Which? launches #RentRage campaign to highlight lettings agent ‘mistreatment’ of tenants

Consumer watchdog Which? has turned its focus to the lettings sector, urging tenants to share horror stories of so-called agent mistreatment.

It has formulated a hashtag on twitter, #RentRage, that encourages tenants to reveal their experiences of letting agents.

It comes as Which? urged letting agents to get their house in order after an investigation found many failed to follow industry practice on health and safety information.

Which? sent undercover researchers on 30 property viewings across England and Scotland to assess the conditions of properties and also provided them with a list of questions to ask the letting agent, designed to uncover whether they were giving vital information and following health and safety rules.

Viewings took place in Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, London and Manchester, and scores were provided based on what property commentator Kate Faulkner and Which? felt best practice should be.

Half of agents were unable to provide any information at all on the property’s boiler and only 13% were able to supply the correct details about annual servicing rules, according to the mystery shopping exercise.

Meanwhile, just one in three agents were rated ‘good’ for their knowledge of carbon monoxide alarms, meaning they were able to explain they were required, where they were in the property and if they had been tested.

Agents performed better on knowing about the importance of and where the smoke alarms were in the property, with 21 out of the 30 rated ‘good’ on this measure and two rated ‘bad’.

Additionally, the researchers found that 20% of the properties visited had problems with damp, with none of the agents able to commit to fixing the problem.

Eight out of 30 viewings were rated ‘poor’ for answers to questions on property maintenance and repairs.

Investigators said lettings agents brushed off questions about maintenance, instead stating that work would be carried out before the tenant moved in, or would need to be dealt with by the landlord. Faulkner said required repairs should be made conditional as a special clause in the tenancy agreement rather than being agreed verbally.

Agents were also criticised for their explanation of holding deposits. Firms allegedly struggled to explain how much these payments would be and how they would be refunded.

Which? said fees for security deposits and administration were explained better, but warned these ranged from £20 to £400.

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​.”

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23 Comments

  1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

    At the point of placing a ‘holding deposit’, you’re not a Tenant of the property you are ‘viewing’- But hey, why let actual facts get in the way of a bit of anti-agent/Landlord propaganda…?!

     

     

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    1. P-Daddy

      The industry needs to pay attention to these articles. Yes they are looking for headlines, yes they are looking for subscriptions, yes it is tapping in to the mood of the moment. BUT these are issues! Don’t be complacent, it is how the industry is now being targeted on all fronts. Look at the lead article in PIE today…the one about mass sub letting and sub standard accommodation. It is happening everywhere and the industry needs to tighten up and then via the professional bodies DEMONSTRATE it, not just react when an outrage is aired. You know the sort of thing…’there are always bad in every profession, but our members..blah blah blah’. Once the story is out there, it is there and everyone believes it, especially if Sajid Javid and whoever this weeks housing minister is! The NAEA ARLA et al need to be proactive and make sure that policing is effective. #TenantRage will not be a thing when our house is in order

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      1. Mark Connelly

        Every comment other than yours is defensive. These are not landlord issues but agent issues. The agents doing the viewing obviously know little about the property. Maybe read the file before doing the viewing.

        Putting on my tenant hat.Our lettings agents didn’t carry out a gas safety on the living room fire because it was in the particulars as being an electric fire. Despite the idiots having last years gas safety in the file where it was one of the appliances inspected.

        As a landlord and a tenant I can tell you there are many shortcomings with many agents. Don’t bluster and write it off as ” they are out to get us” Up your game. The agent who looks after my properties would easily be able to give the history on each property and also agree repairs on my behalf as he has a budget to do so. But maybe that’s why I have so few voids.

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      2. Eyereaderturnedposter12

        Whilst to some extent P-Daddy is correct to suggest that such articles are ”tapping into the mood of the moment”, it should be noted that the mood being tapped into, has been (to a large extent) artificially created, by articles such as these. I don’t view it as complacency to question the credibility of inaccurate/misrepresentative media output (the likes of which we have all become accustomed to, over the past several years).

        IMHO, such articles represent significantly more than seeking headlines and subscriptions (as P-Daddy rightly alluded to, the industry IS being targeted on all multiple fronts) . The bigger picture (again, in my opinion) is that there is, and has been for some time, a concerted to effort by certain elements (Institutional investors/Financiers/Govt. etc. with the aid of Shelter et al) to actively undermine/ render the PRS inoperable/nonviable for the many ‘small-holder’ Landlords whom have invested no small sums in attempting to securing a future for them/their families, by way of ‘bricks and mortar’ investment. It seems to me that both the anti-agent and anti-Landlord agenda being played out, boils down (albeit in a simplistic form) to the reallocation of wealth. As an example, one simply needs to look at the Insurance firms pouring money into build-to-rent on the basis of ”easing/fixing a broken housing market”, and their affiliates (a housing market that appears, to me at least, to be more ‘broken’/unstable than ever, following multiple Govt. interventions introduced under the guise of ‘helping’ Tenants/FTBs).

        Perhaps this article is nothing more than the 367th cut… Lingchi of the PRS…?

         

         

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    2. CountryLass

      Um, I’m a Letting Agent and to me a holding deposit means you are holding the property. I also don’t deal with them, an applicant has to return the application forms with the (non-refundable) tenant fee to secure the property. Otherwise they are just wasting my time and potentially stopping the Landlord from finding a Tenant.

       

      PS, I don’t take the fee if there is more than one applicant, only charge the ‘winner’ at the end.

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      1. singlelayer

        What are your plans come the fee ban next April?

