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Legal action against real estate agency?

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461 views 3 replies latest reply: 14 June 2014
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Tenant

I am writing to you asking for your advice once you could be aware of cases like this one and would like to hear what happened.

My husband and I let a flat in London and our offer was accepted according to the letting agency. We have all documents proving this and they made us pay for 1 month rent in advance plus 6 weeks deposit straightway (and also their fees).

Our tenancy would start last week, therefore I collected the keys at the agency on the move-in date and went to the flat. When I got to the flat (with the keys the agency provided), there was a cleaning professional in there and she stated that other tenants have moved 1 day ago. I was in shock and started to feel unwell due to this situation and she then called the agency she worked for and they told me (via phone) that the flat was rented to a different tenant via their agency and that the landlord never accepted our offer.

My husband and I then went to our letting agency and they told us this was not their fault and that the landlord accepted our offer. They also told us that due to the fact the other tenants were already living there, that it would take too much time to remove them from the flat and that we needed to look for a different flat. At this time they told us the only compensation that they could provide us was not to pay the agency fees for the new flat (in case we find the flat via their agency).

I have now a copy of the email that our agency sent to the landlord saying that they have found the tenants for the flat and if the landlord did not respond the email by the following day, they would assume he accepted the offer and would proceed with the letting. Please note this email was sent the following day they made us pay everything and sent us emails saying the offer was accepted. A second email was sent on the following day saying that once they did not hear from the landlord, they have signed the contract on the landlord´s behalf.

As you may understand this is an outrageous situation. This letting agency took our money, lied to us saying the landlord agreed with our conditions when apparently they never spoke to him and he did not respond to the emails, put us in a very stressful situation (we could have no place to go on that day), took us on a second round viewing showing us properties over the budget we asked for, leaving us in very stressed state, told us the only compensation would be not paying the agency fees if we let the flat via them, made me loose time at work and money in order to look for a different place not to mention the stress that my husband and I went through these days.

We believe we are entitled to a financial compensation. We have several documents to prove this situation and therefore we would like to hear your opinion on this matter, especially if you are aware of a situation like this one.

Many thanks

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Tenant

What a horrendous situation – I hope you have now found somewhere safe and comfortable to live. I have not come across anything like this before, but there are steps you can take to rectify the problem.

Option 1: Make a formal complaint to the Letting Agent

You should always register your complaint with the letting agent first. Make a clear and precise report, explaining exactly what the problem is, giving copies of all your documents and emails, including additional expenses you have had to pay as a result of their incompetence.

Most reputable letting agents will try to resolve the problem in-house. They will have a set procedure in place which should be handled by senior management. If you don’t find a copy of the procedure on their website, then be brave and ask for it in person.

Option 2: Complain to a Governing Body

If you feel your complaint hasn’t been dealt with appropriately by the letting agent, you can complain to a governing body. EVERY reputable letting agent will be registered with either the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) or The Property Ombudsman (TPO). Members of either of those schemes are required to abide by a code of conduct; failing to do so can have the consequences of financial compensation to the consumer. Most letting agents which are members of these governing bodies will display the logo on the website and/or in window displays.

You can make a complaint via the governing bodies websites; there is also a directory of all agents that are members:

National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) Website – http://www.naea.co.uk/

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) Website –
http://www.tpos.co.uk/

It’s important to only Use Letting Agents That Are Registered With An Approved Redress Scheme For Consumer Protection.

Option 3: Complain to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) or Trading Standards (TS)

If the letting agent isn’t a member of a governing body, then you can register a complaint with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) or Trading Standards (TS). They have the authority to close down an agency if they are found to be unfit to carry out estate agency work under the Estate Agents Act 1979 (EAA) regulations.

Option 4: Speak to Citizens Advice

For free legal advice and to find out where you stand, you can talk to your local Citizens Advice Bureau and they should be able to advice you on the best course of action to take.

http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

Good luck, be persistent, and please review the letting agent on our website to warn other tenants about their unscrupulous behaviour. Do let us know how you get on.

Disclaimer: The above represents information derived from personal experience and should not be relied upon as definitive or accurate interpretation of the law. It is offered free of charge and may contain errors or omissions.

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Tenant

Hi Justine,

Thank you very much for your response. In fact, I am very stressed once the citizens advice bureau or solicitor companies do not respond to our emails so we don´t know what procedure to follow.

I have written a letter to the lettings agency head office and I am now in the process of reviewing it and will post it next week.
My only concern is whether I should add the email I have proving that they have signed the contract on the landlord´s behalf without his consent. I am not sure whether this is legally acceptable (once the email was not addressed to me – it was the other agency that forwarded the email to me) and could be considered evidence for this case.
Do you have any idea regarding this? I would be very grateful for any information.

Once again, thank you!

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Tenant

Hi Nani,

Well done for writing the letter of complaint to the Letting Agent. This is the first step in the complaints process. Hopefully you will get the resolution you are looking for. It can be very stressful.

The letting agent should investigate your complaint, ask some questions, and may ask you to send copies of documents, and/or inspect your property. This would be a good opportunity to present the emails. The letting agent should write to you to tell you the result.

If you are not happy with the result of your complaint or if the letting agent has not replied to your complaint, you can complain to the letting agent’s professional association or scheme (if there is one). If your letting agent is not a member of a professional association, there are other steps you can take, such as using alternative dispute resolution.

See how you get on with the formal letter of complaint and take it one step at a time. All the best.

Disclaimer: This information is derived from personal experience and should not be relied upon as a definitive or accurate interpretation of the law.

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