Tenant News

Are Letting Agents Mistreating Tenants? Consumer watchdog Which? Investigates

Rose Jinks - July 5, 2018

With consideration of the previous story we covered this week, concerning the case of the tenant who threatened to kill his letting agent, we now investigate why tenants feel the need to retaliate in addition to how letting agents could be contributing negatively to this rage.

According to the #RentRage launched by Which?, tenants are being mistreated by their letting agents. Formulated as a hashtag on the social platform, Twitter, the purpose of #RentRage is to encourage tenants to expose and share their experiences.

The Consumer watchdog Which? undertook undercover research on 30 property viewings, spread across England and Scotland. Whilst there, they assessed the conditions of these properties in addition to asking letting agents specific questions, designed to expose whether they were providing integral information and complying with health and safety rules.

Reportedly, half of these agents were unable to provide evidence of information regarding the property’s boiler. Moreover, only 13% managed to supply the correct details concerning annual servicing rules.

Agents apparently exhibited a better comprehension of where fire alarms were located in the property, with 21 of 30 evaluated as ‘good’ and two rated ‘bad’.

Furthermore, researchers discovered that 20% of the properties visited had issues with damp, with none of the agents able to commit to rectifying the problem. Lastly, agents were also scrutinised for their explanation of holding deposits. Firms allegedly struggled to explain how much these payments would amount to and the process of how they would be refunded.

One Gentleman, interviewed by Which? shared his negative experiences with letting agents whilst searching for his perfect property.

He commented: “I’d had a look at so many flats and they were all very, very poor quality. I mean, in our price range in London, it was really difficult to find something that wasn’t a bathroom full of rust or a bedroom full of mould.

“So, when you finally find a flat that’s right, you’re just really keen. And we’re there on the day, there’s 15 other couples queuing up to look at the same time as us. So, we pressed straight ahead straight to the letting agent. He willingly accepted our money. He said ‘We just need a £500 holding deposit from you.’

“The next day, this image of our new flat came crumbling down, when the letting agent reached back out to us and said three other couples had done the same thing. They held that money over us and made us up our bids, so essentially looking for more money every month from us. Basically, holding that money, getting us into a bidding war, which, you know, is not great practise, especially when we’ve been led to believe we’d secured that flat.”

Alex Neill, Managing Director of Home Products and Services for Which? said: “There are clearly real issues with letting agents showing prospective tenants properties that aren’t up to scratch. It’s unacceptable that all too often agents can’t answer basic questions about important issues like boiler safety and carbon monoxide alarms.

“Tenants need to be given clear and accurate information before moving in to a new place and agents must do more to deliver an acceptable level of service.”