks up* with advice, comments *just openly sobbing now* and generally being brilliant *explosively blows nose*
So thanks to: Shelter Scotland for their excellent reclaim your fees campaign (and Shelter England), The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Also Nearly Legal, Ben Reeves-Lewis and Jules Birch for wisdom, insight and humour in the face of what is going to be a very, very, very grim year.