Monday, 31 December 2012

Hooray! Another Awards Ceremony!

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.


RenterGirl said...

Might I add: the prizes are strictly for actual letting agents, not those who open up shops pretending to be letting agntes before disappearing with tenant's money.

Also the list of 'thankees' should include some people I engage with on twitter, but I tend to seperate the two platforms. Happy 2013! Yeah. I know. We can but try...

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

Thanks Penny I'd like to thank my mum, my cat and my agent, except for the fact that my Mum died years ago, I've never had a cat or an agent for that matter, but damn it, someone has to be responsible for my life!!!

And thanks for pointing out the emperors new clothes here, accreditation is entirely meaningless to tenants and always will be unless there is machinery built in to expel defaulters and publicise them as having let themselves and their country down.

Agents make their money from landlords not tenants, so tenants are often irrelevant to them.

The good agents, and I know some great ones, treat landlords and tenants with equal importance and respect. accreditation does not guarantee any of that, only an individuals humanity and decency.

Accreditation is an income generating industry in itself. ARLA? NALS? RLA? etc etc how do you regulate your industry? You dont, and are powerless to. Its just a sticker in a window that 'Suggests' and hopes for, good practice and even those inside the agency business, the decent ones, are calling for proper regulation because they know that the bad ones are tarnishing their name.

RenterGirl said...

You are welcome! Considering the power thaat agents and landlords have, you'd think there would be effective sanction ie the threat of being disbarred from practising. I have only ever met not-so-evil agents. Never good ones (have heard of good and responsible employees, one in a 'rogue' firm.')gents make most of their money from landlords, but manage to invent new ways of making sure tennats also pay. Keep up the good work. We're going to need you and all the greata TRO's n 2013.

Anonymous said...

I agree, letting agents need to be regulated by a respected body with teeth.

The above mentioned organisations within the industry are self serving, Local Authorities are often incompetent and wasteful (no offence Ben), so who should do it?

What about the soon to be (re)launched 'first-tier property tribunal chamber'? Charge a reasonable amount for licensing and it could even be self funding
- but maybe that's just the first bottle of champagne talking!

Happy New Year! HB Welcome.

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

first bottle of champers anonymous? I think you've past that milestone.

NO Penny I have to say I know some good agents, not just so-so ones butu it does seem to be one of those industries that attracts the human equivelant of penile warts.....and thats my first bottle champagne talking, better sign off before I get more indiscreet.

I'me off to a salsa dance party with Frazzy (she twirls and swirls while I skulk behind a pillar nursing a pint and dancing like a dad at a wedding)Incidentally she is a self employed travel agent who every year has to sit a day long exam just so she can keep her licence to sell travel insurance while agent have nada.

Still.....agents, landlords, tenants, one and all have a great New Year night

RenterGirl said...

Ben, I have had some cider, and since you actually meet many, many more agents than me, will concede that my thesis is anecdoctal not evidence based. And I bet Frazzie is really great travel agent (and dancer). With or without her licence.

Oh and great point HB Welcome.

My A key won't work and it's driving me crzy.

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

Cider????? Anonymous has champagne!!!! difference between landlords and tenants I suppose haha

But Penny at least you live in the international capital of New Year's Eve parties. I spent a wonderful New Year in Edinburgh a few year's back. Danced scottish reels in Queen street with some tartan-ed up people in their 70s whose lungs alone put me to shame and then climbed Calton Hill with 10,000 others before setting light to a long boat with a bunch of pissed up vikings. Now THATS a new year

Penny Anderson said...

Vikings? Blimey. They could do brave battle with letting agents.

Anonymous said...

Happy new year to you, after a launch earlier this year totaly new ideas built on us being landlords and getting right up the nose of zoopla to the point they were too frightened to have us advertise on their website following complaints from letting agents Thanks to all and thanks to this blog for giving us ideas .

Alex Chesterman's team thinks we are a portal for private landlords ,they are right ! thank you .

private landlord directory , our new years resolution - to continue the revolution.

Right I need a drink - have just returned from the inlaws

You know the difference betwean inlaws and outlaws?
outlaws are wanted !

Matt Wardman said...

Happy New Year, RG.

I'd be interested - what exactly do you want in a licensing scheme for Letting Agents?

The ARLA/NAEA scheme seems to deliver sanctions - hundreds of cases in 2011 for example, and is supervised by the OFT.

I'd say that the only thing needed is compulsory membership of an appropriate association (NAEA/ARLA/perhaps RICS) in order to trade as an LA.

Anyhow, your recent "mass anecdote is my evidence" stuff has got me annoyed enough to put my blogging boots back on properly in 2013, with a small project to provide some fact-based context for your posts other than in the comments.

See you in the Google results in a few weeks.

Barney from Newington said...

The only award that Shelter deserves is the "Wolf in Sheep's clothing" award.

The sheep being reference to their status as a homeless charity.

The wolf being reference to their role as machiavellian leaders of the anti-landlord lobby.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to the disciplinary hearings of ARLA/NAEA.

Note these are just the ones they have decided to publicise (presumably the heaviest sanctions).

Regards, HB Welcome.

RenterGirl said...

The point is that all the schemes are voluntary - and anyone can set up s an egent, without having to join scheme, and do what they want. I would like (s I've sid so mny times before) professionlisation is needed to run agency, with transgressing members of the appropritae body being barred from practising.

Matt - I never said, nor do I imply that anecdotal eveidence is good enough - I simply admit that's where I get my info. When question hve been raised in Parliament about letting agents, something is going wrong with them.

And Barney - seriously, any more anti-Shelter comments will be deleted. Shelter do something different to the valuable soup-run/roofless homeless charities you favour. The brilliant Shelter work in homelessness PREVENTION. You really are a complete tool aren't you?

Matt Wardman said...


>The point is that all the schemes are voluntary - and anyone can set up s an egent, without having to join scheme, and do what they want. I would like (s I've sid so mny times before) professionlisation is needed to run agency, with transgressing members of the appropritae body being barred from practising.

Thanks for the clarification. I roughly agree with that emphasis though offences and sanctions need to be related very carefully. It's oppressive to take away people's livelihood where that is not merited and a lack of proportonality is a problem currently.

>Matt - I never said, nor do I imply that anecdotal eveidence is good enough - I simply admit that's where I get my info.

Indeed. I never said that you had ;-).

>When question hve been raised in Parliament about letting agents, something is going wrong with them.

I'm cynical enough about politicians to believe that much of the time things get raised (or not raised) in Parliament because it is useful for the politicians concerned.

I won't drop a link as you don't like it.

RenterGirl said...

Does anyone else love how Barney explains the phrase wolf in sheeps clothing, just like McGonagall? I also love the idea of an anti-landlord lobby. No - we're just anti bad landlords and probably feel that the best way to stop them is by properly enforced licensing. Hooray!