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Letting agencies and their traps!

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1265 views 2 replies latest reply: 11 January 2014
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Tenant

Hi there. I am a 21 year old woman who has been privately renting, from letting agencies, with my partner since August 2011.

Our first rental accommodation was a 1-bedroom apartment in Cardiff.
We paid rent monthly and were on a 1 year fixed-term contract. This ended August 2012 and as it was our first rental property, we were completely unaware of ‘periodic tenancies’ and were told by our letting agency that we had to pay a £75 re-sign fee or leave the property.
We found out in June 2013 that we could avoid this fee by requesting to be put onto a ‘periodic tenancy’. We did so. We then gave our one month notice in August 2013 and moved into our new property the following month.

Now to the beautiful 3-bedroom house, in the mountains of Risca, that was love at first sight.

Problems from the beginning!
The letting agency, in charge of the house, arranged a viewing with us very early in the process. They told us they wouldn’t accept our application until we had seen the property even though we were adamant we wanted to move here. This sounds like a fair request so we scheduled the viewing and were half way to the house when they called and cancelled due to an accident on the motorway and not being able to get there for at least an hour after the appointment time. Again, we thought this was fair and they promised to call to re-schedule the following day.

No phone call.

Two days later we called their office and, being desperate for the house, was told they had several viewings on it the day before (when they were supposed to call us), and they had taken 3 applications already so would not be taking anymore. This crushed us. Of course we could find another house, but this was somewhere we could see ourselves living out our lives. Buying one day, even.

The only thing we could do was offer them £55 more rent than the asking price. We were happy to do so and they agreed. Greedy as they are. They said they would send us applications in the post and we could fill them out and hand them to the person showing us the house. We also had to pay a £250 application fee! They also wanted to charge £100 on the bond (£650) PER PET but would let us off with just £100 for the two cats we have. Which was a little excessive due to it being an unfurnished property.

They told us we were the successful applicants 11 days after our payment but said we wouldn’t be signing the tenancy agreement until the day we moved in. This was nerve-racking. We had to give 1 month notice to our previous agency and would have lost £250 and our apartment if we didn’t agree to the tenancy agreement and sign it.

We were also told ON THE DAY WE WERE DUE TO MOVE IN, that as well as first month’s rent (£550) and the bond, which we were told was the £650, that we were mistaken and they were charging £750 as it is £100 PER PERSON. We couldn’t argue as we had already given our notice on our previous home and would be very much homeless. We also noticed mould-damage and serious condensation issues in the entire upstairs of the property (that were HIDDEN during the viewing) and asked for something to be done about these ASAP.

In the few months we have lived here there have been some serious problems.

1. The mould-damage was left to get worse for 3 MONTHS before I threatened to call the council about health and safety.

2. During the 3 months of frustrating discussions between us and the agency, they told us that we were NOT ALLOWED the contact details of the owner of the property because, as stated in our contract, we are SUB-LETTING from them and THEY are the ‘Landlord’. This ‘cleverly’ left us in a bit of a pickle. Nuisance letting agency won’t let us go over their heads even though they’re completely incompetent!

3. There is a high wooden fence surrounding the front and back gardens of the house and during recent storms, enormous parts of the fence fell into the pathway and road at the side of the house. I told them about this in October and was worried that more could fall and hurt any of the children, adults or elderly residents in the area. They didn’t seem concerned and were constantly promising to send someone to fix it. They sent a contractor in the middle of November but he was instructed to ‘LOOK ONLY’. I had emailed them about 15 detailed and well-lit photographs of the damage. I also had to threaten to call health and safety before they would send him out again.

4. A very small brick wall in the driveway fell down and smashed in December. I, again, sent them detailed photographs and they still have not had it fixed. They haven’t even inquired about it and it is now the beginning of January 2014.

5. A similar problem. The runner of the garage door came loose and they contacted the owner of the property. He said he would come himself to fix it. He showed up, told my partner (who didn’t think to ask for contact details) he would be back the following day with a runner and has not been seen since. The door is still broken and the agency do not care.

6. Our 6-month contract is coming to an end in March and the agency sent us a letter mid-December to say we needed to pay a renewal fee or leave. I began discussions with them about this and told them we would renew the contract on the condition our rent decrease. I asked for the rent to go back to the original asking price of £495pcm as we weren’t aware of how high heating costs would be to keep on top of the mould we didn’t know existed when we made the offer. They denied my request and after hours of badgering, I got them down from £550 to £515. During this discussion they told me the house would go for no less than £515pcm if we left. I didn’t agree but, you win some you lose some. I also asked for a longer contract which they flat out ignored. They just told me: “£515 for a 6-month contract.”

Now we are awaiting the contract (that we have to sign and send back) in the post, which we will not receive UNTIL we have paid the £39.50 fee (which makes no sense to me).

I will update this where necessary and keep you all informed. I hope our experiences help any new-time renters! I wish we knew tenancy law then, like we do now.
If we weren’t caught in the trap of loving our home and wanting to buy it next year or the year after, we would have left by now. Don’t get yourselves stuck in a house / apartment with an agency that just wants your money!

Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. 🙂

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Agent

by law all fees must be advised on any advertising in line with the consumer protection regulations. They should also be within the tenancy agreement. You may have a case to report this agent to your local trading standards agency.
Julian Lewis– Williams Lewis & co Ltd

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Tenant

Hi there. Thanks for the response. I was aware this was the case as of November 2013 but my partner and I moved into the property we are in now, in September 2013 and saw the advertisement in August. Was this law in place before then?

I know our previous agency broke a good few laws but they threatened us at every corner so I was unable to report them then.

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