Monday, 19 May 2014
This Is Why We Hate Them
Letting agents wonder why we loathe them so vehemently; why we hate them with passion. They ask why anyone would introduce laws to control them. Commiserations then to English readers, who just last week lost the chance for laws similar Scotland, where fees and premiums charged to tenants are outlawed.
Soon come, as my friend used to say. In the meantime, here’s my list of the cheekiest, most corrupt, vile, venal, heinous fees I’ve seen. So far…
1. The admin fee ruse. One mercifully former letting agent charged this. When I queried it, he explained, knowing it was unlawful, that his firm needed to run their office. I explained that I needed to pay for my removal costs. He dropped the fee from £150 to £75.
2. Reference fees. This ruse purportedly covers the onerous task of phoning or emailing previous rentiers, current employers and banks. Except all are pointless and in any case they rarely pursue them. Licence to print money, basically.
3. Holding fees. Supposed to remove the home from the market while tenants are checked, the money deducted when tenants pay deposits. In reality, they are often retained.
4. Cleaning fees. Tenants moving in or out both face this one, which again might be for work not completed. Tenants would do well to request receipts and then check.
5. Check in fees. This pays for the debilitating, strength-sapping chore of handing over keys. Keys are heavy, don’t you know.
6.See also their equivalent in the other direction – the ‘check out fee,’ same scam but with the added threat of deposits withheld if they’re not paid.
7. Inventory fees. My own Landgirl discovered to her cost, this involved outsourced employees who visited the flat, did nothing then billed for their 'work'. Brilliant.
8. The fee. Let’s not be too complicated, one agent thought. Let’s not be fancy, or use obfuscatory terms. Let’s just call the fee ‘the fee.’ Without any explanation whatsoever.
9. The continuous affordability assessment fee. This thing of logical beauty hypothesises that the tenant pays every six months to see if they can afford the home. The letting agent whose firm tried this one described her behaviour as ‘a game.’ Oh I sued them so bad.
10. The fee – it is in effect a fee or premium – when ‘costs’ were demanded by the letting agent who overcharged my friend when he demanded a refund for overpayment caused by their ineptitude. He sued. Successfully. Blimey.
11. Renewal fees. Tough work this. Those poor exhausted letting agents must carry several sheets of paper over to the photocopier, then lift the lid. Modern servitude with hard labour, that’s what it is.
12. This last one never stops giving. The finance fee. Yep. The fee charged by one brazen operative for collecting all their other fees. Which is dastardly and fiendish, but soon to be illegal.
NB these are frequently levied on both parties to transaction – rentiers and tenants, which is banned in other industries such as the travel business.
Be brave – stay strong. It won’t be allowed for much longer. No to transparency. Yes to the ban on charges.