I moved again recently, and claimed back one set of fees from one absolute arsehole of an agent, who, when encountered in the street, laughingly explained: ‘It’s just a game we letting agents have to play.’
No. That game of yours is making you a fortune by ripping off and duping vulnerable people. It isn’t a game. They should be tried for extortion: one agent imprisoned will soon stop this egregious practice.
So now for the next lot. To summarise, I explained fee they were insisting upon before letting the place was illegal. I quoted the relevant legislation, and referred to the excellent campaign by Shelter (see links below).
They insisted it wasn’t a ‘premium,’ that they had taken legal advice and that I had to pay. I gritted my teeth, paid and almost immediately wrote offering them the chance to pay me back without going to court. They refused, insisting the ‘admin fee’ (expressly forbidden in the legislation) was fair and lawful. So I begin court proceedings. A waste of my time, but more than anything – that of the already over-stretched court system.
I heard nothing, until getting a call one afternoon and my, but they were shirty. No apology. No explanation. Just a terse and frosty (borderline rude, actually) statement: ‘We’re paying you back. Do you want money off the rent or a refund?’ I was in a café and could hardly hear. I reminded them that they would also need to pay back the court fee, which didn’t go down well.
And then they were gone. How utterly graceless. Even after attempting extortion - they had quite brazenly and shamelessly tried to extract money illegally via an implicit threat (pay up or lose the property) but still had the audacity to be annoyed that they had been caught out.
No there are only two possibilities. One: they didn’t know about the legislation (but I had pointed it out, and provided the relevant links etc, and they claimed to have taken legal advice.) They were also obviously old enough to know better. The second possibility is that they genuinely knew nothing about the fact that premiums (charges, reference fees, renewal fees, admin fees etc… etc…) are illegal, which makes them at best untrained and at worst incompetent. I wonder which one it is?
They kept this up to the very last minute, and narrowly avoided court (which I had been looking forward to, because of their rudeness and contempt.) Fortunately for them, they paid up.
But you know what: an apology was richly deserved, and would have meant a lot. Meanwhile our lovely landlady still has to deal with the company who charge her for the privilege of messing everything up, starting with the inventory.
I should be grateful: at least the charges are illegal and in Scotland I can claim them back. In England and Wales, the agents are growing increasingly powerful and shameless. More on that soon. Meanwhile, that agency is, I imagine still charging illegal fees to less informed and unsuspecting tenants. Who will claim them back. And around it goes…