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        1. CountryLass

          Then we will take a holding deposit, again once the application is received. I am of the opinion that without some financial ‘stake’ in the process a Tenant is likely to walk away or apply for several properties. I think many Agents were charging too much and that a fee cap would have been a better idea.

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          1. singlelayer

            But that won’t stop ‘chancers’, because…

             

            “The holding deposit must be returned to the tenant: either in payment back to the tenant, or being put towards the first rental payment, or the security deposit.

            There are some exceptions. In these cases the landlord can keep the holding deposits:

            •The tenant withdraws

            •The tenant doesn’t take all reasonable steps to enter the tenancy

            •The tenant fails a right to rent check

            •The tenant provides misleading information which materially affects their suitability to rent the property.”

             

            No mention of being able to keep it for simply ‘failing’ the checks (unless they lied).

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            1. CountryLass

              but the Tenant would still have withdrawn if they have applied for several properties and then changed their mind.

              I have a Tenant asking if she can have her fee back at the moment, and the answer is; no. You told me you earned nearly £10k more than you actually do, the LL didn’t want DSS but said would do if you paid 3 months up front and had a guarantor. You vanished off the planet, and now I have another application you are asking for your money back? Jog on!

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            2. markus

              How else do you fail the checks other than lying on the application form? Surely every app form asks at least:

              full 3 year address history

              Any adverse credit or criminal convictions

              Employment details inc. salary, time in job, position

              So the only way you can ‘fail’ the checks is by providing false or misleading information, such as not declaring previous address, adverse credit showing on credit check, lying about income or job status, all of which should come under “The tenant provides misleading information which materially affects their suitability to rent the property” no?

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  2. smile please

    Can we also use #TenantRage where we name and shame tenants who miss their rent date or are a nuisance or leave a property in poor order?

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  3. ArthurHouse02

    No reason we can’t start tweeting that, obviously no tenant details tho

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  4. ArthurHouse02

    Having looked through the twitter #RentRage timeline, being honest it now looks a little fake.I’m not saying finding a property you love and losing it isnt heart breaking, but being told his story by the “Consumer rights editor for WhichUK” is perhaps a little impartial. Where is the balance Which, where is the truth, or story from the agents perspective?

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  5. jackoTLG

    A negotiator may not know some of these questions at a viewing but that doesn’t mean the agency doesn’t and should The prospective tenant show more interest in the property their property mangager would know the answer to all those types of questions (if the agency was any good) so the mystery shopping is flawed. It’s a bit like mystery shopping Tesco and asking the cashier about staff recruitment then marking them down when they don’t know the answers

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  6. propertykevin

    Out of a pool of thousands of rental properties this survey was done on just 30 and it’s supposed to give a fair reflection of what goes on? Wow, just wow!

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    1. markus

      30 viewings is representative? Lets see. As of this morning, right move has the following numbers:-

      Bristol – 1630

      Edinburgh – 712

      Leeds – 4852

      London – 56787

      Manchester – 4968

      so that’s 68,949 listings, obviously some will be listed with one or more agents, so let’s be (very) generous and halve it – 34,475. Even based on this figure we’re talking about less than 0.1% of the available stock, but never mind the accuracy or relevance, it’s another stick to beat agents with.

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  7. smile please

    Estate / Letting agents are continually having their time wasted with ‘Mystery Shopping’

    Be it this ‘Which Hunt’ or Awards, its frustrating.

    If a neg books in a viewing and then conducts it, best part of an hour wasted! – Given most professionals charge between £60 – £150 an hour it takes the p1ss.

    If they had to pay for the ‘mystery shop’ we would see far fewer.

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    1. singlelayer

      Hmm…I wonder if a ‘viewings fee’ would get around an agent fee ban?

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  8. singlelayer

    “Investigators said lettings agents brushed off questions about maintenance, instead stating that work would be carried out before the tenant moved in, or would need to be dealt with by the landlord.”

     

    What else were they meant to say??

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    1. CountryLass

      “Not to worry Mr-Potential-Timewaster, I have my toolbox in the car, I will get the replastering done now!” probably…

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  9. Deltic2130

    More typical industry-bashing **** from half-wit self-appointed ‘experts’ who take nothing more than anecdotes and spin them into a story. I suppose ‘Which’ will be running a pro-landlord, pro-agent story about all the time and money they put in to chasing useless, timewasting, delinquent tenants – yes?

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    1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

      Don’t hold your breath…

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  10. jeremy1960

    IMHO a very one-sided “interview” firstly tenants do often confuse holding fee with holding deposit – 2 completely different things which will self-clarify once fees are banned. Secondly I suspect that they heard what they wanted to hear when they heard that the flat was definitely theirs; there would have been a referencing process of some description, agreement from landlord etc before anything like that “promise” could be made. The taking of monies to show commitment will become more apparent when the fee ban comes in as agents will need to look at individuals before deciding which to go through with referencing on and again I suspect that several holding deposits will be taken and there will be disappointed tenants; that is down to government meddling with a system that works and only goes wrong in a minute number of cases!

    Finally the time taken to refund the monies, no mention of how it was paid? If on a debit card, the agent would not see that money in their account for several days and I certainly wouldn’t refund until it was in my account! If they paid cash then maybe the cash could have been collected from the agent? And if the payment was returned by BACS payment it would depend on whether there was a weekend “in the way” which banks still cannot cope with even in this day of technology!

    When we have no option but to take holding deposits which will need to be returned within 10 days if the tenant changes their mind or if there’s an R in the month, or the current housing minister needs some petty cash this whole business is going to come to a head; I’m imagining 20+ envelopes in the office safe all with cash inside and names and dates on the outside needing to be checked every day to make sure that the 10 day rule isn’t broken!

    RANT OVER!

     

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